West Ham did not play their best against non-league Stockport County but got the 1-0 win to advance to the 4th Round of the FA Cup.
West Ham travelled to Manchester to take on Stockport County in their FA 3rd Round tie and not only survived the torrential downpour but a stingy Stockport side. While it wasn’t pretty, the Hammers did eventually get the victory, courtesy of a Craig Dawson header. Here are five post-match thoughts on the match:
1 – Craig Dawson has earned himself a starting spot
Like many fans, I was surprised to see Craig Dawson line up against Southampton a couple of weeks ago. However, Dawson has proven to be a reliable option at centre back. So reliable, in fact, West Ham have not allowed a goal while Dawson has been on the field.
I always thought Fabian Balbuena was hard done by losing his starting spot. I thought the Paraguayan did very well this season alongside stalwart Angelo Ogbonna. But you have to play the hot hand and Dawson is in fine form.
Add a goal to his performances this season and Moyes’ decision to sign him to a year-long loan looks to be a good one. Dawson will most likely keep his place in the side and while the club surely won’t keep a clean sheet for the rest of the season, the defence sure seems comfortable with Dawson in the lineup.
2 – Lanzini, Benrahma Poor
I knew this match would be difficult. A non-league pitch, in the pouring rain away from home. West Ham have struggled with these types of matches before. On top of that, the Hammers have shown to lack the quality to break teams down that sit in front of goal to soak up pressure.
However, I thought West Ham would be able to do this with their two creative attacking players in Manuel Lanzini and Said Benrahma. Both are known for their flair and creativity off the ball and would be the type of player to break down a well-organized Stockport side.
Not to be, both proved very ineffective, and it was not until Lanzini came off for Tomas Soucek that the attack seemed to go up an extra notch. It is really starting to look that Manuel Lanzini’s time as a premiere attacking midfielder for West Ham is really coming to an end.
Said Benrahma was also poor as he held on the ball for far too long many times. He did attempt a couple of shots, but both were from long-range and hardly troubled the keeper. He will have to pick up his performances if Moyes is to consistently start him in the Premier League.
3 – What would we do without Ogbonna and Rice?
Hammer of the Year candidates Angelo Ogbonna and Declan Rice once again proved how vital they both are to this West Ham side. Ogbonna has been the most important defender over the last two seasons, consistently putting in solid performances at the back. All West Ham fans know that a mistake will not happen when the ball is at Ogbonna’s feet.
Declan Rice is one of the bright, young stars of the game with some of the biggest clubs reportedly showing interest in the 21-year-old midfielder. Rice has played every single minute of West Ham’s Premier League season so far, an outstanding accomplishment.
His incredible IQ, combined with his obvious physical gifts both on and defending the ball, make Rice easily the most valuable player in this West Ham team. Rice and Tomas Soucek have been a marvel to watch together all season, but without Rice, this team just would not click.
Both Ogbonna and Rice were dominant in Stockport on Monday night.
4 – Antonio Performs, But Striker Necessary in January
I’m one of the few fans that was happy to see Michail Antonio start and play a majority of the game. If it wasn’t for not scoring a goal until the 83rd minute, Antonio would’ve probably been brought off much sooner.
But Antonio can’t be expected to play 80+ minutes week in, week out. It’s just too risky. That is why a backup striker is needed. David Sullivan received £20 million for Sebastien Haller and that money must be invested into another striker this transfer window.
If Sullivan will do that or not is another question but it is obvious it is needed. It would be quite a shame if West Ham went the rest of the season with only one senior striker during a campaign that sees the Irons just three points from 4th place at this point of the season.
5 – Possible Cup Run? It Will Be Difficult
West Ham already knew before their 3rd Round match that they would play Doncaster Rovers if they were to beat Stockport County. They will host Doncaster at the London Stadium for their 4th Round matchup.
Usually, the matchups for only one round is drawn for at a time. However, due to Covid-19, both the 4th and 5th Round draw occurred before the Stockport County match. If West Ham were to best Doncaster Rovers, they would play the winner of Manchester United v. Liverpool.
That is certainly not impossible, and you always have to beat the best at some point to win a cup competition. West Ham will just have to do it in the 5th Round – if they make it that far.