West Ham have sneaked into the 4th round of the FA Cup after a late winner away at National League side Stockport County.
On what was a hard fought encounter on a cold, rainy, horrible night up at Edgeley Park, The Hammers were made to fight and push till the very end in order to avoid what would have been a massive cup shock, arguably bigger than the one we saw yesterday when Crawley Town beat Leeds United 3-0.
I actually picked both games out in my "five potential FA Cup shock results" article last week, so this was one I was keeping a close eye on.
The Hammers, who had a strong starting 11 on display, created the night’s first chance after just 6 minutes. England international Declan Rice put in a good ball from the right wing which was brought under control by Said Benrahma, but the winger was unlucky as he struck his effort just inches wide.
5 minutes after that Andriy Yarmolenko would attempt a shot from distance, but his effort flew wide of the goal as West Ham were looking dangerous and due to score the games first goal.
Referee Mike Dean then had to temporarily stop play as fireworks exploded for a few minutes outside the ground behind the Railway End, as Stockport fans were clearly trying to give their side a boost and make themselves heard in the process.
The Hatters then earned their first corner of the night, and as it turned out, their first chance. Experienced Irish goalkeeper Darren Randolph flapped at John Rooney’s cross from the left, the ball fell to Liam Hogan who directed a header towards goal only to see it well cleared by a Hammers defender.
The game calmed down and both sides were looking comfortable and confident in possession, it was starting to shape up into a proper FA Cup tie that we all love to see. The weather was crap, but it was perfect. We also had the game under the floodlights which is always a beautiful thing to see, especially at wonderful, old school grounds like Edgeley Park who still retain the old school floodlights that stand proudly illuminating the areas skyline! That's the Football nerd in me, coming out.
Although West Ham had more possession, they were finding it hard to create any clear cut chances on goal. Benrahma fired harmlessly wide of the left post from long range, before Williams volleyed just wide of the post at the away end for the home side. Benrahma also had the visitors first shot on target as he looked desperate to find the net, but his effort was well held by County Keeper Ben Hinchliffe.
Just before the break though it was again The Hammers who would come closest to scoring, Michail Antonio hit a shot that took a deflection, sending the ball flying just inches past the right post.
The half time whistle would come shortly after and Stockport would go into the break with a well deserved 0-0.
Heavy rain during first half and throughout the interval made the pitch extremely boggy by the time the teams re-emerged. But the home side carried on where they had left off by defending resolutely, as West Ham pressed to break the deadlock.
Shortly after the hour it was Stockport who would nearly find a way through, Connor Jennings had a well-struck shot blocked by Craig Dawson , and then substitute Richie Bennett also saw a strong attempt blocked by a solid West Ham defence as the home side rallied and tried to ask some questions of their own.
David Moyes then introduced regular starters Jarrod Bowen and Tomáš Souček, as the West Ham manager must have been growing increasingly anxious and frustrated with his sides inability to find the back of the net.
The game was getting scrappy, neat and tidy passes were not an option for either side as the game looked destined for extra time or a sucker punch of a late goal. Neither side were looking THAT likely to score though.
Stockport's Rooney had a shot that was held by Randolph, and Benrahma fired well beyond the Stockport goal for The Hammers.
But the visiting substitutes then began to make their mark, first was a header just over the bar from Souček – and then, with 83 minutes on the clock, Bowen whipped in a lovely cross from the right for centre back Dawson to head home and book the Hammers a meeting with Doncaster in the Fourth Round.
David Moyes will certainly be glad to get this one out the way, whilst Stockport can now concentrate on getting back to the EFL after putting in an excellent performance they should be proud of against their Premier League opponents.
STOCKPORT 0 WEST HAM 1
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