Craig Dawson heads home West Ham United’s winner eight minutes from time to seal a 1-0 victory over Stockport County
Craig Dawson headed home the only goal eight minutes from time to finally end Stockport County’s FA Cup dream in a match where they more than matched their Premier League rivals, writes CHRIS PRATT.
Defender Dawson scrambled home the winner from Jarrod Bowen’s cross to break Hatters’ hearts at a rain-sodden Edgeley Park to earn the Hammers a fourth-round home tie with Doncaster Rovers and a potential fifth-round showdown at either Manchester United or Liverpool.
The pre-match stats were misleading. West Ham had not won at Stockport County in their last six attempts, in fact they had never won at Edgeley Park.
The last time the sides faced each other in 1996, County won 2-1 in a League Cup fourth round encounter. Hatters fans have brought up a certain Iain Dowie own goal a lot in the build-up to the game.
Add in the fact that West Ham is one of County manager Jim Gannon’s former clubs and it was a recipe for an interesting encounter.
As the Stopfordian rain covered the surface, national television did their pre-match stuff and the generous press box was overflowing in anticipation of, let’s face it, an upset.
The first half provided plenty of evidence that County could keep it tight at the back restricting the London side to one harmless Manuel Lanzini shot on target.
Argentina international Lanzini will have no doubt spotted his national flag waving on the Railway End in memory of Hatters legend and fellow countryman Danny Bergara.
County mustered just the one shot in the other direction, Jordan Williams slicing a left-footed effort harmlessly wide after the ball dropped to him in the penalty area.
The Hatters were defending solidly lead by captain Liam Hogan. His last-ditch challenge on Mikhail Antonio denied the big striker a goalscoring opportunity. Moments later Mark Kitching would nick a ball off Antonio’s boot just as he took aim again.
As the rain continued to pour during the interval it was a case of ‘so far, so good’ for Gannon’s men only but they would have to work out a way to get behind the Premier League side.
The biggest interruption to the home side’s flow was an impromptu firework display just outside the ground on 15 minutes that stalled play for a few minutes as referee Mike Dean waited until they stopped.
The pyrotechnics were in support of a local teenager fighting for his life after a road traffic incident.
But it was the other element, water that began making it difficult for the sides as the pitch began to puddle in areas. It was hindering both sides with the Hatters also trying to play the ball on the ground.
Not even England international Declan Rice could pierce the County back-line, his lung-busting run failing to produce a shot amongst a sea of blue defenders.
After the hour and Connor Jennings has County’s first shot on target after good work from the excellent Sam Minihan. Richie Bennett had a shot blocked as the Hammers were forced into two changes.
With a quarter of an hour left County were deservedly leading the shots on target and corner count but the London side began to press.
Said Benrahma missed a great chance as Ben Hincliffe’s botched clearance left him the forward with a keeper-less net to aim at. He missed by a distance.
Tomas Soucek headed just over the bar and minutes later with only their second shot on target of the game Craig Dawson’s glancing header from a Jarrod Bowen cruelly broke the deadlock.
The Hatters mustered what they could in the dying embers but couldn’t find that clear-cut opportunity.
On a night that did the National League proud, it was an evening to savour with their next target, promotion.
Gannon felt that his players did the club proud.
“It’s a tough way to lose the game and the players are naturally disappointed with the outcome but isn’t that a sign of how far they have come that they are disappointed to lose one-nil to a Premier League side. I think when the dust settles they will be very proud of what they have achieved.”
“I’m watching them against Everton and Southampton. They are resilient and strong, they’ve got big powerful players and they’re well organised. So in that sense we asked questions of them and they asked questions of us. Considering they had to put on their subs and the first team from the Everton game was eventually on the pitch shows the respect that David (Moyes) has taken this competition and ourselves and how far we pushed them.”
Stockport County (4-2-3-1): Hinchliffe 8; Minihan 9 (Palmer 86), Hogan © 9, Keane 9, Kitching 8; Croasdale 8, Maynard 8; Jennings C 8 (Southam-Hales 82, 6); Rooney 8 (Hinchy 86), Williams 8 (Thomas 86); Reid 9 (Bennett 61, 8). Subs not used: Jennings J, Palmer, Stott, Barnes, Gilmour, Hinchy.
West Ham (4-2-3-1): Randolph; Coufal, Dawson, Ogbonna, Johnson (Cresswell 73); Noble ©, Rice; Yarmolenko (Bowen 67), Lanzini (Soucek 68), Benrahma (Fornals 90); Antonio (Odubeko 90). Subs not used: Trott,, Baptiste, Holland, Alves Ibsen.