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Steve Blowers, Recorder Reporter
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
West Ham United 2 Cheltenham Town 1
Cheltenham produced no shocks as goals from Ricardo Vaz Te and Ravel Morrison saw Sam Allardyce’s odds-on favourites make it safely over the winning line and into the third round draw.
But having started slowly, this was no thoroughbred Premier League performance from a reshuffled, fifth-placed, West Ham side that had been subjected to widespread changes – a full eleven in fact – following Saturday’s goalless draw at Newcastle United and, indeed, Matt Richards’ 57th-minute penalty always gave the chirpy Robins a glimmer of hope.
Goalkeeper Adrian, Romanian Razvan Rat, midfielder Morrison and defender Leo Chambers were all handed first-ever claret and blue starts, while youngster Pelly Ruddock found himself on the bench, too.
Matt Taylor was also given a rare start and, with just three minutes on the clock, he almost gave West Ham the perfect start with a blistering 20-yard free-kick that scorched the gloves of the well-placed Scott Brown.
The Cheltenham keeper looked in for a busy night, it was the physios who had their work cut out as Joe Cole and Craig Braham-Barnett needed running repairs following a nasty clash of heads, while Ryan Innis and Alou Diarra also had to leave the field for treatment.
Languishing in 21st-spot in League Two – an enormous 84 places below the East Enders – Cheltenham had made two changes from the side that had won their first game of the season at Accrington Stanley on Saturday as Inniss and Jermaine McGlashan came in for Troy Brown and substitute Steven Gillespie.
Trying their luck from distance, Sam Deering saw a shot deflected for a corner, before Matt Richards sent a 30-yard free-kick well wide to the delight of the travelling Town supporters, who had seen their side come through the opening half-hour with relative ease.
Ten minutes before the break, Diarra was stretchered away following one tenacious tackle too many and he was replaced by Mohamed Diame.
But as the Senegalese substitute was finding his feet, Morrison lost his in the area, whereupon he found himself booked for diving.
With the interval nearing, Richards finally found his range with a dipping 20-yarder that ruffled the roof of Adrian’s net but, having spent most of the opening proceedings getting acquainted with one another, the final word of a scrappy first-half was to go to West Ham.
When Morrison hit the Upton Park turf three minutes before the break, referee Scott decided that this time it was indeed a foul and Vaz Te sent the consequent, unstoppable 25-yard free-kick whistling over the Robins wall, beyond the outstretched right glove of the diving Brown and under the left-hand angle to finally break the deadlock.
With skipper James Tomkins also seeing a late effort tipped over the top, the Hammers had certainly finished the first half strongly, and – with Stewart Downing replacing Cole for the restart - they started the second period in equally lively fashion, too.
Having been booked and then fouled for the opener, it was no surprise that Morrison was in the thick of things once again as West Ham quickly doubled their lead.
Less than 40 second-half seconds were on the board, when the fleet-footed, attacking midfielder tiptoed along the 18-yard line before threading a low shot into the bottom left-hand corner to the double delight of his team-mates and home fans alike.
Shortly afterwards, Diame sent a 20-yarder inches over the angle, while Vaz Te saw his point-blank header clawed away by Brown, before Downing then headed another effort just an inch or so beyond the far post.
But just as the Hammers looked home and hosed, a dire defensive mix-up saw Adrian collide with McGlashan and, after being consequently cautioned, the Spanish keeper then found himself picking Richards well-placed penalty out from the bottom right-hand corner of his net, despite having dived the correct way.
Richards also sent another long-ranger just wide of the post while at the other end, Jack Collison’s angled shot was diverted high into the East End skies by Brown, who then saw the fit-again George McCartney power his header against the crossbar before Rat and Taylor were denied late on, to leave West Ham settling for a slender 2-1 victory.
HAMMERS: Adrian, Chambers, Rat, McCartney, Tomkins, Cole (Downing h/t), Taylor, Collison, Diarra (Diame 34), Morrison, Vaz Te. Unused subs: Henderson, Nolan, Lee, Ruddock, Lletget.
ROBINS: S.Brown, Lowe, Braham-Barrett, Elliott, Inniss, McGlashan, Taylor, Deering (Harrison 63), Richards, Penn (Vincent 83), Gornell (Kotwica 76). Unused subs: Roberts, Jones, Jombati, Gillespie.
Booked: Morrison (37), Adrian (56), Elliott (62).
Referee: Graham Scott