West Ham take the FA Cup seriously at last as they beat Gillingham
PUBLISHED: 12:42 06 January 2020 | UPDATED: 12:43 06 January 2020
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Resolute defence and two late goals see Hammers through to round four
Make no mistake, West Ham would have almost certainly have been beaten in this game under Manuel Pellegrini.
For him, the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup were an inconvenience and he would have played a weakened team and like against Oxford United this season and AFC Wimbledon last term, he would have paid the price.
It was vital that David Moyes and his boys kept up the momentum gained from the Bournemouth victory and with only three changes, two of them because of injury and one because of a formation change, they did just that.
It was never going to be easy. League One Gillingham were on a good run, they were playing on a tricky pitch in front of a capacity crowd and for them it was like their Cup Final.
And in the first half you could see how much they wanted it. They harried and hassled the Hammers, peppered them with corners and long throws and dominated the game.
With Roberto in goal and maybe only two centre backs, the Hammers would surely have crumbled, we have seen it all before, but with Lukasz Fabianski resolute in goal and the three centre-backs just about holding firm, they were able to keep the Gills at bay.
Manager Moyes was certainly not happy with the team's first-half display.
"It was a really, really tough game," he said. "I think everyone that was here could see the pitch was really difficult and it was tough to have any composure on the ball.
"That's what we lacked badly in the first half, but I thought it was a bit better in the second half.
"We had to deal with throw-in after throw-in and corner after corner at times, but a lot of that was our own doing as we didn't keep the ball well enough or play out with it well enough from the back. So, there is lots of room for improvement, but the good thing was the resilience and character of the players," he added.
It was. In the second half, Gillingham still huffed and puffed, but the Hammers had more of the ball in the right areas and should have been in front long before they finally took the lead.
Sebastien Haller missed a sitter after being put through by Felipe Anderson, while just a couple of minutes later he hit the woodwork from a tight angle.
The opening goal certainly came from an unexpected source. Pablo Zabaleta has never really got close in all his time at the club and his shot was hardly convincing, but it went through Jack Bonham in the Gillingham goal and slipped into the net.
The finishing touch was made by the other sub Pablo Fornals, who latched on to Anderson's pass to fire home in injury time.
"I know from my time here how difficult these types of games have been just recently, so you have to give the players a bit of credit for sticking at it," insisted Moyes.
"Two clean sheets in a row gives us something to build on and six goals as well is good.
"I think we want to keep progressing in the tournament and we're going to do everything we can to keep winning through, and we showed that with the team we put out.
"Our priority will always be the Premier League, but only just slightly below that would be the FA Cup for me."
That must be music to the ears of all West Ham fans.
An FA Cup run is something sadly lacking in recent years and with a bit of luck in the draws, they could do it this season.