Craig Dawsons first West Ham goal ends stubborn Stockport resistance – The Guardian

Craig Dawsons first West Ham goal ends stubborn Stockport resistance – The Guardian

FA Cup

  • Stockport 0-1 West Ham
  • Late header by defender Dawson settles tie on boggy pitch

West Ham broke a doughty Stockport County right at the end, Craig Dawson’s header preventing extra time and earning David Moyes’s side the right to face Doncaster Rovers at home in the fourth round.

The centre-back’s rise in the rain, meeting Jarrod Bowen’s cross from a crowd of players, epitomised a hard-fought tie on a boggy surface that might have gone either way.

On loan from Watford, it was Dawson’s first West Ham goal. The 30-year-old was born in Rochdale and his career began at Radcliffe FC, a few miles from here in Greater Manchester.

“It was tough tonight,” he said. “It’s been a while since I’ve played in conditions like that but it’s great to get a goal at the end. The goal was something we worked on in training. The lads put in a great shift and it was a great clean sheet. Stockport are doing great in their league and it’s not easy coming to these grounds – so a great performance from the lads tonight.”

Stockport found this defeat hard to swallow and understandably so: the refusal of Jim Gannon’s team to bow down until the very end was in keeping with a weekend of fine FA Cup action, and might have earned them a further 30 minutes at least.

“The players are disappointed but I think that’s a testimony to how they played,” said Gannon. “West Ham had lots of possession but the lads did really well. They gave us a chance of getting a goal and possibly winning the game with the opportunities we had. It was always a stretch for us but the performance showed we are a cut above this level [National League].”

The match was momentarily stopped by fireworks. Photograph: Martin Rickett/Reuters

Declan Rice was the standout player, a midfielder whose box-to-box contribution ensured the Hammers’ attitude was right. It was the England man who created the first chance – a heavy touch bringing an opportunity to a skate along the right and cross. Saïd Benrahma’s skill took him into space and his shot clipped Ben Hinchliffe’s left post.

After 15 minutes a volley of fireworks went off outside the ground, behind Darren Randolph’s goal, which prompted the referee Mike Dean to pause the match, and on resumption the game had an entertaining tempo and flashes of quality.

Andriy Yarmolenko roved inside and attempted an eye-of-the-needle pass for Michail Antonio that was intercepted. Then Manuel Lanzini let fly and Hinchliffe clutched the ball gratefully. Stockport’s centre-backs Jordan Keane and Liam Hogan were finding Antonio a handful. The latter was the target again with a high ball and Keane got in the way. Antonio then appeared to finally be in when West Ham next attacked, but Mark Kitching nipped in from left-back and stuck boot on ball.

The visitors dominated the first half but lacked the killer touch. It meant Stockport were still firmly in it and the vocal Gannon – he hardly paused for breath – had something to work with for the second half.

When the sides resumed the heavens opened as they had before kick-off. The surface was increasingly heavy and the question was: would that help Stockport? The initial answer was no as West Ham claimed a corner. But again they did not capitalise.

Now Stockport forced a free-kick – but John Rooney hit it straight at Randolph. The pitch had become close to unplayable – players and ball getting caught in divots. A West Ham attack was stymied that way, and passing the hour mark, it had become a battle of who wanted to progress most.

Rice tried to show the way forward for West Ham with a surge from near halfway that scattered blue shirts all around him before he was finally crowded out in Stockport’s penalty area.

The prospect of a smash-and-grab strike from Gannon’s men remained: Lois Maynard hoped to do precisely that but it was Rice – again – who intervened, this time in his own area. For Moyes, there may have been contentment in the application if not the execution of his players. The manager saw Dawson block a Connor Jennings pile-driver, then Lanzini cede possession lazily: West Ham’s night, thus far, in microcosm.

The tie entered squeaky posterior time. A mistake might be joyous for one side, heartbreak the other. Gannon tried swapping his focal point – Alex Reid – for Richard Bennett, while, for the closing stages, Moyes replaced Ben Johnson with Aaron Cresswell. Then came Dawson’s late intervention.

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