Obinna hat-trick sends West Ham through in FA Cup
The Hammers were forced to come from 2-1 behind before booking a fifth round tie with Burnley in the FA Cup.
West Ham United 3 Nottingham Forest 2
HAT-TRICK hero Victor Obinna secured a fifth round clash with Burnley after West Ham United finally felled Forest in this topsy-turvy tie at Upton Park, writes STEVE BLOWERS
Inter Milan’s on-loan striker fired the Hammers into an early lead before Dele Adebola and Davd McGoldrick hit back for the high-flying Championship side.
But Obinna the struck one of the goals of the season to send West Ham in level at the interval and then the Nigerian international claimed the match-ball with a penalty just after the break to set up that all claret and blue last 16, home encounter on the weekend of 19/20 February.
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After suffering from a dismal dose of the Blues in Birmingham on Wednesday evening, the Hammers desperately needed to put their Carling Cup semi-final, extra-time exit behind them and Avram Grant predictably made wholesale changes to his weary squad.
With one eye on this Wednesday’s vital Premier League match at Blackpool, only skipper Robert Green and Mark Noble retained their places as the Israeli called upon the fresh legs of Obinna, Frederic Piquionne, Pablo Barrera, Freddie Sears, Radoslav Kovac, Herita Ilunga, Lars Jacobsen, Winston Reid and Danny Gabbidon.
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Eager to make an early impression, Sears fired over in the opening exchanges before then seeing his close-range, third-minute effort deflect off Wes Morgan and agonisingly wide of the base of Lee Camp’s right-hand post for a corner.
But when the fit-again Jacobsen stroked the consequent flag-kick to the edge of the area, Noble unleashed a low 18-yarder, which found its way to the unmarked Obinna at the far post and he comfortably side-footed West Ham ahead with a low shot.
A rampaging run of five straight wins had both rocketed Forest up into fifth-place in the Championship and brought them into this fourth-round tie and following his side’s victory over Bristol City on Tuesday night, Billy Davies made four changes as Adebola, McGoldrick, Paul McKenna and Radoslaw Majewski came in for Marcus Tudgay plus substitutes Robert Earnshaw, Guy Moussi and Nathan Tyson.
Forest had seen off Preston North End in the last round and despite falling behind to Obinna’s fourth goal of the season, Lewis McGugan wasted no time showing the Hammers that the visitors had no intention of giving up their FA Cup place that easily as he unleashed three warning shots in Green’s direction.
Then, on 18 minutes, the Championship outfit got a deserved equaliser for their efforts, when McGoldrick prodded the ball to Adebola, who slid his first goal of the season across the face of Green and into the far corner to send the Forest fans packed into both tiers of the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand jumping for joy.
Conversely, having seen their side surrender yet another cup the lead, the frustrated claret and blue fans amongst the crowd of 29,287, were letting their feelings known as ex-Hammer Chris Cohen curled an in-swinging effort just an inch or so beyond the far post.
Five minutes before the break, carefree Forest inevitably got their noses in front, when Ilunga upended Chris Gunter out on the right-flank and Cohen floated the resultant free-kick into the danger zone where Piquionne’s downward header was scooped skywards by Green and the inrushing McGoldrick nodded his second goal of the campaign over the line from all of six-inches.
On a freezing cold Sunday afternoon, that error-strewn effort drew chilled boos from the West Ham supporters, who had now seen their side’s early grip on the game totally disappear.
But on 42 minutes, with no other option but to shoot, the escaping Obinna sent a warm glow around Upton Park with a stunning, angled 25-yard sizzler from right-flank that cleared the back-peddalling Lee Camp before scorching under the far angle.
Level at the interval thanks to that speactacular strike, West Ham regained the lead just seven minutes into the second half, when Noble’s corner was only half-cleared and Reid was bundled over by the consequently booked Joel Lynch as the pair went in pursuit of Sears’ lob back into the penalty area.
With referee Michael Oliver immediately pointing to the spot, the orange-booted Obinna claimed the match-ball with an ice-cool penalty into the bottom left-hand corner.
On the hour, Piquionne almost put the tie beyond doubt but Camp brilliantly beat out his fierce 12-yarder and, shortly afterwards, the Forest keeper clawed Barrera’s effort aside for a corner.
Midway through the half, Davies brought on Earnshaw and then Tyson for Adebola and Majewski in a fruitless bid to get his side back into a tie that was now firmly ebbing away.
It was left to the exposed Camp to produce another fine save to foil the breaking Piquionne, before then finger-tipping Sears’ screamer over the angle and with Forest shadow of the side that had posed so much first-half threat, West Ham’s place in the last 16 was, by now, never in doubt.
HAMMERS: Green, Jacobsen, Ilunga, Reid, Gabbidon, Sears, Barrera (Hines 89), Kovac, Noble (Boa Morte74), Piquionne (Nouble 87), Obinna. Unused: Boffin, Tomkins, Parker, Bridge.
FOREST: Camp, Gunter, Lynch, Morgan, Chambers, McGoldrick, McKenna, (McLeary 77), Cohen, Majewski (Tyson 67), Adebola (Earnshaw 65), McGugan. Unused: Smith, Moussi, Moloney, Rodney.
Referee: Michael Oliver. Attendance: 29,287.