Spector fires West Ham through in FA Cup

West Ham booked their place in the fourth round of the FA Cup, but they made hard work of their 2-0 win over Barnsley.

West Ham United 2 Barnsley 0

THE HAMMERS may have their troubles in the Premier League but they again proved that there is nothing wrong with their cup form as they eased themselves into tomorrow afternoon’s fourth round draw with a relatively comfortable win over Barnsley writes STEVE BLOWERS

Jonathan Spector followed up November’s Carling Cup double against Manchester United with his first-ever FA Cup strike to give Avram Grant’s side an interval lead, before substitute Frederic Piquionne confirmed victory with a late, late scorcher.

Unchanged Barnsley, whose Bank Holiday win over Coventry City had left them in 16th-place in the Championship, lifted the FA Cup for the only time in their history back in April 1912, just a week or so after the ill-fated S.S. Titanic plummeted to the murky depths of the Atlantic.

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Nearly a century on, Grant had spent the run-up to this third round tie with that sinking feeling, too, after his hapless Hammers dropped from 16th spot to bottom place in the Premier League following their feeble five-goal drubbing at Newcastle United on Wednesday evening.

The under-fire Israeli made eight changes from the team that had capitulated so easily at St James’s Park with only skipper Robert Green, Mark Noble and James Tomkins retaining their places.

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That gave Spector, Julien Faubert, Winston Reid, left-back Luis Boa Morte, Pablo Barrera, Zavon Hines, Frank Nouble and Victor Obinna a chance to show that they were worth a regular starting place.

And inside the opening ten minutes, the luckless Hines was denied by the outstretched leg of Luke Steel before the Barnsley keeper then smothered a close-ranger from Nouble.

Obinna also volleyed inches wide from ten yards, before the lively Nouble again saw another shot thud into Steele’s rib-cage.

With 20 minutes on the clock, the Tykes finally mustered their first shot on goal but Garry O’Connor’s 20-yarder was just too high and then Goran Lovre’s chip forward eluded the outstretched toes of Kieran Trippier.

Midway through the half, Nouble powered over a deep cross towards Barrera but, unmarked, the Mexican somehow sent his diving header wide of the far post to the frustration of the home fans in the below-capacity crowd.

It would, however, not take much longer for the three-times winners to break the deadlock.

On 28 minutes, another home raid saw Noble try his luck from the edge of the area and, although the midfielder’s low shot was blocked by a Tykes’ defender, the alert Spector strode onto the loose ball and curled a low 12-yarder into the bottom left-hand corner.

In reply, the breaking Lovre shot straight at Green but it was his counterpart, who was working overtime to keep the Hammers at bay and, indeed, only a miraculous double, point-blank, goal-line save by Steele stopped an aghast Hines from doubling the home lead just before the break.

Early in the second half, Hines scorched another angled effort across the face of goal and that was the catalyst for Mark Robins to replace Lovre with the tumbling Jacob Butterfield, who soon saw his vociferous cries for a penalty being waved away by referee Neil Swarbrick and his female assistant, Sian Massey, to the Tykes’ fury.

Apart from a weak Nouble effort, the Hammers threat was markedly subsiding and the visitors pitched on Jim O’Brien and Hugo Colace for Trippier and Diego in their quest to force an Oakwell replay.

On the home bench, Grant introduced Scott Parker for the fading Obinna, who stomped straight down the tunnel, while Piquionne replaced Nouble in an effort to finally put the tie to bed.

And after Steele produced another defiant double stop to deny both Hines and Barrera and Hammill worryingly saw a late, looping shot deflect up onto Green’s crossbar, Piquionne broke forward and confirmed the Hammers spot into tomorrow’s fourth round with a no-nonsense, stoppage-time screamer.

Hammers: Green, Faubert, Reid, Tomkins, Boa Morte, Barrera, Noble, Spector, Hines (Edgar 90), Nouble (Piquionne 82), Obinna (Parker 76). Unused Subs: Boffin, Upson, Sears, Spence,

Barnsley: Steele, Hassell, Shackell, Foster, Hill, Trippier (O’Brien 68), Arismendi (Colace 76), Doyle, Lovre (Butterfield 55), Hammill, O’Connor. Unused Subs: Preece, Neumann, Gray, Bennett.

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