West Ham earn third-round place with victory over Cheltenham
PUBLISHED: 21:46 23 August 2017 | UPDATED: 21:46 23 August 2017
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Hammers strikers Diafra Sakho grabbed the first-half goals to sink the Robins
EFL Cup round two
Cheltenham Town 0 West Ham United 2
The Hammers galloped into the third round draw with a comfortable Carabao Cup victory at Whaddon Road, where two late, first-half goals from Diafra Sakho and André Ayew ensured that Slaven Bilić’s favourites were home and hosed by the interval.
This may not have been a thoroughbred performance from West Ham United but it did, at least, ensure that they were not unseated at the hands of Cheltenham Town’s toiling troops, following the opening defeats at Manchester United and Southampton that had left Bilić’s boys rock bottom of the Premier League.
Looking to spark his side into life against Gary Johnson’s lowly League Two side - sitting 68 rungs below the Hammers - the Croatian had taken no chances with his runners and riders as he selected both a strong starting line-up and an equally beefy bench.
Following Saturday’s late, late loss at St Mary’s Stadium, Sakho, Adrián, Sam Byram, James Collins, Arthur Masuaku, Pedro Obiang and Edimilson Fernandes each received call-ups in place of substitutes Javier Hernández, Joe Hart, José Fonte, and Aaron Cresswell, while Pablo Zabaleta and Michail Antonio were rested. Marko Arnautović missed out through suspension but there was a place in the dug-out for Montenegro international Sead Hakšabanović, too.
Predictably, the Hammers tried to set an early pace as Sakho and Ayew both broke early on before running into cul-de-sacs, while home ‘keeper Jonathan Flatt bravely dived into Byram’s studs as the overlapping full-back cantered forward.
Byram also sent Ayew forward on a dozen minutes but after carving his way into the area, the Ghanaian striker dragged a low, angled 10-yarder behind.
Saturday’s three-goal defeat at Carlisle United had left the Robins languishing in 20th-spot in
League Two but they had, at least, seen off local rivals Oxford United in the opening round of the competition and, despite the weekend’s reverse, Johnson named an unchanged team.
With the quarter-hour mark approaching, Carl Winchester’s weak 12-yard effort saw Adrián make a comfortable first save of the evening, while team-mate Mohamed Eisa also won possession in the Hammers area before being hunted down by a pack of visiting defenders.
Growing in confidence, Harry Pell then crossed for Danny Wright, who forced Adrián to concede a corner, which Kyle Storer wastefully ripped into the side netting to the groans of his fellow Robins in the danger-zone but when the skipper whipped another flag-kick into the area, shortly afterwards, Will Boyle did at least send a rising header over the top.
On the half-hour mark, Mark Noble’s corner was met by Ogbonna, whose thumping header was cleared off the line by Storer, before Ayew crossed low into the six-yard box, where Flatt saved Sakho’s point-blank shot with his legs.
But six minutes before the interval, Sakho did finally break the deadlock, when he strode onto Noble’s defence-splitting pass and threaded a low 15-yarder beyond Flatt’s outstretched right glove to the delight of the 1,094 travelling supporters.
Then, on 43 minutes, the Hammers striker – having scored his first goal since last November – turned provider as he released Ayew, who again clipped the ball beyond the advancing Robins’ ‘keeper and into the far corner.
Having now put some Gloucestershire twilight between themselves and their hosts, West Ham might even have made it three before the break but Collins – making his 200th Hammers appearance – was denied a 34th-birthday present, when Flatt pushed the Welshman’s looping header clear.
Kevin Dawson replaced Boyle for the restart but that double-barrelled blast just before the break had clearly winged the Robins, who saw Collins again nod wide before Sakho’s snaking run into the area was also thwarted.
As the hour-mark neared, Sakho forced another corner, which Collins nodded over before the birthday boy then found himself back at the other end, thwarting Eisa, who also tested Adrián with a 20-yard belter.
Again Sakho headed into the Hammers fans before being replaced by Hernández, while Ayew curled wide and Kouyaté came on for Noble before Pell and substitute Dan Holman came within a stud of setting up a thrilling final furlong and Jordon Forster also headed inches over in the dying moments.
But to the relief of everyone Claret and Blue, West Ham survived those rare second half scares to book their ball into tomorrow morning’s dawn draw that takes place in Beijing.
ROBINS: Flatt, Grimes, Cranston, Atangana, Boyle (Dawson h/t), Forster, Pell, Storer, Winchester, Wright (Graham 64), Eisa (Holman 71). Unused subs: Lovett, O’Shaughnessy, Bower, Thomas.
HAMMERS: Adrián, Masuaku, Byram, Collins, Ogbonna, Rice, Obiang, Noble (Kouyaté 73), Fernandes (Quina 88), Ayew, Sakho (Hernández 64). Unused subs: Hart, Cresswell, Fonte, Hakšabanović.
Referee: Oliver Langford