Hammers Book Fifth Round Place by Nailing Rovers

Well, after a five year wait, West Ham United fans have finally seen their team progress to the fifth round of the Emirates FA Cup, following their emphatic display to beat Sky Bet League One side Doncaster Rovers 4-0 in Stratford on Saturday afternoon.

David Moyes made seven changes to the team that played in the victory over newly-promoted West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday with only Łukasz Fabiański, Saïd Benrahma, Manuel Lanzini and Tomáš Souček keeping their places in the starting line-up from four days ago.

Aaron Cresswell, Angelo Ogbonna, Vladimír Coufal, Craig Dawson, Declan Rice and Michail Antonio all dropped to the bench. Fabián Balbuena and Issa Diop were paired together at centre-back with Ryan Fredericks replacing Cresswell on the left side. Ben Johnson, Mark Noble and Andriy Yarmolenko also earned starts. Youngsters Nathan Trott, Jamal Baptiste and Oladapo Afolayan were also included in the squad.

The Hammers had suffered some difficult days at this stage of the competition in recent years but with just under two minutes gone, it became clear that they would have no such problems here. Great link-up play between Yarmolenko and Fredericks set up Pablo Fornals who beat visiting goalkeeper Ellery Balcombe with ease.

After that quick start, the hosts were determined to make it an afternoon to remember. They could have had more goals early on but unfortunately, both Lanzini and Yarmolenko were guilty of wasting good opportunities.

Benrahma hasn’t yet scored for the club since moving from Brentford but nonetheless he has been an important player. He showed his quality again as he made a vital interception which helped increase the advantage for the Irons just past the half-hour mark. He played in Yarmolenko who produced a superb finish to once again give Balcombe no chance.

West Ham were given a scare minutes later when Diop appeared to be injured after a heavy challenge but after a period of treatment, it transpired that he was okay to play on.

Joe Wright had a good effort for Darren Moore’s side just before the break as his looping header was on target but thankfully for the Premier League team, Fabianski made the save.

When referee Robert Jones blew the whistle for half-time, the East Londoners could feel pretty assured that their place in the next round was all but secured.

The Hammers never dropped their guard as they started the second-half looking to finish the job off once and for all. They might have gone further in front but Balcombe did well to thwart Benrahma, Lanzini and Souček, as they all went close to adding to the scoreline.

They were given a helping hand to effectively end the game as a contest on fifty three minutes when Andy Butler put the ball into his own net, following Diop’s flick from a near post corner.

If Rovers were to get themselves on the scoresheet it would only stand as a consolation. They nearly got it as Matt Smith was on the end of a cross from Jon Taylor and his effort hit the bar and provided relief for Moyes and his team.

The Scot didn’t see the need to make a change until the clock ticked onto seventy minutes when Afolayan was brought on to replace Souček.

It turned out to be the stuff of dreams for the 23-year-old when just eight minutes later, he found the back of the net after he was in the right place to pick up the pieces, as Balcombe had failed to deal with a powerful effort from Fredericks.

The game was held up for a short period after the goal, as Fornals landed awkwardly but he didn’t need replacing.

With the game well out of Doncaster’s reach by this point, Moyes made a double change on eighty three minutes when he decided to take off Fabianski and play Trott in goal for the closing stages, while Baptiste also came on for Fredericks.

Just like his predecessor, Trott was rarely troubled as West Ham saw the game out to set up a tie against the winners of Sunday’s all Premier League encounter between Manchester United and Liverpool.

Before then though, it’s back to top-flight business on Tuesday when the Hammers make the trip to Selhurst Park for a London derby.