Gillingham 0-2 West Ham United
WEST HAM UNITED saw off a combative Gillingham side to ensure Emirates FA Cup progress thanks to second-half goals from Pablo Zabaleta and Pablo Fornals.
David Moyes – buoyant and confident following a resounding victory on his return to the London Stadium – spoke positively ahead of the tie, but recognised the pressure was firmly placed on the shoulders of him and his charges.
“Bournemouth is only one game but it was certainly a really good start, and it was big credit to the players and the way they went about it,” the Scotsman explained.
“Every day we’re trying to improve – progress is something we’re really trying to get and building on that first game.
“I’m fresh and ready to go. I’ve only had one game, I don’t feel tired, I feel ready and I’m hoping a lot of what the players get is from the manager as well.
“If I can give them energy and confidence, then hopefully those players will not show any sign of fatigue.
“Everybody wants to win the cup. My intention is to have everybody out there firing and try to build on the performance we had the other night.”
Moyes selected a strong line-up, making just three changes to the side which had annihilated the Cherries on New Year’s Day – Manuel Lanzini, Angelo Ogbonna and Arthur Masuaku coming into the managers thinking as he looked to avoid the type of cup catastrophe which had befallen his predecessor, Manuel Pellegrini when the Hammers visited Oxford United in a horribly one-sided Carabao Cup clash earlier in the campaign.
Gillingham – twelfth in Sky Bet League One and backed by the majority amongst a capacity crowd – certainly harboured ambitions of knocking Moyes and co off their perch and it was they began the game on the front foot. Connor Ogilvie tested Lukasz Fabianski with a speculative strike from distance, while the pace and enthusiasm of Brandon Hanlon and Alex Jakubiak offered plenty for the West Ham backline to think about during the infancy of the contest.
Fabianski was again called into action – thwarting Hanlon from close range, then clinging on to Tom O’Connor’s angled attempt. The Hammers – on the other hand – had offered very little as an attacking force and defensively they had issues too – Ryan Fredericks limping out of the action with a hamstring issue – his place filled by Pablo Zabaleta.
Having failed to offer a shot in anger during the opening 45 minutes – Sebastien Haller looked set to rectify the situation immediately after the restart. However, after racing clear, the Frenchman lifted horribly over the top, much to the anguish of those willing him on from behind the goal.
But the tide was beginning to turn. Gills stopper, Jack Bonham, stuck out a big glove to divert away as Haller’s angled strike went a lot closer. Felipe Anderson was now coming into the game – providing half a chance for Manuel Lanzini, then eluding Bonham as well as a clutch of potential takers with an exquisite cross from the right.
West Ham now appeared to be in the ascendancy. Masuaku fired over after Anderson had picked him out. But when the Hammers eventually broke through it was an unlikely source which provided the goal.
Masuaku’s centre found its way to Zabaleta and the experienced Argentine – with the aid of a deflection – powerfully fired beyond Bonham and a string of Gills defenders, unable to intervene around the six-yard box.
Fabianski expertly dealt with Hanlon’s low drive as Gillingham desperately tried to salvage the tie. But in stoppage time, Anderson teed up substitute, Pablo Fornals, who rattled low past Bonham to seal West Ham’s progress.
West Ham United return to Premier League action on Friday, January 10 when they face Sheffield United at Bramall Lane (8pm).
Gillingham: Jack Bonham, Stuart O’Keefe, Max Ehmer (Capt), Connor Ogilvie, Brandon Hanlan, Barry Fuller (Mikael Ndjooli 86’), Alfie Jones, Oliver Lee, Alex Jakubiak (Regan Charles-Cook 79’), Tom O’Connor (Mark Marshall 79’), Jack Tucker Subs not used: Joe Walsh (GK), Lee Hodson, Matthew Willock, Ben Pringle
Booked: Alfie Jones (foul)
West Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Fabian Balbuena, Felipe Anderson (Carlos Sanchez 90+3’), Manuel Lanzini, Robert Snodgrass (Pablo Fornals 70’), Angelo Ogbonna (Capt), Sebastien Haller, Issa Diop, Ryan Fredericks (Pablo Zabaleta 42’), Arthur Masuaku, Declan Rice Subs not used: Roberto (Capt), Winston Reid, Albian Ajeti, Nathan Holland
Booked: Pablo Zabaleta (diving)
Goals: Pablo Zabaleta 73’, Pablo Fornals 90+2’
Referee: Andrew Madley
Assistants: Daniel Robatham and Akil Howson
Fourth Official: Dean Whitestone
Reaction to follow…