Sunday 25 February 2018

Payet saves Hammers' blushes

West Ham Utd 1 Accrington 0

West Ham United's Dimitri Payet applauds fans after the game. Photo: Reuters
West Ham United's Dimitri Payet applauds fans after the game. Photo: Reuters
Accrington Stanley's Sean McConville has a shot saved by West Ham United goalkeeper Darren Randolph. Photo: PA
West Ham United's Arthur Masuaku (right) and Accrington Stanley's Zak Vyner battle for the ball. Photo: PA
West Ham United's Jonathan Calleri (left) and Accrington Stanley's Matthew Pearson battle for the ball. Photo: PA

Mark Critchley

Bricks produced in Accrington provide the foundations of the Empire State Building, and for more than 90 minutes, John Coleman's defence was just as dependable. Then, in the sixth minute of added on time, after a largely uninspiring performance from West Ham United, Dimitri Payet's free-kick brought Stanley crashing down.

Slaven Bilic's embattled side progressed to the fourth round of EFL Cup with a late 1-0 win, but only after a laboured display against a League Two side who defended comfortably until Payet's late show. No matter, after a few difficult weeks for the club on and off the pitch. They will simply be pleased to progress.

Maybe it was never meant to be for Accrington. They may be a lower-division club with cult status, but it was thrust upon them by the Milk Marketing Board, not earned through cup giant-killings. Stanley's victory over Burnley in the previous round of this competition was their first against a top-flight opponent since re-forming in 1968.

If they were to claim their second, they could hardly have picked a better opponent. Bilic's side, particularly his defence, have been ramshackle in recent weeks and during their last game at the London Stadium, a 4-2 defeat to Watford, the disorder spread to the stands.

There was no such problems last night - although the last-16 clash against Chelsea might prove to be a different type of test both on and off the field.

A frustrating night looked to be heading for another 30 minutes until Payet arrived, just when they needed him, with a free-kick that all but 700 of the 39,877 crowd were praying would sneak in. It was not the ending Accrington deserved, but it was the one their opponents needed.

Irish Independent

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