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Sam Allardyce eyes clear path to final for Hammers

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Luke Freeman of Bristol City battles for the ball with Alexandre Song of West Ham during the FA Cup Fourth Round match between Bristol City and West Ham United at Ashton Gate on January 25, 2015 in Bristol, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Luke Freeman of Bristol City battles for the ball with Alexandre Song of West Ham during the FA Cup Fourth Round match between Bristol City and West Ham United at Ashton Gate on January 25, 2015 in Bristol, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Sam Allardyce's West Ham play Bristol City in the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday

Sam Allardyce's West Ham play Bristol City in the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday

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Luke Freeman of Bristol City battles for the ball with Alexandre Song of West Ham during the FA Cup Fourth Round match between Bristol City and West Ham United at Ashton Gate on January 25, 2015 in Bristol, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Sam Allardyce knows only too well what FA Cup humiliation can feel like, so it was no surprise the West Ham United manager was simply relieved not to join the list of Premier League fourth-round casualties.

The Hammers were thrashed 5-0 by Nottingham Forest in the third round in last season's competition, when Allardyce fielded an inexperienced team. With his side not concerned by the threat of relegation from the Premier League this term, Allardyce is taking no chances.

Having named his strongest line-up to face the League One club Bristol City, West Ham's manager reminded the players about what had happened to Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur 24 hours earlier. Diafra Sakho came on as a sub to score a late goal that spared any blushes after they had required two goal-line clearances to avoid falling behind.

Having produced one of the first-half blocks that had kept the scores level, Andy Carroll provided the cross from the right that allowed Sakho to head the ball into the net at the back post in the 81st minute.

"We are one of the bigger teams not crying all the way home this weekend," Allardyce said. "I put it up to the players, what had happened on Saturday. I told them not to be another casualty or victim and to make sure they were utterly professional in what they did. We were never at our best, but we have done enough to get through to the next round which is the most important thing.

"In the end, we had that piece of quality when Andy Carroll produced a great ball for Diafra to nod into the net. It was a very hard-earned victory."

With Chelsea, Manchester City, Tottenham, Southampton, Everton and Swansea already out, West Ham will find themselves in the unfamiliar position of being one of the favourites to win this season's FA Cup.

"It will depend on the draw," Allardyce said. "We've already had two difficult away fixtures. People will say that we will have to play another Premier League team at some stage but, hopefully, not before the final."

Bristol City made by far the best start and twice in the opening 25 minutes, the Hammers were saved by goal-line clearances to prevent striker Matt Smith - on loan from Fulham - opening the scoring.

Mark Noble managed to get in the way of a Smith header that had beaten Adrian and City went even closer in the 24th minute. The impressive Luke Freeman took a short corner to Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and his cross was once again met by Smith, but this time Carroll was back on his own goal-line to save his side.

"We knew they would win some headers and our two players did their jobs by clearing off the line," Allardyce said. "We put two men on the posts, so we got our tactics right."

In between the two goal-line clearances, City also went close when Joe Bryan dragged a shot wide after swapping passes with the former Arsenal youngster Emmanuel-Thomas.

Steve Cotterill, the City manager, believes the heroics of Bradford City and Middlesbrough had made it more difficult for his side to cause an upset.

"Bradford City probably made it more difficult for us today," Cotterill said. "I'm not saying West Ham wouldn't have been focused, but if any of their players weren't, then Saturday's results would have made them more focused." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk