Hammers Overcome Gillingham Test
By Tom Dowsett
Monday 06 Jan 2020 13:36:00
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If the month of December proved to be busy for West Ham United, then January is looking like it will be a similar story. However, they have made the perfect start to the New Year by cementing their place in the FA Cup fourth-round with a 2-0 win over Sky Bet League One side Gillingham at The Priestfield Stadium in Sunday's late kick-off.

David Moyes named a strong side for the encounter as he only made three changes from the side that beat AFC Bournemouth on New Year's Day. Captain Mark Noble and Aaron Cresswell were missing due to minor injuries, while Pablo Fornals dropped to the bench in favour of Manuel Lanzini.

The manager had a wealth of experience on the bench but he did also include youngster Nathan Holland amongst the substitutes.

The hosts, who were unbeaten at home since November 2, had knocked out Premier League side Cardiff City last season and were keen to try and preserve their unbeaten home record and knockout another top-flight team on the way.

West Ham tried to play their usual passing game but were unable to find a way through the home side's well-drilled defence, with a number of their shots being blocked.

The side who were now under the stewardship of Steve Evans kept applying pressure but the visitors' defence stood firm.

Evans almost saw his side grab the advantage on twenty two minutes but fortunately for the large travelling support who had made the journey to Kent, goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski was able to prevent Brandon Hanlon's effort from beating him at the near post.

With the heavy fixture schedule ongoing for the Irons, the last thing Moyes wanted to happen was for more injuries to arise but unfortunately for him that is exactly what he now has to cope with. A hamstring problem forced Ryan Fredericks off just before the break, meaning he was replaced by Pablo Zabaleta.

A replay was something that the Hammers could really do without but that's what the match was heading for as referee Andrew Madley blew the half-time whistle.

West Ham's superior quality shone through at the start of the second-half and they really should have gone in front seconds after the restart. 

Sébastien Haller was in the clear, following great play from Felipe Anderson but the Frenchman, who scored a spectacular goal in the win over AFC Bournemouth on New Year's Day, missed the opportunity. The ball deflected away from him as he was about to shoot, causing it to fly over the bar.

He was to try his luck again and this time however, he was rather unfortunate, as the ball came back off the post.

Every VAR decision in the game against the Cherries in midweek seemed to go in favour of the East Londoners and they could have done with it here but it wasn't in use on this occasion. 
Declan Rice felt he was fouled as he attempted to get on the end of a free-kick from Robert Snodgrass. Both he and the Hammers' fans thought that a penalty was going to be awarded but Madley wasn't interested.

Moyes decided to make his second change on seventy minutes with Fornals replacing Snodgrass.

All the promising play that the visitors had shown in the second half was finally rewarded with sixteen minutes of normal time to play and it was a first Irons goal for Zabaleta. Arthur Masuaku delivered a dangerous cross for the Argentine to smash past Jack Bonham after Fornals had applied the faintest of touches.

Fornals then confirmed the club's place in the fourth-round when he finished off a counter-attacking move which had been started by Anderson.

As they await the draw for the next stage of the competition, most of the week is now going to be spent preparing for Friday's trip to Bramall Lane to face newly-promoted Sheffield United.

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