Stoke Extinguish Hammers Cup Hope
By Tom Dowsett
Sunday 13 Mar 2011 20:27:00
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West Ham United have missed out again on a trip to Wembley as Stoke City got their revenge for all their previous shortcomings this season, knocking the Hammers out of the FA Cup at the Britannia Stadium this afternoon.

There was only one change to the Hammers' side that beat Stoke 3-0 at Upton Park last weekend, Victor Obinna came in for Demba Ba, who Avram Grant decided to rest
with the forthing Barclays Premier League programme in mind.

With these two sides having played each other so often this season and the Potters having home advantage, West Ham were put under pressure right from the kick-off as Kenwyne Jones' fierce shot was expertly saved by Robert Green in the Hammers' goal.

But the pressure wasn't over as seconds later, Matthew Etheringhton tried again but Green was there once more to save. Robert Huth then saw his header flash just wide of the left-hand post.

Stoke made their pressure pay on eleven minutes when Rory Delap's throw was headed home by Huth who found the net from six yards.

After a few shots from the Hammers that were easily saved by Thomas Sorensen, James Tomkins tried an ambitious effort on 18 minutes that went well wide.

West Ham were slowly finding a way into the game and on 29 minutes they equalised through Frederic Piquionne. It seemed to be an exact replica of the effort he scored against Wolverhampton Wanderers back in October 2010 when the ball clearly came off his shoulder, but was wrongly ruled out for handball. This again had suspicions of handball, but it counted and was greated with tremendous cheers from the away suporters.

As he scored, Piquionne picked up an injury and tried to carry on but was clearly hurt by the collision with Huth; he was replaced by Jonathan Spector on 34 minutes.

Minutes later Stoke were awarded a free-kick for a challenge on Jonathan Walters by Manuel Da Costa, but Robert Green was there to save after Jermaine Pennant had taken the set piece.

The final chance of the half came Stoke's way when Delap crossed from the right of the penalty area, but Green was there to first save and then clear off the line from Walters.

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The second half got under way with Stoke again exerting pressure on the Hammers and almost immediately Tony Pulis' side were awarded a very harsh penalty given against Scott Parker. Etherington stepped up to take it but justice was done as his weak effort was easily saved and the score remained 1-1.

After the penalty Stoke continued to pile the pressure on by first earning a free-kick through Jermaine Pennant and then earning a corner, but Matthew Upson cleared the danger.

With the game going from end to end, it was now West Ham's turn to try and gain a foothold in the action, but try as they may everything they managed to throw at the hosts was cleared by the Stoke defence.

As Stoke tried to regain the lead, Carlton Cole did well to head Jones' powerful shot off the line.

Just before the hour mark, Obinna blocked Pennant's free-kick and then was penalised for handball resulting in a free-kick. As the two sets of players jostled for positions, Danny Higginbotham's free-kick was deflected onto the post by Green. He tried to save, but the ball agonisingly crept over the line and Stoke grabbed the advantage once again.

The Hammers came close to finding a second equaliser two minutes later, but Obinna's effort was just wide of the target. Obinna tried his luck again minutes later, this time earning a corner which was taken by Thomas Hitzlsperger but only found Sorensen in the City goal.

Robbie Keane was named amongst the Hammers substitutes after a lenghty period on the sidelines and on 67 minutes he replaced Obinna.

On 68 minutes, Hitzlsperger produced one of his trademark long range efforts, but this time it was just wide of the post.

On 80 minutes Grant replaced Mark Noble with Zavon Hines.

The Hammers had a great chance to grab a second equaliser but from Hitzlsperger's corner, Upson's header crashed against the bar. Following that chance, Parker's resulting corner was cleared by Jones.

With the game entering a frantic period, pressure was piled on at both ends. Carlton Cole's first time shot was superbly saved by Sorensen and from Hitzlsperger's corner Delap cleared the danger.

The last action of the match saw Hines concede an needless free-kick for a push on Walters and when it was taken by Sorensen, the final whistle was blown on the Hammers' FA Cup run. They can now fully concentrate on trying to win their relegation battle, which next throws up a huge London derby with Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday lunchtime.

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