FA Cup
West Ham United 1-1 Bristol City 

Sunday, 7th January 2024
by Chris Wilkerson

West Ham were forced into an FA Cup third round replay after visitors Bristol City fought back and earned themselves a 1-1 draw at the London Stadium.

A dominant first half saw The Hammers 1-0 up going into the break, but let the away side back into the game with a sloppy opening to the second half, and City capitalised to get back into the game as Conway beat Fabianski when through on goal.

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In a season where West Ham have had a busy and demanding schedule, a replay was far from welcome. The winter break of two weeks will now be cut short, but the real damage may have been the injuries that stacked up.

After Antonio's comeback was halted by a slip in training this week, Paqueta's comeback lasted only 14 minutes, Mavropanos was forced off after 39 and Jarrod Bowen ended the game on the floor, treated by the medical staff after the final whistle blew.

Bristol City's physical approach seemed to have earned them nothing but scorn in the opening 45 minutes, unnecessary challenges and a desire to leave a little on their opponents in coming togethers which ended up causing Mavropanos's injury. Yet they came out in the second half with renewed vigour, whereas Moyes's side floundered.

They would have felt confident in wrapping up the tie after such a strong start, the gap between the two sides looking very clear. West Ham had come out of the traps with clear determination to take the game away from their visitors from The Championship.

Controlling possession with composure and comfort, the home side had control early, and scored an early goal after five minutes.

After a calm spell of possession where the Hammers were content to move the ball around and look for gaps, Bowen made a run off the right as Paqueta was rolled the ball by Emerson. The Brazilian saw the run, as he often does, and clipped a ball over the defence with his weaker right foot that fell perfectly into Bowen's path.

He took it down in a touch just in front of the goalkeeper, rounded him with his next and then fired into goal from a tight angle to give his side the lead, with a slice of luck as the ball deflected through Pring's legs on the line.

Bristol City were a couple steps short of their Premier League opponents, although young Sam Bell, son of City's Micky Bell, was threatening on the right and did so all game. Only a few minutes after the goal, he beat Emerson to a high ball, darted into the box and sold Zouma with a dummy, before shooting right at Fabianski.

West Ham would have been hopeful they could have extended their lead and ended the tie early, but after a stuttering performance without Kudus and Paqueta against Brighton, seeing Paqueta forced off injured once again was a real blow to those chances. Without either man, this side has minimal creativity, and that was not helped by the introduction of young striker Divin Mubama.

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What Mubama has is raw, untamed attributes and a whole lot of willing work. But with Bowen back on the wing, and Mubama unrefined at the best of times, creativity was left for Ward-Prowse and a still woefully out of form Pablo Fornals to find. They rarely did.

Still, the home side should have been 2-0 up inside the opening 20 minutes. Bowen was the source, after steady possession was kept whilst Paqueta was treated on the sidelines. The winger just took it upon himself to take his man on, driving forward down the line and reaching the byline. His low ball fizzed into the box and evaded everyone, except the runner from wide, Fornals darting in on it and meeting it well, but smashing it right at O'Leary in the City goal.

The Irons pushed to extend that lead. A lovely reverse pass from Fornals got Emerson moving forward, and when he found Bowen in space in the box, expectations rose.

The ball was just a little bit too firmly hit into his feet, so Bowen tried to be clever rather than controlling and allowing a defender to react. He rolled a pass between a deep defender and goal, aimed at Soucek, but a combination of goalkeeper and defender managed to divert it behind the goal. There was a good strike from Ward-Prowse to stretch O'Leary, but West Ham slowly started to lose their grip on things.

Then Mavropanos was injured, needlessly knocked when in mid-air meeting a header, another challenge skirting the line of acceptable physicality after multiple knocks taken by Coufal, amongst others. The centre back fell heavily and seemed to be holding his ribs as he came back onto the pitch, before swiftly alerting the bench that he was unable to continue.

There was a late headed chance for Dickie, the centre back heading right into Fabianski's arms from a corner, and then a weird booking for Alvarez after the midfielder was hassled by City players. The Mexican fell over a body below him as he turned, not knowing the man was there, before being rounded on by three opponents. The referee booked only the West Ham player.

The Hammers took a 1-0 lead into the break and could be quite happy with their play. And it may be that being content with their performance lulled them into a false sense of security, because they came back out for the second half quite sleepily.

Their visitors did not, instead looking fired up for the challenge ahead of them and slowly more and more encouraged by their hosts casual approach.

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They should have levelled a few moments before their inevitable equaliser after lovely work from Knight saw a tempting ball curled across the face of goal. It evaded everyone in the box, but Pring had flown forward from left back and ran onto it at the far post. Coufal had done enough to put off Conway in the middle and now turned to pressure Pring, and it seemed he did enough, Pring firing wide from barely six yards out.

But their tails were up, and just after the hour mark, they had their deserved equaliser.

A big header won by the Bristol defence dropped into midfield, and was quickly laid back to Williams around halfway. The midfielder hit an instant pass through to Conway, who had run off the back of Ogbonna and was kept onside with Zouma much deeper than his partner. The young striker burst into the space, took it into the box then hammered across goal to beat Fabianski and give his side the equaliser their play had earned.

It took a few minutes for West Ham to recover, but after just managing their way through the away side throwing themselves forward after the goal, eventually Moyes's men got back on top and searched for a winning goal. They improved, but created little, a Zouma header over after meeting a corner all the side had to show for it.

The manager turned to his bench, rolling the dice as he threw on Ings, Cornet and Johnson for Alvarez, Fornals and Coufal. Unfortunately, the change didn't work. If anything, it halted West Ham's charge. Now the visitors looked more comfortable under the pressure, and the hosts completely without any ideas.

There was still a chance to come, in fact two, all in the same moment. A Ward-Prowse corner dropped down to Bowen, ricocheted off him and was quickly turned at goal from close range by Mubama, but the young striker was thwarted by O'Leary.

The rebound dropped to a claret and blue shirt, and dropped to the man brought in for his finishing ability. A sharp chance, sure, but from six yards out and basically an open goal, Ings passed it wide and with it went West Ham's chances of wrapping this tie up in one game.

And so it ended 1-1. Is it a lack of professionalism to maintain standards that keeps these slack showings coming after the break? Whatever it is, it's been a problem this season, as has an inability to create against disciplined defences.

With injuries mounting and a break now cut in half, West Ham have a task ahead of themselves in the replay at Ashton Gate.

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Manager's Rating

David Moyes 5/10: Post half-time performance was poor, the substitutes he used by choice didn't work, Mubama also was a bad choice. Not his finest day, and now he has to do it again in harder conditions.

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Player Ratings

Lukasz Fabianski
A couple of nice claims, but mishandled early when shot at, and maybe a more proactive goalkeeper is holding a higher starting position and rushes out to clear for the Bristol City goal.

Vladimir Coufal
Defended well before being taken off, especially considering it appeared as if the City players were trying to wind him up.

Emerson Palmieri
Struggled to make an impact in the game. Seems to disappear as a threat once Paqueta has gone.

Konstantinos Mavropanos
His pace was missed, as was his comfort on the ball. A snide little jump into him that wasn't intended to cause injury, but obviously did.

Kurt Zouma
Didn't defend as well as he could have, and not just on the goal. He seemed stretched at times when he shouldn't have, and there was some chaos at the back that could have been dealt with much better.

Edson Alvarez
His booking was unfair, and he held his cool well, but it was not a game in which West Ham needed a skilled holder.

Tomas Soucek
Another who isn't well placed for games like this. Slight issue when Alvarez is withdrawn is that Soucek plays a bit deeper, but then he's struggling to get into the box. The squad is stretched so thin currently, I'm not sure the manager can find an alternative he likes, but Fornals probably could started centrally.

James Ward-Prowse
In games where someone needs to step up and create more, he doesn't really take over a midfield. He's not that guy, amidst a midfield three that all struggle to do it, and one of them needed replacing. When the team are pushing forward late on, could he go to right back?

Pablo Fornals
Faded in the second half after some clever passing in the first. Doesn't look completely out of things at the moment, and this may have been the first game in months where he's looked in-sync with his teammates, but it still needed more.

Lucas Paqueta
Didn't make 15 minutes, but pulled out an assist that you wouldn't fancy anyone else in that team could have provided.

Jarrod Bowen
Didn't have his best game, by any means, but took his chance wonderfully, set up chances for others and seemed the only one willing to run with the ball.


Divin Mubama
(Replaced Paqueta, 14) He worked hard, had some presence, but also gave the impression of a puppy let off his lead. Moving him out to the wing really exposed him, technically and in his decision-making but there was more life to him than many others and there is something to be said of a player forcing the issue, even if it fails. His effort and energy in the legs of his experienced team mates may have seen a West Ham win.

Angelo Ogbonna
(Replaced Mavropanos, 40) Exposed a couple times, a reminder that a couple good performances defending his own box do not negate his increasing years.

Ben Johnson
(Replaced Coufal, 75) Just did his basics well.

Maxwel Cornet
(Replaced Fornals, 75) Couldn't make an impact and appears to have lost any dynamism in his game.

Danny Ings
(Replaced Alvarez, 75) Actually had some nice little moments and turned a few quite cleverly, but all in space where it didn't make a big difference. He's in the team to finish and he fluffed his big chance.

Alphonse Areola
Did not play.

Aaron Cresswell
Did not play.

Conor Coventry
Did not play.

Said Benrahma
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Emerson Palmieri, Konstantinos Mavropanos, Kurt Zouma, Edson Alvarez, Tomas Soucek, James Ward-Prowse, Pablo Fornals, Lucas Paqueta, Jarrod Bowen.

Goals: Jarrod Bowen 4                  .

Booked: Edson Alvarez 0 James Ward-Prowse 0        .

Sent off: None.

Bristol City: O'Leary, Tanner, Vyner, Dickie, Pring, Williams, Gardner-Hickman (James 75), Knight, Mehmeti (Weimann 75), Bell (Cornick 86), Conway.

Subs not used: Bajic, Nelson, Knight-Lebel, King, Wells.

Goals: Conway (61).

Booked: Williams, Conway, Pring.

Sent off: None.

Referee: Graham Scott.

Attendance: 62,477.

Man of the Match: Jarrod Bowen.