FA Cup
West Ham United 3 Brighton & Hove Albion 0

Saturday, 6th January 2007
by Nick Bull

Amongst the heavy rain and looming grey clouds, some light shone over East London for the first time since 2006 ended. On paper, the fixture could have been as bad as the weather; last season’s finalists getting removed from the FA Cup by a side plying their trade two leagues below them. Add that possibility, plus the previous three games to the equation, the pre-match wait hardly inspired me.

Come full time the much needed win had materialised, and the second half performance was encouraging: slick and free-flowing passing were evident on several charges into Brighton?EUR(TM)s territory. The first forty-five were a different story. The ball seemed to be more in the air than on ground, and chances were at a bare minimum.

It was indeed the visitors who had the first opening, Anton Ferdinand got turned rather easily, however the Frutos?EUR(TM) chance disappeared faster than the attacking player got past the England U-21 defender in the first place. In similar vain to his performance at Reading on Monday, Rio Jr looked rather off the pace, lacking the confidence which is much needed in the pending relegation battle. His injury minutes before the interval was another setback in a difficult year for the young man from Peckham.

Dailly moved into the centre, and minutes after seeing West Ham take the lead, he nearly gifted Brighton with a way back into the tie. A beautiful ball from the right flank got the better of the stand-in captain; no doubt he was relived to see it speed past the outside of Carroll?EUR(TM)s post. Other than that, the home side were barely tested, so it would be hard to form decisive conclusions on the back line.

McCartney looked solid, however it strikes me that he does not press forward a great deal, which occasionally hindered Boa Morte. Spector had a quiet game, owing more to the important first goal going in after the American had played only eight-or-so minutes. Anton and Dailly?EUR(TM)s central partner Gabiddon looked far more composed than he has been recently, though that is hardly an accolade worth embracing. Between the sticks, Carroll?EUR(TM)s return (seemingly brief) saw him pick up his first clean sheet for several months.

Going forward in the first half, the Irons offered very little. Tevez had one darting run of note, although his shot was later blocked, and a couple of corners were about as close as the team came to breaking the stalemate. Perhaps coming because of a hangover from Reading on Monday, the boos ran out at half time, with West Ham needing to raise their game significantly. Noble?EUR(TM)s goal early on in the second half was decisive, and really knocked the momentum out of the Seagulls.

The sweet volley was his first West Ham goal; it would be harsh to overlook the part played by Tevez in knocking the ball to him. (Also, it came from a McCartney cross, proving that he can be effective when going forward.) Whether or not he has done enough to keep his place for the Fulham game is unclear, but Mark will only get better the more he plays. Time is still on his side and within a couple of years I feel he will be a regular.

Luis Boa Morte showed flashes of the player he hopefully is; never afraid to take his man, his final ball was also very good. The second goal was an example of that, finished confidently by Carlton Cole. Etherington?EUR(TM)s form this season has been patchy, so it seems clear that he will be warming the bench for the next few games. Luis?EUR(TM) replacement with fifteen minutes left, Shaun Newton, also delivered a sweet ball for the third goal.

On the score sheet again, Hayden Mullins ?EUR" criticised greatly for his performance in Berkshire ?EUR" did his job competently, so cannot really be faulted. The header was the best of his three goals thus far this campaign. Benayoun, who has allegedly been handing out some of slatings, hardly shone, although some of his build up play was up to the standards he set last season (sorry Curbs?EUR??EUR?.).

One of my main concerns about this current side is the forward line. I don?EUR(TM)t think Pardew ever really knew his best pairing. So far, Curbishley has used Harewood and Zamora the most, and that faith has hardly been rewarded. Harewood and Sheringham should never be considered, as they are terrible together. Tevez should start, as he is always a threat, though I?EUR(TM)m yet to work out who should play up front with him. Carlton Cole looked ok yesterday, and wasn?EUR(TM)t the worst when he accompanied the Argentinean against Reading earlier on in the season. The more I think about it, this could be the best partnership, so I am already resigned to seeing Marlon and Bobby against Fulham next week!

Despite a poor start to the game, West Ham overcame the Albion with sufficient ease in the second half. As brave as the pundits will say they were (commonplace at this stage of the Cup), much tougher challenges await. And as much as I would love another cup run, the battle in the Premiership will be far more important than this tournament too. At least the hat will have West Ham?EUR(TM)s name in it; the mutiny would have been a sight for sore eyes had the result have gone the other way.

Next week?EUR(TM)s visitors, Fulham, are hardly brilliant away from home, yet are no easy pushover. Two weeks ago at Craven Cottage, Fulham were there for the taking. Next week ?EUR" and in every single Premiership match ?EUR" West Ham need to be as ruthless as they eventually were to Brighton. Curbs made changes for this game, and it remains to been seen if they were due to the tie itself, or a reaction to the Reading catastrophe. By then, more new faces may have arrived too. Who was it that said life in the East End was dull?

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Player Ratings

Roy Carroll
Had very little to do, although keeping his first clean sheet of the season can only help him.

Christian Dailly
Never lacking passion, Dailly did what the manager would have wanted. Only really tested once after he had moved into the centre.

George McCartney
Great cross in for Noble?EUR(TM)s goal, although often wanted to play behind Boa Morte when the new man wanted support on the flanks.

Anton Ferdinand
Looked nervous and shaky. The injury could be a blessing in disguise.

Danny Gabbidon
Best display since his return from injury on Boxing Day. His form is paramount to the survival struggle which has to kick off against Fulham next week.

Hayden Mullins
Quiet and unassuming by default, his goal showed a great attacking prowess from the normally defensive player.

Mark Noble
A joy to see him the Claret and Blue again. Took his goal well, the bounce could have easily hindered him. Probably warming the bench next week.

Yossi Benayoun
Flashes of inspiration by Yossi, particularly when linking up with Carlita.

Luis Boa Morte
A lot of endeavour from the latest addition to the West Ham team. Delivery seems to be sound, and not scared to take his man on.

Carlton Cole
Took his goal well; hopefully done enough to start ahead of Marlon, Teddy and Bobby.

Carlos Tevez
Always wanting to make an impact. Assisted Noble?EUR(TM)s strike through skill and strength, and unlucky with two chances.


Jonathan Spector
(Replaced Ferdinand, 44) Had very little to do, but never looked unsure when called upon.

Bobby Zamora
(Replaced Cole, 68) Did not really contribute a great deal against his former side.

Shaun Newton
(Replaced Boa Morte, 73) Executed a sweet cross for the third goal; the ball was one of those ?EUR~defenders nightmare?EUR(TM) deliveries.

Robert Green
Did not play.

Teddy Sheringham
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Roy Carroll, Christian Dailly, George McCartney, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon, Hayden Mullins, Mark Noble, Yossi Benayoun, Luis Boa Morte, Carlton Cole, Carlos Tevez.

Goals: Mark Noble 49 Carlton Cole 58 Hayden Mullins 90              .

Booked: None booked.           .

Sent off: None.

Brighton & Hove Albion: Henderson, El-Abd, O'Cearuill, Lynch, Butters, Mayo, Fraser, Frutos, Hammond, Revell, Robinson.

Subs not used: Kuipers, Carpenter.

Goals: .

Booked: Mayo (15), El-Abd (26).

Sent off: None.

Referee: M.Halsey.

Attendance: 32,874.

Man of the Match: Carlos Tevez.