Carling Cup
West Ham United 4-1 Macclesfield Town 

Wednesday, 27th August 2008
by Graeme Howlett

West Ham United were just sixteen minutes away from going out of the Carling Cup against League Two outfit Macclesfield Town at The Boleyn Ground tonight before a Lee Bowyer strike averted disaster - and possibly saved Alan Curbishley's job.

Bowyer broke Macclesfield hearts with normal time fast running out to take the game into extra-time after plucky Macclesfield - who were reduced to ten men a minute from the end of normal time - had led the game for over an hour. Extra-time goals from Carlton Cole, debutant Zavon Hines and Kyel Reid gave the final score a more respectful appearance that flattered the home side, who were at times as inept as against Manchester City last weekend.

The Silkmen - who have lost all three of their League games so far this season and sit just one place from the bottom of the Football League - silenced the small home crowd when they took the lead after just five minutes when Ahmed Deen's 4th minute corner found its way into the back of Robert Green's net via the head of Gareth Evans.

The early shock spurred Alan Curbishley's side into life and they soon began to impose themselves on the game, as you would expect of a team hosting opposition from three leagues below them.

Freddie Sears and Luis Boa Morte both went close to equalising, although United's best chance of the opening period fell to Dean Ashton who was the width of a crossbar away from levelling the scores on the stroke of half-time.

Unsurprisingly the Hammers - who lost new-signing Valon Behrami after the Swiss defender sustained a facial injury with just 27 minutes on the clock - left the field at the break to a resounding chorus of boos.

A brief spell of pressure at the start of the second half from the visitors, looking to put the game to bed soon petered out and the Hammers began to enjoy more time on the ball as they pushed on in search of an equaliser. Macclesfield began to defend deeper and deeper, and it was no surprise when Bowyer finally levelled the scores with a close range header with just a quarter-of-an-hour remaining.

The goal gave the Hammers a clear boost in confidence and they finished normal time camped inside the Town half - although the hunt for a winning goal was to prove elusive.

However the game turned further in United's favour when Macclesfield's teenage full-back Izak Reed saw red for a second bookable offence in the final minute of normal time, forcing them to play the ensuing 30 minutes of extra time a man short.

That extra-man advantage told immediately and Zavon Hines and Dean Ashton both went close to putting the Hammers ahead. But the goal that was to finally break the Silkmen's brave resistance came instead from the head of substitute Carlton Cole who gave Curbishley's side breathing space when diverting Dean Ashton's cross goalbound with exactly 100 minutes on the clock.

The goal was a huge blow to the League Two side, for whom each and every player had given their all. Visibly tired, it was no surprise when they conceded a third; Zavon Hines scoring on his first team debut in the final minute of the first half of extra time. Once again, Dean Ashton was the provider.

With the game now all but in the bag United eased off the pressure for the remaining quarter-of-an-hour and the crowd were treated to one or two moments of pure exhibitionism - one of which came from Kyel Reid who almost made it 4-1 after a Cruyff turn and shot that left his marker for dead and cannoned off the inside of the right-hand post.

Carlton Cole then tried to run single-handedly through the Macclesfield defence before Reid had somewhat better luck with just three of the 120 minutes remaining when he left the excellent Town keeper John Brain rooted to the spot by firing low inside the left-hand post to complete the scoring.

Dean Ashton thought he had added a fifth with virtually the last kick of the game but his effort was ruled offside. As the teams left the pitch the Macclesfield team were given a standing ovation by the remaining home fans in recognition of their valiant effort that saw them just 16 minutes away from possibly the biggest upset in both their and West Ham United's history.

Player ratings by Bubbles1966.

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Player Ratings

Robert Green
Nothing much to do. Distribution a little better than normal.

Valon Behrami
Tenacious - but Faubert looked much better at right back.

George McCartney
A little bit off the pace but not bad.

Calum Davenport
His distribution and close control is sometimes poor but he was superb in the air (our goal was conceded while he was off the pitch getting treatment for a great clearance 30 seconds earlier). Drove the team forward and pleasingly started to carry the ball out of defence instead of just hoofing it.

Matthew Upson
His distribution was poor in the first 15 minutes but solid thereafter.

Lee Bowyer
Absolutely shocking. The fact he scored a goal shouldn't disguise the fact his passing was off and he got outmuscled most of the game in midfield.

Hayden Mullins
His passing was limited but he did manage some good long-range shots.

Julien Faubert
He was generally involved in whatever looked dangerous for most of the game. Sometimes his crossing can frustrate but he also looked good at right back.

Luis Boa Morte
Aggressive and energetic. Much to frustrate but two or three sparks - a great free-kick, one superb cross when at left back (where he is starting to look a better player than in midfield) and a great backheel early on to put Ashton in on goal.

Dean Ashton
A good game. Dangerous in the first half but quieter thereafter. Was involved in goals/chances in extra time and showed good energy, commitment and fitness.

Fred Sears
Largely uninvolved and outmuscled. One good chance where he blasted instead of placed his shot. Doesn't seem to possess a trick when in possession.


Zavon Hines
(replaced Behrami, 27) Showed some nice touches and good close control but looks like he needs a few dinners. Is nowhere near ready for Premiership football though.

Kyel Reid
(replaced McCartney, 55) Some excellent wing play - he reduced Macclesfield to 10 men with this. Scored a nice goal. Of the three youngsters on show he is the one who looks physically able to play Premiership football and there was enough skill and ability to suggest he should at least get some sub appearances.

Carlton Cole
(replaced Sears, 58) An excellent performance - scored a poachers goal and had about six shots (all on target and generally well hit). One great chest trap and volley on the run, and he is very quick; if only we could pass the ball in a way that would allow him to run onto it sometimes...

Jan Lastuvka
Did not play.

Jordan Spence
Did not play.

Jow Widdowson
Did not play.

Scott Parker
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Robert Green, Valon Behrami, George McCartney, Calum Davenport, Matthew Upson, Lee Bowyer, Hayden Mullins, Julien Faubert, Luis Boa Morte, Dean Ashton, Fred Sears.

Goals: Lee Bowyer 74 Carlton Cole 100 Zavon Hines 105 Kyel Reid 117            .

Booked: Luis Boa Morte 42          .

Sent off: None.

Macclesfield Town: Brain, Brisley, Hessey, Ealker, I.Reid, Tolley, Bell, Thomas, Evans, Green, Deen.

Subs not used: Town, Gritton, Jennings, Flynn.

Goals: Evans (5).

Booked: Green (18), Reid (65).

Sent off: None.

Referee: C Penton.

Attendance: 10,055.

Man of the Match: Robert Green.