Hornets fly as Hammers slump
By Alex Dunn
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
An acrobatic strike from Watford's Anthony McNamee secured a 1-0 victory at West Ham.
An acrobatic strike from Watford's Anthony McNamee secured a 1-0 victory for his side at West Ham, in a game that was otherwise more about grit than grace.
Watford's last win at Upton Park came in 1984 and having guided his side to the fifth round of the FA Cup, when allied to a Premiership win in midweek, Adrian Boothroyd's vision of the future may not now be as bleak as George Orwell's.
McNamee's goal was largely out of synch with what preceded and followed it, as West Ham's players left the field to a crescendo of boos.
While the romance synonymous with football's oldest cup competition still has a home on the terraces, for Premiership managers survival remains the priority and eager to avoid the pile-up which can be created by replays, both sides set out with an intent to attack and the game was all the better for it.
West Ham, whose debutant Lucas Neill lasted 49 minutes before being replaced injured, started with a pacey tempo and on the front-foot, went close to taking the lead in only the third minute when Bobby Zamora looped a header onto the top of Watford's bar.
Such ascendancy though proved short-lived for it was the away side that next went close to breaking the deadlock, when an eager linesman's flag ruled out Damien Francis' close-range effort.
Both sides sparred manfully in the middle of the field but a lack of quality kept chances at a premium, before midway through West Ham were denied by a brilliant close-range save from Ben Foster at his near post, after the bustling Carlton Cole played in Shaun Newton.
From the resulting corner, Jordan Stewart was ideally placed to clear Nigel Reo-Coker's flicked effort off his own line. Cole was proving not just effective in an attacking third but also his own, as a brilliant defensive challenge from the striker thwarted Francis - who looked primed to head home Darius Henderson's nod back across goal.
When Watford took the lead, predictably, it came from a floated ball into the box but while Henderson was robust in his challenge, Roy Carroll's error cannot be excused. Coming to collect on the edge of the box West Ham's goalkeeper got nowhere near and as the ball dropped to McNamee, an acrobatic overhead kick had enough purchase to beat Jonathan Spector on the line.
While there was precious little to choose between the two sides in the first period, the second saw West Ham boss both possession and opportunities, with Watford content to sit, soak and counter.
Zamora powered a header over after ghosting in beyond his marker, Boa Morte scooped over when played through on goal, leaving Newton to screw wide when he should have done better.
It was, though, a reoccurring Achilles heel that again proved to be their downfall, as a lack of punch and spark in attack culminated in a dearth of genuine chances.
Indeed, had Henderson shown a greater hunger, Watford would have doubled their advantage when on a rare forward foray Hameur Bouazza fired an inviting ball across goal.
As the game threatened to simmer out of West Ham's grasp, the home side began to revert to a style normally associated with their opposition and it was from one such long ball that Spector missed a glorious chance to get his side level.
After Zamora headed into his path, from no more than six yards, the American floated the ball over Foster but with substitute Teddy Sheringham looking favourite to tap into an unguarded goal, Stewart put in another fine challenge to ensure Watford's progression.
|Team Name||West Ham United||Watford|
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|Shots Off Target||10||5|