West Ham United 3 Barnsley 0 – Upton Park – Saturday 3rd January 2009
The first Saturday in January is nearly always synonymous with the FA Cup 3rd round, for some the most important day in the footballing calendar. Prior to 3pm (although with games now being played on the Friday night it is not the case), all of the teams in the top division dream of walking out at Wembley in mid May, yet by 5pm up to 50% will be out. Last season with so many top clubs falling by the wayside so early in the tournament, Portsmouth, Cardiff City, West Brom and Barnsley somehow found themselves in the final four.
It is nearly 3 years since West Ham last reached the final and in all seasons bar 2 in the past 10 we had been failed to string together more than 2 wins in the competition. So a home tie versus Barnsley was a good tie for a team low on confidence. That was of course before the surprising wins against Portsmouth and Stoke City, meaning that the team came into the game in top form. The only main discussion was which first team players would be “rested” – meaning basically “come and make us an offer as he is not cup tied”. I do not know why the clubs try and make excuses for players who mysteriously pick up an injury the day before the game – this year it was the turn of the “oh so loyal” Jermaine Defoe and Fulham’s Jimmy Bullard to phone in sick, and thus spare their prospective new clubs the situation of buying a cup tied player.
West Ham had been “rumoured” to be open to offers for all players, especially the first team stars Robert Green, Matthew Upson, Craig Bellamy, Scott Parker and Lucas Neill. Most fans could not give a toss about the money grabbing Aussie – after all when offered a £50k per week with Liverpool or a £60k one with West Ham in 2007 exactly why would he chose to head south if it wasnt for the money? Parker was suspended but it was with some surprise that messrs Green and Bellamy lined up for this one, with Upson apparently “rested” (code for joining Arsenal on Monday).
In truth this was a completely one sided game. After Noble’s free kick found Illunga unmarked to score his 1st for the club after 9 minutes there was no doubt West Ham would win. And win they did with ease. Noble converted a penalty for the second after being hauled down in the area and Carlton Cole scored a well headed goal in the second half. The highlight of the second half was the re-appearance of Kieron Dyer who had been out for nearly 18 months through injury, and he nearly scored from 20 yards with his first touch. Barnsley had a couple of chances but luck was on our side for once. A free kick struck the West Ham bar and then hit James Collins on teh leg before bouncing over, and Robert Green knew very little about a free kick that struck a post then hit his foot and bounced wide.
So three wins out of three for Zola, thus deflecting the financial pressure engulfing the club. And more importantly our name went into the draw for the 4th round. Chelsea/Southend at home please!