Allardyce relieved to advance


Published: Sunday 25th January 2015 by The News Editor

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Sam Allardyce admitted he was relieved after West Ham beat Bristol City 1-0 to avoid joining the list of big-name FA Cup fourth-round casualties.

Substitute Diafra Sakho broke City hearts with an 81st-minute winner, rising at the far post to beat goalkeeper Frank Fielding after Andy Carroll had done well to cross from the right.

The outcome was harsh on the League One high-flyers and Allardyce admitted: “I expected us to play a lot better than we did.

“In the end one moment of quality has put us in the next round and that is the most important thing. All credit to Bristol City for never being overawed and taking their league form, which has been outstanding, into the FA Cup.

“Keeping a clean sheet made all the difference and it was a hard-earned victory for us. They had their best spell in the opening 15 or 20 minutes, but we battled all the way through to make that one bit of quality count.

“With the size Bristol have in their team, we knew we had to protect ourselves as best we could from set-pieces. We put players on each post because we felt at some point they would get headers at our goal and it proved a wise tactic.

“How far we can go in the competition will depend on the draw. We will have to face Premier League opposition at some point if we progress, but I would rather leave that until the final!”

City looked the more threatening side for most of a lively first half and it took two goalline clearances to keep the Hammers on level terms.

Mark Noble was on hand to block Matt Smith’s fifth-minute header after Aden Flint’s power in the air at a corner had set up the chance.

And Carroll did even better to divert another Smith header over his own crossbar on 26 minutes, leaving the big City striker holding his head in disbelief after he had connected with a Jay Emmanuel-Thomas cross.

It took West Ham until the 37th minute to force a save from Fielding. Then Carroll’s close-range shot was straight at the City keeper from a Carl Jenkinson cross.

By early in the second period Allardyce had seen enough, sending on Sakho and Morgan Amalfitano for Enner Valencia and the out-of-sorts Alex Song.

Sakho made the difference. Out of action since suffering a back injury on New Year’s Day, the striker grazed the crossbar with a brilliant effort shortly before his goal.

But even after the deadlock had been broken, Smith almost earned City a replay with an injury-time header that went inches wide and home boss Steve Cotterill was proud of his side’s efforts.

He said: “We have lost to a strong team and a very good club. Sam has done a fantastic job at West Ham and I sincerely hope they now go on to win the competition.

“We are disappointed because we worked hard in the build-up to the game. We needed to score when on top in the first half and had some good chances.

“If I am ultra-critical of my players, I think we could have done better in the second half. But overall I think we showed a national TV audience that we are a decent team.

“Sakho made a difference and was lively from the moment he came on. We can’t hope to have that sort of quality on the bench as a League One club.

“We have a big game here on Thursday in the area final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and what has so far been a successful league campaign (is set to) continue so there is a lot to look forward to.”

Published: Sunday 25th January 2015 by The News Editor

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