The risk and reward of short corners
Short corners rarely seem to work and often infuriate managers, teammates, and fans alike. The big centre-backs fuming after trotting up, waiting for the cross to come in only for it to be wasted and they have to sprint the length of the pitch to get back into position.
The fans unhappy after getting excited at the prospect of a ball being whipped in and one of the tall lads getting a head on it only to see the corner taken quickly and passed back across the midfield to keep possession.
The coaching staff who have spent hours on the training ground practicing routines, the runners, the blockers, the near-post flick, the corner to the far stick nodded back across goal, the occasional cross to the edge of the box for a wonder volley, all options. But no, it’s taken quickly and more often than not wasted.
Sometimes, however, it works. It takes bravery to take a short corner and risk the anger of manager and teammates. Who knows, maybe it is easier to get away with when you are on the far side of the pitch and playing off that wing?
On Monday night Jarrod Bowen took that risk and it paid off handsomely. He put the ball down and with barely a glance up played a quick one-two with Declan Rice who was alive to the opportunity. Just a second later the ball was in the back of the net and West Ham were on their way to the fourth round of the cup.
After receiving the return pass from Rice, Bowen curled in an exquisite cross. One aimed at space for somebody to attack not a pass to a specific man. The ball was flighted perfectly and Dawson ran onto it and his powerful header was directed low into the bottom corner. Fair play to Bowen, with less than ten minutes remaining had it not come off he would have faced a barrage of criticism.
Bravery on the pitch is more than thundering tackles and throwing your body in front of shots, it is taking responsibility when your team needs you, something Bowen did exceptionally well.
Fireworks stopped play
Streakers, animals, referee injuries, when play has to stop for a non-footballing reason whilst not common these would not be the most unusual reasons for a halt in the game.
Fireworks, however, must be quite low down on the list of explanations. In the 15th minute of the match, a huge display was set off behind Darren Randolph’s goal, scaring not just the keeper but every other man on the pitch and I am not ashamed to admit it the press as well.
And it was not just one fireworks, it was what must have been hundreds of pounds of fireworks, the impromptu display went on for quite some time and it was deafening.
It is no exaggeration to say you could not hear the person sat two socially distanced seats from you, so it was no surprise to see Mike Dean stop the game as he was unable to communicate with his assistants. The players would have been relieved for the break as there was no way they could hear one another either.
As the half wore on news came to us that the display was not just a few people trying to make some noise, but was in fact a tribute to a local 15-year-old boy who was involved in a car accident last month. The teenager was reportedly hit by a police car in Stockport that was on its way to deal with a 999 call. The officers on the scene immediately administered first aid until an ambulance arrived, and the boy is currently in hospital receiving treatment.
Debut for young talent
It may only have been for a few minutes, but Mipo Odubeko replaced Michail Antonio in the 90th minute to make his first senior appearance. The former Manchester United youth team player barely had time to touch the ball let alone make an impact on his Hammers debut, but it was a nice touch of Moyes to bring him on and introduce him to senior football.
Odubeko was delighted to have got on the pitch, tweeting after the game “Happy to have my West Ham debut and more importantly be into the next round! Blessed to be back playing after 4 months out.” Declan Rice was clearly proud of the 17-year-old, sending his own tweet out “Congratulations to @mipoodubeko on his West Ham debut too! Keep working hard bro”
With Michail Antonio as the only senior striker at the club, Odubeko will be hoping to push for more minutes over the next few weeks and hold onto his play in the first-team squad.
Fitness doubt over Michail Antonio
Prior to kick-off, David Moyes spoke to BT Sport and his comments would have worried all West Ham fans. The manager said that he was not sure how fit Antonio was going into this game. Considering Antonio is the only senior striker in the squad, many fans were left wondering if playing him in this fixture was the wisest move if there were any doubts whatsoever about his fitness.
As it was Antonio came through the 90 minutes he played unscathed and his match-fitness will be all the better for it. The striker did not have a particularly good game, this, however, is secondary to getting minutes into his legs and ready for Premier League action. Antonio ran hard, as he always does, battled well with two strong centre-backs, and on two notable occasions got into good scoring positions.
The first of which came in the 37th minute, some good movement saw Antonio free from his marker as the ball was played towards him, the forward however failed to get his shot off allowing the defender to come back and make a vital interception. The feeling was that a fully fit Antonio would have at least got an effort in, whether he would have scored or not is questionable, but he would surely have done better than see a man he had five yards on getting back and win the ball off him.
In the second half another chance came his way, this time it was from a cross and he just could not move his feet quickly enough to control or shoot, and in the end the ball went harmlessly by him. Nothing to worry about for Hammers fans, after a long time without any meaningful minutes getting 90 under his belt here will have done him the world of good.
Dawson shines and cements his spot alongside the impressive Ogbonna
No talking points from this match would be complete without a word on the match-winner. It was an excellent header to seal progression to the fourth round, but one thing that was missed from the television cameras was how far Dawson had to run to get his head on the ball.
You can see on the replay that he was already sprinting when 25 yards out, but due to Bowen and Rice taking the corner so quickly he had actually begun his run form near the halfway line. By the time he ended up in the box he was running at full pace and met the cross perfectly. No defender from a standing jump had a chance to challenge the onrushing Dawson.
On a heavy pitch in the 83rd minute, that desire is something that cannot be taught, it comes from within and is part of what makes the difference between being a solid player and a very good one. Dawson is just that and his recent run in the team has shown just how good he is.
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Alongside the always excellent Angello Ogbonna, the duo have kept three clean sheets in a row and will no doubt be pairing up again for Saturday’s Premier League fixture against Burnley. The FA Cup fixture may only have been against National League Stockport but credit where it is due, Stockport were a lot better than most predicted.
They were compact and organised in defence, played the ball out nicely, and looked to attack. The fact that Randolph only had one save of note to make is not due to a lack of ambition from County, but more the excellent defensive work from Dogbonna (can we call them that yet?), the two centre-backs got a number of important blocks in and won every cross that came into the box.
With the likes of Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes in town on Saturday, the two can expect another busy afternoon in the air and no doubt, a hugley physical battle to boot.