Hammers Beat Gills In Cup Thriller

EXTRA-TIME goals from Moses Ashikodi, Ishmael Welsh and a Mark Noble penalty gave Tony Carr's Under-18 side a thrilling 6-3 win over Gillingham in the FA Cup Third Round at Priestfield Stadium.

A goal from Tony Stokes and two magnificent strikes from captain Mark Noble in normal time saw the Hammers come from behind three times in a match that had all the pulsating thrills and spills of a Cup-tie.

Tony Carr's side began the game brightly, with Noble pushing his team forward from midfield. His powerful surge into the area was only halted by a mix-up with teammate Kyel Reid, before his perfectly weighted through-ball released Moses Ashikodi, but Gillingham goalkeeper Darren Ibrahim came out to make a brave block.

Given their early dominance, Tony Carr's team were stunned to go behind after just seven minutes. George Purcell got away down the right and crossed for an unmarked Akwasi Edusei to head past Matthew Reed.

Despite the set-back West Ham continued to push forward, and in the 24th minute Tony Stokes had two great chances to equalise. Jemel Henry fed Moses Ashikodi, who's shot was too hot to handle for Darren Ibrahim. The Gills 'keeper spilt the ball at Stokes' feet, but with the goal at his mercy Stokes saw his follow up effort blocked magnificently by Ibrahim. Once again the ball rolled loose and once again Stokes was onto it. But with the angle tight his point blank shot came back off the post and was scrambled clear by the Gills defence.

Matt Reed was called in to action after 35 minutes, making a smart save from Francis Collin and smothering the ball at the second attempt.

At the other end, the presence of Ashikodi and the pace of Kyel Reid continued to cause Gillingham problems. On 37 minutes Ashikodi flicked the ball on releasing Ollie Allen, but he dragged his low drive wide of the far post. 

Just before half-time Chris Cohen whipped in a wicked left-foot cross that somehow avoided a Hammers head at the far post, but West Ham went off at half-time trailing 1-0 and needing to find a higher gear in order to make the Fourth Round.

HT: 0-1

Whatever Tony Carr said at half-time it had the desired effect the Hammers came out fighting and within a minute of the restart they were level. Moses Ashikodi burst through the centre and drilled a shot that came back off Ibrahim, hit the onrushing Stokes and deflected into the net.

A fired up Ashikodi had another thumping drive blocked well by Ibrahim before another Gillingham goal against the run of play had the Hammers behind again.

There was more than a touch of controversy about the 50th minute decision that saw Jemel Henry concede a penalty for a push on George Purcell, after Collin had swung in a deep cross. But there was no doubting the cool spot-kick from Richard Boorman that gave Gillingham a 2-1 lead.

Like they did in the first-half, West Ham responded well to going behind and began to mount sustained pressure on the Gillingham goal. From a corner on 58 minutes the ball dropped to young defender James Tomkins in the box, who stabbed the ball goalwards only for Ibrahim to make another fine block.

Looking for goals, Tony Carr threw on David Shaw, Hogan Ephraim and Ishmael Welsh. It had the desired effect. On 74 minutes West Ham won a free-kick 20 yards out and captain Mark Noble bent his shot round the wall and beyond Ibrahim, the ball striking the inside of the post on its way into the net.

The scores did not stay level for long. Less than a minute later George Purcell broke free down the left and crossed into the Hammers box. James Tomkins slid in to challenge the arriving Gills striker and it was the unfortunate defender who deflected the ball into his own net to give the hosts a 3-2 lead.

But Tony Carr's determined Hammers, and their captain Mark Noble in particular, would just not give up. Three minutes later their determined attitude was rewarded when Noble netted an incredible equaliser, his sublime lob leaving Ibrahim stranded as it dropped unopposed into the net.

Despite the two teams trading chances in the final minutes the scoring was over, for normal time at least, with the scores tied at 3-3.

FT: 3-3

Extra-time began with the Hammers going close. Substitute Ishmael Welsh found space on the left and fired in a shot that was well saved by Ibrahim at the near post.

Then, with almost 100 minutes gone, the Hammers took the lead for the first time in the match. Moses Ashikodi shrugged off Frankie Chappell's challenge and beat Ibrahim with a cool finish to make it 4-3.

The first-period of extra-time ended with the Hammers pressing, but Matt Reed did have to be alert to grab a swirling cross from Edusei that looked like it might creep in at the near post and Purcell fizzed a shot across goal that went narrowly wide.

The second 15 minutes of extra-time began just like the first. This time it was Ashikodi going close for the Hammers, dragging his shot just wide of the far post from 18 yards out.

Gillingham began to throw men forward in a last ditch bid to stay in the competition, and but for the crossbar they might have found an equaliser when George Purcell's run ended in a shot that skimmed off the Hammers bar.

With the end of the game fast approaching Moses Ashikodi broke clear and squared to Ishmael Welsh, who danced around a helpless Ibrahim and rolled the ball into the net. With seconds left Mark Noble was brought down in the box and the referee pointed to the spot. Noble picked himself up to convert the kick, securing a magnificent hat-trick and with it West Ham United's passage to the Fourth Round, where they will meet Bolton or Blackburn Rovers at home.

WHU: Reed; Andrews, Henry, White, Tomkins, Noble, Allen (Shaw 63), Cohen, Ashikodi, Stokes (Welsh 73), Reid. Subs Unused: Behcet (GK), Cowley.