Hammers Battle Back To Beat Blackburn

WEST Ham United have booked their place in the Fifth Round of the FA Youth Cup with a superb 4-1 win over Blackburn Rovers at Upton Park.

They had to come back from a 1-0 half-time deficit to do it though, goals from Moses Ashikodi, Tony Stokes, Hogan Ephraim and Mark Noble.

Tony Carr made two changes to the side that beat Gillingham 6-3 in the thrilling Third Round clash, Darren Bechet replacing Matt Reed in goal and England Under-17 forward Hogan Ephraim coming in for Ryan Andrews.

Hammers started the game brightly and fashioned a great move after just eight minutes to prise open the Blackburn defence. Ollie Allen played in Tony Stokes, who went down under a heavy challenge from Luke Jones in the penalty area only for the referee to wave play on.

With Hammers dominating possession, Ashkiodi fired well over, before Blackburn threatened for the first time. Joel Byrom's effort was well wide, but Ralph Welch did better, testing Behcet with a skidding drive on 18 minutes.

That was just before Ashikodi had a great chance to score, planting his header from Chris Cohen's cross into the ground and watching helplessly as it bounced over the bar.

With the half an hour mark almost up Allen threatened with a shot that dipped just wide of the post, while at the other end Behcet had to be alert, racing from his line to smother the ball at the feet of Rovers striker Joe Garner.

Still, Hammers looked the most likely side to break the deadlock, their advanced midfielders probing the Blackburn rearguard at will.

Yet it was Blackburn who took the lead against the run of play after 34 minutes. Keith Barker shrugged off the attentions of Liam White, cut inside James Tomkins and curled the ball past Behcet into the top corner of the net.

Forced to come back from a half-time deficit in the last round, Hammers would need to do so again as they left the field trailing 1-0 at the break.

HT: 0-1

West Ham came out for the second-half determined to draw level. Five minutes in they nearly did, Ashikodi flashing a header just inches wide of the post.

It was a warning Blackburn failed to heed. Just two minutes later a corner from Mark Noble sparked mass confusion in the Blackburn defence, and when Stokes' effort was blocked on the line Ashikodi was on hand to bundle the ball home.

Suddenly, it was all West Ham, and Tony Carr's men took full advantage. After Tomkins' header was brilliantly tipped over by Jones, another Hammers corner saw the ball drop to Stokes 10 yards out, and he drilled it into the bottom corner of the net.

Going behind in a frantic 10 minutes of pressure seemed to finally startle the visitors out of their dressing room. However, the Hammers rearguard remained difficult to break down, and in the 70th minute hit Blackburn on the break to score a third.

Again it was the threatening presence of Ashikodi that made the goal with a bustling run down the right that drew Jones from his area. The Blackburn goalkeeper went down in a scrum of players, the ball ran loose, and Hogan Ephraim swung it back into the empty net from 25 yards out.

The Hammers were cruising, and just a minute later Blackburn's misery was compounded when a scrap between Jemel Henry and Ralph Welch saw a brawl break out in which Welch was dismissed for violent conduct.

Tony Carr's team were relentless in their pressure and on 75 minutes captain Mark Noble added a fourth that all but ended Blackburn's resistance. Lining up a free-kick 25 yards from goal, Noble curled the ball low past the defensive wall and nestled it neatly into the bottom corner of Jones' net. Noble, who started for the first-team at Wolves last Saturday, was promptly replaced by David Shaw.

On 80 minutes Tony Carr used his two remaining substitutions to introduce Ishmael Welsh and Ryan Andrews, with Ollie Allen and Jemel Henry making way. By now the outcome of the game was in little doubt, as West Ham comfortably contained 10 man Blackburn.

At the final whistle, West Ham United celebrated a fantastic second-half comeback, and a 4-1 win that books them a place in the Fifth Round against local rivals Leyton Orient at Upton Park.

WHU: Behcet; Henry (Andrews 80), Cohen, White, Tomkins, Allen (Welsh 80), Noble (Shaw 75), Ephraim, Stokes, Ashikodi, Reid. Subs unused: Reed (GK), Davidson.