Parker dashes Oxford dream

West Ham United edged through to the Carling Cup third round with a last-gasp victory over a brave Oxford United.

Not for the first time, Scott Parker was the Hammers hero, slamming Frederic Piquionne's low cross past Us goalkeeper Ryan Clarke with just a few seconds remaining at the Boleyn Ground.

The League Two new boys, who gained promotion back into the Football League following a four-year absence by winning the Conference National play-off final at Wembley in May, gave a fine account of themselves in front of a bumper 20.092 crowd - many of whom had been tempted along by the lowest ticket prices in more than a decade.

Oxford, who had thrashed League One outfit Bristol Rovers 6-1 in the first round, were well-organised in defence and looked a threat whenever they broke forward in numbers.

However debutant goalkeeper Marek Stech, who was later named man of the match, produced an assured performance on the biggest night of his young career, making one particularly fine save to keep out Asa Hall's rasping long-range shot to keep the game goalless.

With Stech repelling everything Oxford could throw at him, visiting goalkeeper Clarke was being kept far busier by Avram Grant's side.

Piquionne saw an early effort turned aside by the stopper before the France international headed wide from Mark Noble's near-post corner.

Into the second half and West Ham kept up the pressure on their opponents, with substitutes Benni McCarthy and Carlton Cole adding to the firepower at manager Grant's disposal.

It was Parker who went closest to settling matters before added-time, only for Clarke to fling himself low to his left to keep out a well-struck shot from the Hammers No8.

When Cole had a goal disallowed for offside with two minutes to go, it appeared extra-time and penalties could be on the cards, only for the Hammer of the Year to pop up with a decisive late intervention.

Parker himself was relieved to spare both his team-mates and the home supporters a further half-hour of anxiety.

"Obviously we fully expected to win and we did that in the end but we made hard work of it," said the England midfielder. "It was a little bit of relief. It has been a hard start to the season and it was a difficult game at times. It was pleasing to win and hopefully we can now we can push on.

"Marek did very well. It was his debut and he did really well. That was pleasing. I think the days are gone when lower league teams come to big clubs and everyone thinks you can beat them six or seven. A lot of people coming might have thought that but well organised teams are hard to break down."

Stech himself was delighted to keep a clean sheet and make a winning start to his Hammers career.

"It was brilliant. I was always looking forward to this moment. I've been waiting for four years. I've been working hard and I really enjoyed this game. Both sets of fans were brilliant and even the game was good for at this age.

"It was good experience for me and I'm grateful to the manager for giving me this opportunity to play.

"To be fair, I was nervous. It was my first game and I didn't want to mess anything up or do anything bad. I wanted to win and go through to the next round and once I was in the game, my nerves started to disappear and I felt better in the second half. When you've made a save and touched the ball, you feel better.

"Obviously, if the manager would give me another opportunity, I'd be happy and try to take it and play my best. If he doesn't, then I'll have to wait and keep trying my best and hopefully I'll get another chance in the FA Cup."