(West Ham win 9-8 on penalties)
WEST HAM boss Sam Allardyce reiterated the need for his defence to register a greater proportion of clean sheets after the Hammers threw away another lead before navigating an enthralling cup tie 9-8 on penalties at Upton Park last night.
Spanish keeper Adrian proved West Ham’s penalty shoot-out hero by slotting home the winning spot-kick after opposite number Joel Robles crashed his against the bar, sending the Hammers into round four to face League One high-flyers Bristol City.
Substitute Carlton Cole took the tie to penalties with a late extra-time leveler after Belgium duo Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas turned the game on its head following Enner Valencia’s opener and Aiden McGeady’s red card.
Prior to last night’s cup tie, West Ham have led in their last three Premier League matches and not won, on this occasion relying on exorcising their spot-kick demons to win their first penalty shoot-out in four attempts.
“It would have been a real kick in the teeth for us if we had lost tonight because I think over the two games we deserved to go through,” said Allardyce. “In the end we have got through and that’s all that matters but it’s the fourth game in a row we’ve been in the lead and not finished it off and won the game.
“We’ve got to get the clean sheet ratio back in place. First and foremost that’s what we’ve got to do, we’ve only got four this year. If we put the clean sheet scenario right, we’ll be ok.”
Three-time winners West Ham had not won an FA Cup tie since thrashing Burnley 5-1 in February 2011 and bore the scars of successive third-round exits to Sheffield Wednesday, Manchester United and Nottingham Forest.
Valencia wasted an early chance to start amending that statistic after robbing a dallying John Stones deep inside his own half and ghosting past Phil Jagielka, only to be thwarted by Everton’s stand-in keeper Robles.
The Hammers opened the scoring when former Liverpool striker Carroll rolled the ball into Valencia’s path in the 51st minute, with the 25-year-old holding off the challenge of Stones and angling a shot beyond Robles for his first Upton Park goal.
Problems mounted for Everton manager Roberto Martinez moments later as an already cautioned McGeady was shown a second yellow card for a lunging tackle on Hammers midfielder Mark Noble.
West Ham were indebted to a lastditch James Tomkins block to deny Mirallas before the Belgian playmaker curled a sumptuous free-kick beyond a helpless Adrian to draw the Merseysiders level inside the final 10 minutes.
After withstanding late West Ham pressure, Everton took the lead in extra-time when Mirallas slalomed his way through the hosts’ backline and squared for Lukaku to slide home, before Cole stabbed past Robles following a Tomkins knockdown to send an incredible match to penalties just 100 seconds after taking the field.