PRICELESS captain Scott Parker struck the winner in the third minute of stoppage time to spare Avram Grant’s blushes and snatch his first win as West Ham manager.
The Premier League side largely failed to assert their superiority over a team currently ranked 86th in the country and looked destined for extra-time. Striker Frederic Piquionne was the worst culprit, squandering the few chances the Hammers did manage to fashion against determined opponents.
But with virtually the last kick of the game Parker pounced, Piquionne proving himself a more adept provider of goals than he was a converter. The performance will fool no-one, but victory at least puts West Ham in the third round and avoids another blot on Grant’s brief record at Upton Park. Their worst ever start to a Premier League season, featuring two defeats and six goals conceded, was not the baptism the Israeli would have wanted. Yet with daunting league fixtures against Manchester United and then Chelsea up next, Grant will be glad of avoiding an energy-sapping period of extra-time.
Hammers chairman David Sullivan may have shipped Italian attacker Alessandro Diamanti to Brescia for around £2m, but he has made it clear the one player not for sale is the inspirational Parker. The England midfielder is wanted by Tottenham and showed why again, his trademark tenacity setting up Piquionne for a first-half miss.
Oxford worried goalkeeper Marek Cech sporadically, Mitchell Cole heading wide and Ben Purkiss also going close. The League Two outfit’s best effort came when Asa Hall forced Cech into an acrobatic save. Grant threw on star striker Carlton Cole as the Hammers’ urgency grew, and Ryan Clarke saved superbly from Parker before the talismanic skipper finally broke the deadlock.