Sam Allardyce had the luxury of making ten changes to his West Ham side but the Premier League side still produced just a bit too much quality for Crewe Alexandra. The Railwaymen certainly acquitted themselves much better than they did at Brentford on Saturday, but like the weekend defeat at Griffin Park one of our former forwards came back to haunt us. Anything Clayton Donaldson can do, so can our former Academy graduate Nicky Maynard. His superbly taken opener set his new club on the way to the third round of the League Cup.
After Crewe had an early penalty appeal waved away after Harry Bunn had been clumsily felled by Alou Diarra, the Hammers made it a real uphill battle when Alan Martin spilled a shot from Kevin Nolan into the path of Modibo Maiga.
Steve Davis made three changes to the side that lost heavily at Brentford at the weekend. Mathias Pogba didn’t travel to London after receiving a knock on his knee at Griffin Park and Adam Dugdale was placed on the substitutes’ bench after recently picking up a stomach bug. A fit-again Kelvin Mellor returned at right-back for his first start of the new season with Harry Davis partnering Mark Ellis in centre of defence.
Abdul Osman was also left out of the starting line-up as Davis re-united captain Ashley Westwood and Luke Murphy in the centre of midfield.
Max Clayton earned himself a recall whilst the on-loan Harry Bunn was handed his first start after impressive substitute appearances against Scunthorpe and Brentford.
Nicky Maynard started against his former club as ‘Big Sam’ elected to give some of his fringe players a chance to impress in the League Cup competition.
Crewe Alexandra certainly started this Capital One Cup tie in a much better fashion than they did at Griffin Park on Saturday. It was evident that they had set up to contain West Ham but also retain possession when we had it. There were some really promising passing moves from Crewe in the opening passages of play, with Westwood and Murphy constantly looking for the runs of Byron Moore, Bunn and Clayton.
AJ Leitch-Smith had an early cross cut-out by Daniel Potts inside the six-yard box early on and Mellor was rather unlucky to see his rebound off of the West Ham goalkeeper Stephen Henderson clear the crossbar after Westwood had delivered a dangerous looking free-kick after just nine minutes.
Understandably at home and looking to impress, West Ham enjoyed the better of the possession but Kevin Nolan was high and wide with an ambitious effort and Mellor had to recover well to halt Ricardo Vaz Te after their play-off hero had tricked his way past the Crewe full-back close to the by-line.
Nicky Maynard was lively in the early exchanges, operating in a wide right area he had the best of the early chances and was unfortunate to see his curling shot drift wide of Alan Martin’s right hand post.
Crewe were defending their box reasonably well with bodies in the right place at the right time. Vaz Te did conjure up some space from a corner after 25 minutes but he could only direct his header into the arms of the well-placed Martin.
After 28 minutes, Moore showed a quickness of feet to deceive Matty Taylor and his low cross was cleverly dummied by Clayton but just deflected away from Leitch-Smith. If it had gotten through, he would have a golden opportunity to open the scoring. It was unlucky.
A minute later, with far too space to run into, drilled a shot into the hands of Henderson, as Crewe threatened to take a surprise lead at the home of the Premier League club.
Crewe had defended reasonably well and were really beginning to frustrate the home side, until Vaz Te showed real pace to get in behind Gregor Robertson and as Mark Ellis came across to help out his full-back, the ball was flicked over into the danger zone and there was Maynard who made no mistake with a controlled finish into the bottom corner.
After Clayton Donaldson at Griffin Park, Crewe were once again being haunted again by our former players and to his great credit our former Academy graduate didn’t celebrate in front of his former supporters.
Moments later, Crewe had Martin to thank for keeping out another fine effort from Maynard. The Alex stopper watched his powerful shot through a crowd in front of him to push it up and away.
At the other end, a forceful run of Bunn won our first corner of the game in the 38th minute but after a short corner, Westwood over hit his cross.
From a West Ham corner from the right, Martin had to be alert once again to shuffle across his goal and push away a connection from Modibo Maiga. It was another athletic stop from the club’s Scottish goalkeeper.
Maynard’s opening goal had certainly settled the home side down and they were posing a threat whenever they entered the final third. Crewe were wanting the first half whistle for a chance to regroup and have a breather from all the pressurising of top-flight players.
An early break in the second half saw Bunn run into the West Ham half of the pitch and feed Max Clayton but after he was forced wide, his clipped cross was too high for Bunn. He kept the move alive though and Murphy saw his well struck from 25 yards tipped around the post by Henderson. From the resulting corner, Leitch-Smith had another effort blocked.
It was an encouraging start from the Railwaymen and we could have been awarded a penalty on 51 minutes. The persistence of Bunn saw him wriggle past Alou Diarrra and make his way into the box. He then went down under the untidy challenge of the West Ham player, who certainly didn’t play any of the ball but referee Fred Graham waved away the strong appeals. The Alex management were non-too pleased either.
The decision came back to haunt us even more just three minutes later. Mellor was penalised and booked for a foul on Vaz Te and after Martin had failed to hold onto Nolan’s long range drive, the grateful Modibo Maiga tapped home the loose rebound. It will go down as a rare handling error from Martin.
More good work from Murphy and Bunn saw the on-loan Manchester City youngster curl a shot into the gloves of Henderson. Ellis also did well to head away from Maiga.
West Ham made the first change of the evening after an hour with Taylor making way for Mathias Fanimo. His first involvement saw him race down the Crewe right and provide a super cross for the in-coming Maiga but he couldn’t keep his half volley down at the far post.
Crewe’s first chance saw Bunn make way for Osman as Crewe switched to 4-3-3 to match the Hammers in the centre of the pitch. Crewe were also forced into a change when Mark Ellis had to leave the pitch following a bad cut. He was replaced by Dugdale.
Vaz Te also left the pitch with Robert Hall replacing him with a little over 15 minutes remaining.
Crewe continued to try and pass the ball and ask more questions of the West Ham defence. Moore had a shot at the far post blocked by the orange boots of Fanimo before AJ Leitch-Smith nearly gave us a glimmer of hope. He raced onto a through ball from Westwood and he tried to side-step the onrushing West Ham goalkeeper, but credit to Henderson he did well to smother the chance.
At the other end, Maiga headed a yard wide and Maynard curled another effort into the side netting. Martin had that one well covered. The Alex goalkeeper also did exceedingly well to get his finger tips to a low drive from Hall and then Diarra should have got his header on target after rising highest inside a crowded penalty area.
In an attempt to make a real game of it in the closing stages, Mellor just couldn’t get a good enough connection on a drilled cross from Moore.
A late substitute from the Alex saw us revert back to 4-4-2 with Oliver Turton replacing Leitch-Smith. Moore pushed up front to partner Clayton. Nolan also came off for George Moncur.
In search of another goal, Maiga proved too strong for Robertson and his curling shot was brilliantly saved by Martin. He may have made an error for West Ham’s second goal but he also produced some very good moments also, saving twice again late to deny substitute Hall a goal.