Bristol City 0 West Ham 1
It was not convincing by any stretch and for long periods Bristol City threatened to add their name to the list of giantkilling acts of the weekend at Ashton Gate, but West Ham ultimately found a way to overpower the League One club. Daifra Sakho, on as a second-half substitute and making his first appearance since picking up a back injury on New Year’s Day, met Andy Carroll’s cross with a far-post header to secure West Ham’s place in the last 16.
The goal arrived in the 81st minute and seemed cruel on City, who looked the more accomplished side at times but were left to rue their failure to make the most of several decent chances.
West Ham were poor and Sam Allardyce will be relieved that the Premier League side were spared a replay. Deep in injury-time Matt Smith had threatened to haul Steve Cotterill's side level but the striker, on loan from Fulham, headed a Jay Emmanuel-Thomas cross wide. It was that sort of day for City.
They played with no shortage of belief throughout, but in particular in the opening half hour, when the home team, inspired by the effervescent Luke Freeman, took the game to West Ham and were unfortunate not to go ahead. Twice in that period Matt Smith – a towering presence up front and quite a handful on set-pieces – saw headers cleared off the line. Mark Noble was in the right place at the right time in the fifth minute and with Adrián beaten later in the half, Carroll, of all people, came to West Ham's rescue.
West Ham looked a little shell-shocked by the intensity of City's play and the speed with which they broke forward. A lovely exchange between Emmanuel-Thomas and Joe Bryan, the only Bristolian in Cotterill's team, carved open another decent chance midway through the first half. The angle, however, was against Bryan and the left wing-back screwed a low shot from the corner of the six-yard box narrowly wide of the far post and out for a throw-in the other side.
After a slow start, during which Alex Song gave away possession with alarming regularity and Enner Valencia struggled to hold the ball up – it was no surprise both players were substituted early in the second half–- West Ham finally offered a threat. Carroll, after failing to find his range with a couple of wild attempts from distance, met a Carl Jenkinson cross with a stabbed attempt from six-yards that Frank Fielding comfortably saved.
There was no improvement in West Ham's play after the restart. Stewart Downing, gliding across the edge of the City area before linking with Kevin Nolan, shot over the bar but that was a rare West Ham attack. At the other end of the pitch Smith was again causing problems with his aerial threat, the striker meeting Bryan's left-wing cross with a header that also sailed over.
Sakho, on for Valencia, made little impact initially but the Senegalese came to life in the final 15 minutes. Following a nice piece of skill on the left, the substitute struck a dipping shot that brushed the crossbar. It was warning of what was to come.
Carroll, playing the role of provider, dug out a cross from the right that Sahko, stretching at the far post, headed inside the upright and West Ham were celebrating being the first team in the top half of the Premier League to reach the fifth round.