Jack Wilshere scored his first goal for West Ham to help them avoid an upset in the second round of the Carabao Cup at cup shock specialists Newport County. The League Two hosts harassed their Premier League opponents in a full-blooded first half.
Newport missed a glorious opportunity to take the lead when Padraig Amond shot straight at Roberto. They were punished shortly before the break when Wilshere seized on Kyle Howkins’ error to calmly finish.
Pablo Fornals became the second player of the evening to score his first Hammers goal when he tapped in from Felipe Anderson’s low cross. It was a neatly constructed and simply finished goal, a snapshot of how proficiently West Ham dealt with a potentially problematic fixture.
Potentially problematic because cup upsets have become something of a Newport speciality in recent seasons, with Leicester City and Leeds United among their FA Cup scalps and Tottenham falling behind at Rodney Parade before escaping with a draw.
West Ham were eager not to join that list and, although Manuel Pellegrini made 10 changes to his team, this was still a potent side including Wilshere and summer signings Fornals and Albian Ajeti.
Newport, meanwhile, made only one change to their strongest line-up – a far cry from the first round when this competition was so low on manager Mike Flynn’s list of priorities that he told the fans not to travel to their first-round fixture at League One side Gillingham.
As it happens, the Exiles won on penalties to set up this enticing tie, and there was no chance of such apathy from Flynn at a packed and boisterous Rodney Parade. The home supporters were fired up and so were the players, determined to make life as uncomfortable as possible for their Premier League opponents.
However, West Ham were the first to threaten as an incisive move involving Anderson – on as an early substitute for Michail Antonio, who seemed to tear a hamstring – and Aaron Cresswell led to a low shot from Fornals hitting the post.
That was a warning, although Newport also posed a danger, most evident when Tristan Abrahams squared the ball to Amond, who squandered his golden opportunity by firing low at Roberto’s legs. For all the graft and fire from the home side, that was to prove costly as centre-back Howkins dithered on the ball to give Wilshere a clear run on goal, which he gleefully accepted.
Newport continued to battle but, as their early efforts began to take their toll, they dropped deeper in defence and the inevitable second goal arrived when Anderson flicked an inviting pass along the six-yard box, where the onrushing Fornals finished with ease. The Exiles refused to give up even as the game seemed beyond them, and they were denied the goal their exertions arguably deserved when Josh Sheehan’s powerful shot crashed off the crossbar.
West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini: “Happy for the result, happy not to concede goals and happy with the performance, especially the last 45 minutes of the game. I think that we dominated. The first 45 minutes was more equal because we knew before that Newport are a difficult team here, with such a direct style, with so many crosses, but I think that we played a good game.”