Another FA Cup final dream bites the dust but was it our worst exit

We’ve got used to poor cup runs over the years but that didn’t stop me believing this was our year

General view at the West Ham United v Manchester City EPL match, at the London Stadium, London, UK on 16th September, 2023.

The January blues can be brought on by the post-Christmas lull, the cold weather and, of course, a West Ham cup exit to lower league opposition. We’re all suffering right now as a result of a pretty embarrassing FA Cup showing by us last month losing, in a replay, to Bristol City.

The first thing to unpick here is the word “replay”. Yes, we couldn’t even get the job done at our own place as we slumped to a 1-1 draw against the Championship side. When Bowen fired us ahead in the fourth minute, we could have been forgiven for thinking that this was going to be a fairly straightforward pass to the fourth round. But it wasn’t to be, despite dominating the game statistically.

At Ashton Gate the following week, we looked like half a team. In fairness, we couldn’t have predicted that we would be behind after just three minutes, but it still meant there was another 87 plus to get two. Mavropanos’ error leading to the goal was school-boy too. Mistakes happen, but it was a long pass to make back to Fabianski. 

He wasn’t under enough pressure that he couldn’t have had a lookup to see what options he had. It was poor judgement and cost us the game and the competition. I couldn’t help but feel both disappointed and hard done by at the final whistle though, there was a lot against us that day. We should have got the job done at the London Stadium.

Losing Paqueta and Bowen to injury in the first tie was a big blow. They’re our two most important players in any competition. If any club has their two best players out injured, it’s as good an excuse as any for a drop in performance.

Having said that, we have plenty of talent available still, they just don’t seem to take their opportunities. Cornet has shown flashes of brilliance in his time, but they’re just that – flashes. Ings struggles to impress us, but again, we know he’s capable of more than he’s showing.

Players like that should be looking forward to a cup game to impress, they just didn’t seem up for it at all. We also could have been playing against 10 men for the majority of that game. 

Joe Williams should have seen red for his shocking tackle on Danny Ings, but of course with no VAR at this game it wasn’t to be. That in itself is a disgrace. I agree with David Moyes that in a competition as prolific as the FA Cup, you cannot have video assistance in one game and not in another. It should either be available for all or not available at all.

Something VAR wouldn’t have helped us with though is the sending off dished out to Benrahma later in the game. His reaction to Williams’ tangle was ridiculous. Just don’t give the referee any decision to make, VAR or not.

I uttered ‘goodbye’ out loud, twice. Once when he lashed out, and once when he scuttled past Moyes at the touchline. That’s not going to go down well with the boss. I think all-in-all it has to be one of my most disappointing cup exits. When the draw came, I was naively hopeful. I’d love an FA Cup final, call me old fashioned.

Thinking back to the other disappointments, I’m sure we all immediately recall the 5-0 drumming away to Forest – the day Allardyce decided to ignore Alan Hansen’s advice and give the kids a go. I remember watching that just thinking: ‘Why am I even watching this?’ 

I didn’t intend any offence to the Academy players, it was just an exercise in proving a point for Big Sam and it didn’t sit particularly well with anyone. Not only have we had poor exits from the FA Cup, in very recent history we’ve had a pretty poor progression to the next round, bizarrely.

Needing to avail of extra time to narrowly dump Kidderminster out at the fourth round stage was so frustrating. Watching that game had an inevitability of a giant-killing, but thankfully it wasn’t to be. Even still, the game lingers in the memory as ‘something that shouldn’t have happened.

By far the most disappointing defeat in recent FA Cup history though is still the final of 2006 against Liverpool. It hurts to think about. It hurts to write about. It hurts every time Gerrard gets any sort of montage on television.

I can’t talk about cup exits without a mention for the 9-0 mauling by Man City in the League Cup in 2014. After conceding six in the first leg, it was a foregone conclusion really. What sort of idiot would fly across the Irish Sea to Upton Park for the second leg? This one.

One of the lowest points of my supporting days? Probably not actually. The stadium was half empty but those who were there had a great time. I sat in the Chicken Run by the Man City fans and the off-field entertainment was top notch.

I guess the moral of the story is that domestic cups come and go. We get frustrated by the team, and rightly so – they’re capable of so much more. But at least they do come round annually so one day, just one day, it might happen. We’ve just got to have a bit of fun along the way.

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