42 min: There’s very little urgency in West Ham’s play at the moment. Stockport are quite happy to let them have it, 30 yards out. There’s no way through.
40 min: Antonio drives across the face of the Stockport box, left to right, and tries a curler towards the bottom right. A deflection takes the ball off target and out for a corner. Ogbonna meets the set piece with a weak header that dribbles apologetically pas the left-hand post.
38 min: Some good end-to-end fun as Antonio nearly scoots clear through the middle, only to miscontrol, allowing Kitching to take the ball off his toe. Reid goes up the other end and wins a corner off Dawson. Nothing comes of the set piece.
37 min: Hogan tries to play out from the back, and is closed down by Noble. The Stockport centre-back is extremely pleased to see the ball deflected across the face of goal and out of reach of the nearby Antonio.
36 min: Benrahma tries to release Yarmolenko down the inside right. There’s a little too much pace on the pass; there’s a little hesitation by Yarmolenko too. The net result is a goal kick.
35 min: Reid launches a solo sortie down the right. West Ham are light at the back, but Reid has neither the speed nor savvy to jink his way past Ogbonna, who holds his line and eventually takes the ball off his opponent.
33 min: Lanzini sends a dipper towards the bottom right from distance, but it’s an easy gather for Hinchliffe.
32 min: Yarmolenko slips a ball down the middle hoping to release Antonio, who nearly spins Keane, only to stumble, allowing Hinchliffe to gather under no pressure.
30 min: Some head tennis on the edge of the West Ham box. The ball breaks to Williams, who tries his luck from the left-hand edge of the D. It whistles wide left and batters loudly into the advertising hoardings. That was hit with some venom.
28 min: Noble rolls a ball down the inside-right channel for Benrahma. It’s sitting up, begging to be hit. Benrahma obliges, but his effort sails well wide of the left-hand post. A first goal for his new club remains elusive.
26 min: West Ham’s early attacking threat has been subdued. Now it’s Stockport’s turn to look fairly comfortable with the way this is going.
24 min: Johnson tries to squirm his way through a small gap down the left, and nearly makes it to a clearing, but Stockport close the door just in time.
22 min: That was a half-chance for Stockport, but there were no blue shirts where Randolph’s weak punch fell. A lucky break for West Ham.
20 min: The pyrotechnics have put a stop to West Ham’s gallop, and Stockport win their first corner of the game. It’s swung into the mixer, and Randolph takes a closing-time swing at clearing it. His punch is hopeless, pinging off the side of his fist, and the situation requires the intervention of the nearby Ogbonna, who hoofs clear.
18 min: It’s loud and irritating enough for Mike Dean to stop play until it’s finished. Let’s hope the organiser’s pockets aren’t too deep.
17 min: A dog-bothering firework display is set off outside Edgeley Park. It’s properly spectacular, November 5 and New Year’s Eve rolled into one, and has already lasted a couple of minutes.
15 min: West Ham have enjoyed 68 percent of the possession so far. They’ve looked very comfortable. Stockport haven’t done a thing in attack yet, though with the score goalless, they’ll be happy enough too, in their own way.
13 min: Dawson is down having taken a whack on the noggin. The physio comes on and runs through his checks.
12 min: Yarmolenko finds a bit of time and space out on the right. He nudges the ball infield before rasping a low diagonal drive wide of the left-hand post. Not too far away, though Hinchliffe almost certainly had it covered.
11 min: West Ham win the first corner of the game, out on the right. Noble’s delivery fails to beat the first man.
10 min: West Ham continue to push Stockport back. Rice thinks about a shot before shuttling the ball towards Noble, who tries to burst into the box down the inside-left channel. He runs the ball out for a goal kick, but only just. That gambit nearly paid off.
8 min: West Ham are stroking it around confidently now. Rice, Lanzini and Antonio take turns to probe this way and that. David Moyes will be happy with the start his strong selection has made.
6 min: Rice hugs the right touchline and does extremely well to dig out a deep cross. He finds Benrahma, who drops a shoulder to shift the ball inside and curls one towards the bottom right. It’s just wide – in fact it brushes the outside of the post. A clever effort, and so close to the opening goal. Hinchliffe was beaten all ends up.
5 min: Noble executes a garden-variety tackle in midfield and aquaplanes off the pitch. Suffice to say this surface is pretty slippery, and players will do well to time every tackle. A fair chance we’ll see a couple of slapstick clatters this evening. Let’s hope Mike Dean is in a forgiving mood.
4 min: There are 86 places between these two teams in the pyramid. No great on-pitch evidence of that chasm yet, but fair’s fair, look at the timestamp.
2 min: A very scrappy first couple of minutes that could best be described as agricultural. The third round of the cup: we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Referee Mike Dean – who took charge of the 2008 final between Portsmouth and Cardiff City – blows his whistle, and we’re off! Stockport get the ball rolling.
The teams are out! Stockport are in their first-choice blue, forcing West Ham into third-choice black. The rain is belting down – it is January in Manchester after all – and so conditions are heavy. Somebody’s FA Cup hopes will go slip sliding away tonight, one way or the other. But whose? We’ll found out soon enough. We’ll be off in a minute!
Jim Gannon of Stockport has been on tenterhooks … “As soon as the draw was made, the anticipation started building. I had to keep reminding everyone we had nine league games before it came around!”
… as has his counterpart at West Ham, David Moyes: “It’s been a long wait until Monday night but we’re looking forward to playing.”
Right, that’s the cup draw sorted. We now know that the winners of this match will host Doncaster Rovers in the fourth round … and if they make it past Donny, they’ll be travelling to either Old Trafford or Anfield in round five! Some carrot dangled, right there.
David Moyes naming a strong West Ham side, there. More about tonight’s tie coming up very soon … but they’ll be pulling the balls out of the hat for the fourth and fifth round draws in a minute, so like some 1970s prog rocker, I’m switching keyboards ahead of a 20-minute-long riff. Back soon!
Stockport County: Hinchliffe, Minihan, Hogan, Maynard, Rooney, Jennings, Williams, Kitching, Keane, Croasdale, Reid.
Subs: Jennings, Palmer, Thomas, Bennett, Stott, Southam-Hales, Barnes, Gilmore, Hinchy.
West Ham United: Randolph, Coufal, Dawson, Ogbonna, Johnson, Noble, Rice, Yarmolenko, Benrahma, Lanzini, Antonio.
Subs: Trott, Baptiste, Alves, Cresswell, Soucek, Fornals, Bowen, Holland, Odubeko
Stockport County and West Ham United. Fourth in the fifth-tier National League, 14 points off the lead, versus a team seven points off the top of the Premier League. A club that has never got past the fifth round of the FA Cup against three-time winners. This should be a shoo-in for the Hammers, right?
Well, it probably should be, yes; if County win tonight, it’ll be one heck of a shock. But the thing is, despite the huge gulf between the two clubs, Stockport have the upper hand historically. The clubs have met on 14 occasions; County have won precisely half of them, with the Hammers only winning four times. The last time they met, in December 1996, third-tier Stockport put West Ham out of the League Cup, a shock principally remembered for Iain Dowie’s spectacular own goal.
Stockport also put West Ham out of the League Cup in 1973, and the FA Cup in 1935. West Ham’s sole victory over County in knockout competition came in the FA Cup in 1958, but even then, if the contemporary report in this paper is anything to go by, County played the more stylish football, beaten by the odd goal in five by a stronger, faster team from a higher division.
Having said all that, West Ham have faced non-league opposition on six previous occasions … and they’ve won them all. Will they add Stockport County to a list that comprises Corinthians (1929 and 1933), Hereford (1972), Farnborough Town (1992), Kidderminster Harriers (1994) and Emley (1998)? Or will County manager Jim Gannon – who was in the side that beat the Hammers back in ‘96 – mastermind one of the biggest shocks in recent FA Cup history? It’ll be fun finding out. It’s on!
Kick off: 8pm GMT.