A 112th minute winner from young West Ham United defender Reece Burke saw them through to the Fourth Round of the FA Cup Fourth Round for the third time in the space of four years at the expense of Shrewsbury Town at the London Stadium last night.
The League One visitors, against Premier League opposition, put up a stern fight and had their chances to cause what would arguably be the shock of the Tournament so far at the Third Round Replay stage, but they were unable to take them in freezing temperatures.
It would take some heroic defending from Paul Hurst’s men to keep David Moyes’ side out at various stages during normal and extra-time, but ultimately, they were unable to hold out when it seemed like the clash was destined for penalties.
The Hammers will now await the outcome of tonight’s Replay between Wigan Athletic and AFC Bournemouth to find out who their opponents will be away from home in the next stage of the Competition, while the Shrews lick their wounds after an agonising heartbreak.
From the start in East London, Hammers Boss Moyes made a staggering seven changes from the Saturday afternoon thrashing of Huddersfield Town in the Premier League at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Coming into the side was former Shrew Joe Hart, youngsters Sam Byram, Reece Burke and Reece Oxford, starting for the first time since returning from a loan at Borussia Monchengladbach, Josh Cullen, Andre Ayew and Spanish forward Antonio Martinez, his first start, they replaced Adrian San-Miguel, Pablo Zabaleta, veteran James Collins, Aaron Cresswell, Skipper Mark Noble, Cheikhou Kouyate and star man Marko Arnautovic.
Meanwhile, Town Boss Hurst decided on just three alterations to his own starting Xl in the wake of an away defeat at Ewood Park to Blackburn Rovers in League One.
In the back four, Joe Riley and Max Lowe, who was victorious at the London Stadium back in November with Derby county’s U23s took the places of James Bolton and Alex Rodman, while tricky forward Stefan Payne came back in for his counterpart Carlton Morris.
The even nature if the end-to-end encounter was displayed right from the very off in a freezing Stratford, as both teams got forward and caused the other problems early on.
Argentine midfielder Manuel Lanzini had an opportunity to shoot inside the first five minutes, his effort flying just over the bar, an early warning for young Town keeper Dean Henderson.
The hosts were soon dictating the play, although the strong defensive wall of the away side were thwarting their attacking intent, Arthur Masuaku doing well to get into many good positions on the left.
However, his final ball was missing, his best delivery finding Martinez, who was blocked off and could only fire wide, while Town couldn’t make anything of a series of set-pieces at the opposite end.
Lanzini was then able to test out Henderson between the sticks from a dangerous free-kick won by his quick movement, a shot that the Manchester United loanee was able to punch out of danger.
However, neither side managed to trouble the scorers in what was a largely uneventful first period, the scores being level at the break and many hoping for a much more entertaining second-half.
Referee Jeremy Simpson was called into action in the first 15, turning down Lanzini’s penalty appeal after the former River Plate man broke into the penalty area, a large portion of the home supporters thinking that he was pointing to the spot instead of for a goal-kick.
But, then just after Lanzini struck over the bar from a Martinez lay-off, Hurst’s men and more specifically Payne, spurned the biggest opportunity of the affair to that point.
A wicked deflection off young defensive prodigy Oxford played the striker clean through on goal, setting himself before angle an effort that Hart was up to the task of saving, Byram picking up the pieces.
The introduction of Noble and Arnautovic gave Moyes’ boys a whole new lease of life in attack, the latter linking well with Byram on the right to slip Martinez in, he could only find the side netting.
It was then the turn of the Austrian International to hit the wrong side of the net from the other side of the box, minutes later, Arnautovic curled a trademark strike inches wide of Henderson’s left-hand post.
The late pressure from the Irons did not end there with one last chance to avoid an additional 30 minutes, Lanzini launching a free-kick just over the bar, the match was heading to extra-time.
If the Top-Flight team had ended normal time on top, they very much started the next period in the same manner, the heroics of Ben Godfrey on the line denying a Noble header.
Incredibly, Town were forced into scrambling yet another effort of the line mere moments later, this time around it was the turn of ever-present Lanzini to come close once.
Brilliant composure from Arnautovic slipped him in on the left, the Argentina man, twisted and turned before getting a shot off that beat Henderson all ends up with his left foot, Bolton putting his body in the line, quite literally to keep the ball out.
Although the quality of the East Londoners proved useful as they just kept coming and coming, it was only a matter of time before the whole tie was decided after over 200 minutes of spills and thrills in total.
A Noble corner was swung in from the right, eventually falling the way of 20-year-old Martinez, his two touches on the volley teed up Burke for a thunderous half-volley that crashed off the bar and bounced over the line.
A patient London Stadium erupted with relief, the defender’s first ever goal in Claret & Blue ensured that the majority of the supporters headed home with smiles on their faces, apart from a very vocal brigade of Salop fans.
West Ham’s second consecutive win and third in the space of five games in all Competitions, now unbeaten in six, means that they will go into another crucial League clash against the Cherries at the weekend tails up.
Whilst Shrewsbury will need to focus their attention quickly back to the race for Promotion in League One, this Saturday will see them play host to Doncaster Rovers at the New Meadow.