It was a tale of two halves for the Hammers. The first-half was arguably the worst 45 minutes of football we have seen under Sam Allardyce, while the second saw a huge improvement.
Burnley came in to this game unbeaten at home and believing they could continue the form that has seen them acquire top spot in the Championship recently. And that was evident from the very start with them dominating play, while we resorted to hoof ball tactics at any given opportunity.
Junior Stanislas, Danny Ings and Sam Vokes all went close for Burnley during the first half, but Adrian was in top form to deny all three of them.
The second-half was a lot better, though. It’s fair to say that we were pretty lucky to still be level at the break, but a reaction from the players was needed if we were to go on to win it. And a reaction is exactly what we got.
Sam replaced Mohamed Diame with Jack Collison at half-time, which appeared to settle the midfield a little more and then, after Burnley began to tire, on came the experienced heads of Kevin Nolan and Stewart Downing for the killer blow.
Within five minutes of coming on Nolan won a penalty and Matty Taylor slammed home in front of the 2,000 fantastic travelling fans.
Downing looked particularly good on the right and caused Burnley problems with various runs in to the area, while defensively the young trio of Danny Potts, Leo Chambers and Pelly Ruddock were all superb.
Jack Collison won and scored the second penalty with almost the final kick of the game to finish Burnley off.
Allardyce made nine changes to the side that drew Swansea on Sunday, which will have affected the side’s mentality on the field, but Burnley away was always going to be a tough game, especially with the form they were in.
On another day we could have easily lost that 3-0, but we got lucky with the first penalty shout and were saved on several occasions by the defence and Adrian in goal.
The decision to play two up front was perhaps the wrong one, particularly with the players not used to have to target men up front. But it was essentially Allardyce’s substitutions in the second half that enabled us to eventually win the game.
Did we deserve it?
Yes and no. Our first half showing didn’t wasn’t deserving of a place in the quarter-finals, while our second-half performance was.
Burnley will feel a bit hard done by, but they failed to find the back of the net after having so many chances in the first half, while they also hit the bar in the second half minutes before we took the lead. So all-in-all the right team one in the end, but there would have been no complaints had Burnley snatched it.
Either way, we’re in the quarter-finals and just three games from a day out at Wembley, so we’ll take the win no matter how ugly or lucky it was.
Who stood out for the Hammers?
Special mention must go to Pelly Ruddock and Leo Chambers, who both looked like first-team regulars. If they can continue those kinds of performances when given the chance in the first team then it won’t be long before we begin seeing a lot more of them. Of course, they’ll probably be loaned out to gain some valuable first-team experience before making the ultimate step up, but the early signs are very, very good.
Danny Potts had a good game, too. His chances have been few and far between, but the fact he’s still at the club is a sign that Allardyce sees something in him.
Stewart Downing also looked sharp when he came on, while Adrian was unbeatable between the sticks with a string of fine saves to keep us in the game.
It’s a kids for a quid game against Aston Villa at the Boleyn Ground on Saturday afternoon.
Villa’s start to the season has been a little bit like ours. Good opening day win and then inconsistent performances and results to follow.
They have some good players, though, particularly Christian Benteke who Winston Reid will have to be at his best to keep quite for 90 minutes. But Reid is as solid as they come these days and you can bet he’ll give the Belgian striker a difficult afternoon.
The big question is how Allardyce will line-up on Saturday. The whole 4-6-0 formation clearly isn’t suitable to be used at home, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he went for 4-5-1 with Carlton Cole up top on his own.
Either way, a win is crucial for us. We’ve finally cracked playing away from home, so the quicker we get our form back up and running the sooner we’ll be able to push on and start competing for a second successive top ten Premier League finish.