WOLVES MISS AB­SENT AFOBE

The Football League Paper - - FA CUP THIRD ROUND - By Hash Piperdy

WOLVES paid the price for fail­ing to break down their Premier League op­po­nents as West Ham snatched a late win.

They cer­tainly could have done with the lively pres­ence of Benik Afobe up front, but with ne­go­ti­a­tions over a £10m move to Bournemouth at a cru­cial stage, Wolves boss Kenny Jack­ett left the striker out of his start­ing line-up.

“Benik is in talks with Bournemouth,” said Jack­ett.“It’s a sig­nif­i­cant profit but it’s a miss for us be­cause he’s our top scorer and we’re try­ing to find for­wards that make the dif­fer­ence.”

Afobe’s ab­sence meant a first start in nearly two years for Bjorn Sig­ur­dar­son, who was on his own in a 4-4-1-1 for­ma­tion with debu­tant Michal Zyro dic­tat­ing play be­hind him. And the per­for­mance of his makeshift at­tack gave Jack­ett some plea­sure in de­feat.

“The front three did well,” said the man­ager.“It was Sig­ur­dar­son’s first game back. Zyro came off late with cramp in both thighs and he’s only re­cently come back from an an­kle in­jury, so we’ve got to man­age that cor­rectly and not burn him out.”

West Ham named a strong line-up but both sides strug­gled to set­tle. It took around 20 min­utes for the fa­mil­iar nar­ra­tive of Premier League team at home against lower-league op­po­si­tion to kick in. Zyro in­tro­duced him­self early, and all credit to Wolves, they weren’t afraid to mix it.

And hav­ing with­drawn into them­selves as West Ham en­joyed sus­tained spells of pos­ses­sion be­fore the break,Wolves brought them­selves for­ward more af­ter it even af­ter Sig­ur­dar­son suf­fered what may be a re­cur­rence of his back in­jury. Zyro played fear­lessly and seemed the most likely to un­lock the op­po­si­tion, un­til Dim­itri Payet and Andy Car­roll came on as West Ham man­ager Slaven Bilic sought an­swers of his own with the game fad­ing.

It was the English­man who helped find it. He mis­con­trolled a clear­ance, gath­ered him­self and found Ni­kica Jelavic.The Croa­tia striker had been largely in­ef­fec­tive all game, but sent an un­stop­pable half-vol­ley across Wolves keeper Carl Ikeme to land the knock­out blow with five min­utes to go.

Wolves were chas­ing, but were not built to do so. Adam Le Fon­dre had a late chance which trick­led ag­o­nis­ingly wide and meant West Ham, de­spite mak­ing heavy weather of it, ad­vanced to the fourth round.

Bilic poured praise on his in­ter­na­tional sub­sti­tutes, say­ing: “Dim­itri’s sub was planned be­cause no mat­ter what the re­sult was, he needed min­utes. When we changed the sys­tem, with Andy, he made his usual big im­pact and helped Jela score a won­der­ful goal. We are happy to go through with a clean sheet and a great, wellde­served goal.

“Car­roll was im­por­tant. He’s in good form and I told him he needs to look af­ter him­self. He looks re­ally fit and ca­pa­ble of do­ing many things on the pitch. He does not have to be fit to head the ball but play­ing the ball, con­trol­ling it and ev­ery­thing

else, he needs fit­ness.”

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