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West Ham denied Wembley trip as Stoke squeeze through

PUBLISHED: 15:58 13 March 2011

Hammers denied by Higginbotham strike

FA Cup Quarter final

Stoke City 2

Huth 12, Higginbotham 63

West Ham 1

Piquionne 30

There will be no first trip to Wembley for West Ham fans this season after the Hammer crashed out of the FA Cup quarter-final at Stoke City.

Robert Huth and Danny Higginbotham were on target for the hosts, with Frderic Piquionne on target for the Hammers.

For the second time this season the Hammers have been denied a trip to the home of English football, but if they do manage to survive the drop this season, this afternoons disappointment will along with that felt at St Andrews will be forgiven. £40million, the price of survival will see to that.

West Ham could have been behind as early as the second minute, when Wayne Bridge allowed Jermaine Pennant to deliver his second cross in a matter of minutes as the onrushing Matthew Etherington forced Robert Green into a fantastic save.

Sleepy Hammers were on the back foot and the last thing the east Londoners needed was for Manuel da Costa to needlessly give away a throw near the corner flag, when he could have easily played a pass back to Green.

As is customary by the Potters, Rory Delap threw long into the box where the unmarked Robert Huth, who had lost marker Matthew Upson, headed home from six yards out.

Stoke put in a much-improved showing in the first half at the Britannia after their abject showing last week at the Boleyn, pressed West Ham all over the pitch winning the majority of first and second balls.

Despite the hosts dominance, the Hammers equalised after half an hour with their first attack and with Piquionne’s first contribution to the game.

The French striker was picked out well by Thomas Hitzlsperger, seemed to control the ball with arm before lobbing the ball over Thomas Sorenson, holding off Huth and placing the ball into the net.

Piquionne took a bang on the foot and had to go off five minutes later to be replaced by Jonathan Spector.

Stoke had the opportunity to re-take the lead just 15 seconds into the second period. Etherington ran at Parker and although the midfielder missed the ball with his challenge, he also missed Etherington who dived.

Much to Parker’s disgust, the penalty was awarded. The former Hammer picked himself and placed his spot kick to Green’s left. The keeper, whose form has improved throughout the campaign dived and brilliantly pushed the effort away.

Stoke took the lead after 63 minutes when Higginbotham smashed a free kick through the wall and with Green seeing the ball late, could only push the shot onto the inside of the post and into the net.

The Hammers were almost level again two minutes later when Hitzlsperger played in Victor Obinna, who with his first meaningful contribution of the match forced a good save from Thomas Sorenson, who tipped the powerful effort wide.

It would prove to be the Nigerian’s only contribution as a minute later Robbie Keane came on for his first appearance since February.

With 15 minutes left the Irishman’s swivelled shot brought a good stop from Sorenson as the Hammers pushed more men forward in a bid to at least force a replay.

They should have been given the opportunity to do just that when James Tomkins was manhandled by Jonathan Walters in the Stoke area from a free kick, but instead of awarding the spot kick, referee Mike Jones bizarrely awarded the hosts the free kick.

With five minutes remaining a Hitzlsperger corner was headed onto the bar by Upson and while Carlton Cole also went close, the visitors could not find an equaliser and will now focus fully on survivng in the Premier League.

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