West Ham United. . . . . 1
TWO previous FA Cup finalists, Birmingham City and Preston North End, had been brought down. Was another safe from Kidderminster Harriers, the cavaliers from the Vauxhall Conference? In the end West Ham were, but the Harriers disappointingly capitulated to a soft goal by Lee Chapman after an absorbing if not rip-roaring tie in which they belied their status.
They dreamed of becoming the first non-League side since before the First World War to reach the sixth round. It was no idle dream. They are clearly a team the Football League may have to take seriously.
In a way, Kidderminster, who hope for League status next season, represent not some throwback from pre-1918 days, when non-League sides regularly reached the glory rounds, but today's football outside the Premiership and First Division. Poorly paid players in the Third Division must wonder whether they might not be better off going part-time, like the Harriers.
Several of the Kidderminster players, notably Jon Purdie and Delwyn Humphreys, are good enough to play in the big time. They were not alone in showing ability and composure on the club's biggest day.
The impressive thing about Harriers is their reluctance to use the long hopeful ball. The result yesterday was that traditional scurrying Cup football was largely absent. West Ham's familiar preference for the short, accurate game enhanced the quality of the occasion and eventually quietened the atmosphere in the packed little stadium.
This was the first time since the First World War that a non- League team had played a fifth- round tie at home, and until Chapman's second-half goal they seemed capable of taking advantage.
In Mike Marsh, though, West Ham always had the most influential player, and they had the edge in understanding, but it was hardly overwhelming. The sturdy Chris Brindley usually controlled Chapman well enough, though ahead of him the Harriers' midfield players conceded space and possession.
In spite of a painful tackle by Paul Grainger that threatened to end Marsh's game early on, he recovered to dominate. His floated free-kick ought to have been turned into a first-half goal for Chapman but his close-range header was ably stopped by Kevin Rose, who made only one mistake. However, the pressure on Harriers steadily increased.
Alvin Martin, playing his first match for West Ham for three months, was fortunate to finish this one when he pursued a fast-receding Purdie and tripped him just outside the penalty area. The referee merely cautioned him, probably on the evidence that Purdie had lost control of the ball.
More support for Purdie might have benefited Harriers, but as Marsh continued to control the middle they had to rely on breakaways, one of which, after 63 minutes, saw Humphreys escape through the centre only to lose control under pressure from Ludek Miklosko.
The arrival of Tony Morley in place of Clive Allen after 68 minutes proved crucial. Martin made some progress through the middle before picking out Morley on the left. He offered a short pass to Keith Rowlands, whose high centre was badly misjudged by Rose, leaving Chapman a straightforward header.
Enormous effort went into Harriers' last attempts to stay alive, but luck was never with them. Even when a free-kick on the left was largely ignored by West Ham, the substitute, John Deakin, virtually alone on the far side of the penalty area, allowed Miklosko to come out and stifle the shot. Yet Harriers could claim that on the day they did indeed close the credibility gap.