Football : Red-faced Redknapp offers to go

FA Cup: Wrexham take the giant-killing honours to pile the pressure on West Ham's manager; West Ham United 0 Wrexham 1 Russell 90 Attendance: 16,763
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The Independent Online
Most of West Ham United's trouble this season is that they are forever blowing matches. They were at it again yesterday in the most comprehensive way possible when they conceded the only goal of the FA Cup third-round replay against Wrexham in the final minute.

West Ham's bitterly disappointed manager, Harry Redknapp, said that he would resign if the club's board of directors thought it was in the best interests of the club. Redknapp, whose side have won only once in 15 matches, said: "If the chairman and the board feel it is for the best, I will go. The club is much more important than me. If people don't want me here I'll do what is best for the club."

The decisive strike in a match which seemed sure to be bereft of such a contribution, considering the shortcomings of both sides in front of goal, came from the Second Division side's shaven-headed substitute Kevin Russell. The ball was laid back neatly to him just outside the area and Russell, a 30-year-old journeyman of 10 clubs in the lower divisions, hit the ball as clean as a whistle with his left foot. It screamed past Ludek Miklosko into the bottom right-hand corner.

There were three minutes of injury time left but 30 would probably have been insufficient for West Ham to score. They frittered away possession for much of the day, lacked conviction and it appeared to reach the stage where those who had created openings were no longer doing so because they had deep suspicions of what might happen.

Wrexham's victory - the outcome of a tenacious, composed performance in which they never shirked a tackle - prompted a pitch invasion by several hundred West Ham fans. They gathered in front of the directors' box and demanded that the board be sacked. This is the same board which appears to be reluctant to accept an offer of help of pounds 30m from Michael Tabor, a seriously rich businessman and lifelong Hammers fan .They may not be able to resist his blandishments for much longer.

Still, the disaffected fans realised that, whatever their backroom problems, they probably deserved to lose and after venting their anger lined up in front of the delirious Wrexham fans to applaud them. The North Wales team had done them proud.

"All week we have been saying it's a good time to play West Ham," said Brian Flynn, the Wrexham manager." But really all we wanted to do was come down and enjoy ourselves. We didn't play well in the first half but in the second we did, as we can. There was a spell when we literally couldn't get the ball out of our box but we rode the pressure."

It was indeed pressure rather than luck that Wrexham rode, for their defenders were as calm as they were fiercely determined. Both Tony Humes and Brian Carey were towering and it is not to belittle their performances to suggest that they could have got away with displays which were half as effective, so toothless was the West Ham attack.

The Hammers had plenty of possession early on but from the moment Steve Jones thrashed a shot wide from six yards in the 14th minute the suspicion grew and kept growing that their woeful firepower would tell against them. Wrexham were neat but similarly lacking when the goal loomed. Perhaps the telling moments came 15 minutes into the second half when West Ham won a series of corners. Wrexham refused to buckle and with Phil Hardy distributing efficiently throughout the afternoon they were consumed by faith as the match went on.

Russell came on with 15 minutes left and immediately injected a spark into the proceedings. Wrexham, whose team contained five players developed from their own youth system, still must have felt that they would have to go to extra time. But Steve Watkin, a work-horse forward who joined the club as a junior, found it in him to lay back one more ball into space. It found the buoyant Russell.

Redknapp said: "The fans deserve to have a go. They pay their money." Yesterday it was Wrexham who got value for their cash.

Cup round-up, page 22

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