Grimsby fight off the siege

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The Independent Online
GLENN MOORE

West Ham United 1 Grimsby Town 1

Having beaten the freeze, neither West Ham or Grimsby were able to beat each other in their FA Cup fourth-round tie at Upton Park last night. Brian Laws, their player-manager, put Grimsby ahead after 25 minutes and Tony Cotte levelled for West Ham 11 minutes later.

The consequence is a fixture pile-up for West Ham, who face a possible four games in nine days. After playing Tottenham in the Premiership on Monday they must travel to Blundell Park for the replay on Wednesday. The winners will host Chelsea in the fifth round on 21 February, three days after the sixth round draw and four days after West Ham visit Chelsea in the league.

"We are facing a horrific run of games," Harry Redknapp, the West Ham manager, said, "and I am down to my bare bones with players. What I had out there was pretty much all I have - and two more of them were injured.''

The two, Robbie Slater (ankle) and Stan Lazaridis (hamstring), join an already lengthy injury list which adds urgency to Redknapp's quest for work permits for Slaven Bilic and Ilie Dumitrescu. The latter is in doubt, with the PFA reportedly objecting. Redknapp expects to hear the judgement tomorrow, and is likely to appeal if it is adverse.

If the permits are granted both could play at Tottenham, but not at Grimsby, as they would not have been granted permits before the tie's original date. The same ruling kept Dani, West Ham's Portuguese loan signing, out of last night's team.

Redknapp's remnants could not be faulted for effort, just luck, invention and finishing. The second period was almost incessant West Ham pressure but, as Laws pointed out, there were few clear shots on goal, just a mass of goalmouth scrambles and blocked shots.

Grimsby's spirited defending belied a previous record of one win in 10 games. That win was, however, a five-goal rout of Luton in the previous round, so perhaps the cup is their forte.

"We got our confidence and spark back" Laws said. "It was like the Alamo at times, but we deserved a draw. I am not sure some of their players will fancy coming to Grimsby on a cold winter's night," he added with relish.

Laws revelled in his goal, which was cooly taken after a smart interchange with Neil Woods, but admitted he was fortunate not to have conceded a penalty five minutes later when Slater's header struck him. "It hit my hand, but it was ball to hand," he said.

It was not that important as, six minutes after, Dowie looped in an excellent far-post header from Danny Williamson's cross.

Dowie later had chances to score the winner, just as Cottee had had chances earlier. The closest, however, was Michael Hughes, who headed a Lazaridis cross against the bar, and the Australian himself who saw another header excellently saved by Paul Crichton.

West Ham's finishing must have been better the only other time these clubs met in the FA Cup, 39 years ago. Then they won 5-3.

West Ham United (4-4-2): Miklosko; Potts, Rieper, Whitbread, Dicks; Slater (Lazaridis, h-t; Rowland, 81), Bishop, Williamson, Hughes; Cottee, Dowie. Substitute not used: Sealey (gk).

Grimsby Town (4-4-2): Crichton; McDermott, Lever, Croft, Laws; Childs, Groves, Shakespeare, Bonetti (Southall, 87); Woods, Forrester (Livingstone, 63). Substitute not used: Fickling.

Referee: G Willard (Sussex).

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