West Ham forward Andy Carroll’s aerial prowess often has opposition defences shuddering, but it has been in his own penalty box that he’s proved the most valuable of late.
During the Hammers’ 1-0 victory away to Bristol City in the fourth-round of the FA Cup on Sunday the towering no9’s presence at both ends of the pitch was hugely conspicuous.
Carroll, who is renowned for his heading ability, made an incredible goal line clearance to stop Matt Smith putting City ahead in the tie. It was one of 12 headers that the giant England striker won out of 19 he contested throughout the match, more than half of those were in his own box.
Bristol are flying high in League One and play a very direct style, they bombarded the penalty area with crosses constantly looking to get their big men in amongst it. Carroll was pivotal in thwarting them from bullying the Hammers from set pieces, the home side had five corners throughout and West Ham needed two goal line clearances – one from Mark Noble – to see it out.
While at the other end, where the forward really earns his money, he provided a brilliant but somewhat uncharacteristic assist for Diafra Sakho to net West Ham’s winner. The 26-year-old held off a defender as he charged to the by-line before clipping a cross with his right-foot to the back post where Sakho waited unmarked to head home.
DESERVES MORE CREDIT
Some Hammers fans have in the past seen Carroll’s inclusion in the side as detrimental to their performance, which has at times been justified, but he doesn’t get the plaudits he deserves for his defensive work.
Against Bristol he saved a certain goal and created one to send the side through to the fifth-round for the first time since 2011. We have seen this season what he can do when at his best in attack – most notably against Swansea – but in his last outing we saw the best of the other side to his game.
It is no secret Sam Allardyce is a huge fan of the £15million man, whom he signed over Wilfried Bony two years ago, and his work rate and commitment at both ends of the pitch is always second to none.
VITAL TO SUCCESS
Carroll has scored five goals in eleven matches this season which is a very good return after another lengthy spell on the treatment table.
He is going to be vital if the Hammers are to see out their goal of a successful cup run, particularly as it is likely they will be coming up against another lower league side after a host of the big guns got knocked out of the competition at the weekend.
His aerial ability in both penalty areas could be the difference for West Ham against opponents that are more inclined to play direct and rely on set plays.
The Hammers have a great squad with some talented individuals and the FA Cup is shaping up nicely for them to go right to the end.