Published: 20:00, 05 January 2020
| Updated: 21:54, 05 January 2020
West Ham upped their game in the second half to see off a hard-working Gillingham team on Sunday night.
Gillingham had the better of the first half at Priestfield but were unable to make it count against their Premier League visitors.
Sebastien Haller missed a great chance when clean through and also hit the post before Pablo Zabaleta struck to put the visitors ahead and Pablo Fornals wrapped it up in stoppage-time.
Gillingham were missing striker Mikael Mandron following the birth of his son leading up to the contest. Boss Steve Evans felt it inappropriate to play the Frenchman following a sleepless two days.
Alex Jakubiak was the man chosen to replace Mandron up top for the Gills.
West Ham went strong for the contest. It was the second game back in charge for their manager David Moyes, after replacing sacked Manuel Pellegrini. He had overseen a 4-0 thumping of Bournemouth the previous week.
With eight full internationals in their starting XI, the Gills were certainly up against it.
West Ham had lost to AFC Wimbledon in last year’s competition and suffered a heavy defeat to Oxford United in the League Cup. They wanted no repeat at Priestfield.
Moyes may have named a strong team but it was the Gills who had the better of the first half, with Brandon Hanlan going closest to opening the scores. His shot on the turn was blocked at the near post by keeper Lukasz Fabianski.
The Hammers had little in the way of goalscoring opportunities in the first 45 minutes. Sebastien Haller had the ball in the net but the referee had long before signalled for a foul.
Gillingham had numerous set-pieces in and around West Ham’s box but were unable to make it count. They went into the break level.
Haller fluffed a great chance seconds after the restart, racing clear from a ball over the top but with the defence on his heels, he skied the effort well over with just Jack Bonham to beat.
Moments later Haller struck the post after beating Tucker and then Bonham with an angled shot.
Bonham was kept busy as West Ham came out for the second half much brighter. The Gills goalie had to get a hand to Felipe Anderson’s dangerous cross that looked close to finding the far corner.
Arthur Masuaku blasted a chance over the bar from the edge of the box before teeing up Zabaleta to break the deadlock with 16 minutes left. The Gills had been pulled apart out wide, with Masuaku being played in behind before playing in a low ball for his team-mate.
Stuart O’Keefe tried his luck from the edge of the box but was denied by Fabianski.
The Gills went for broke in the closing stages as Mikael Ndjoli replaced defender Barry Fuller.
Gillingham pushed for an equaliser but were caught on the break as Fornals struck with the home side outnumbered at the back in stoppage-time.
Gillingham: Bonham, Fuller (Ndjoli 89mins), Ogilvie, Ehmer, Tucker, Jones, O’Keefe, O’Connor (Marshall 79mins), Lee, Hanlan, Jakubiak (Charles-Cook 79mins). Subs not used: Walsh, Hodson, Willock, Pringle.
West Ham: Fabianski, Fredericks (Zabaleta 42mins), Ogbonna, Diop, Balbuena, Masuaku, Rice, Snodgrass (Fornals 70mins), Lanzini, Anderson (Sanchez 90mins), Haller. Subs not used: Roberto, Reid, Ajeti, Holland.
More by this authorLuke Cawdell