East Ham struggled to break down a tight defense in last week’s Europa League opener against TSC Backa Topola, and that Carabao Cup win at Lincoln City was just as uncomfortable and uneasy on the eye.
The Hammers had 1,836 fans packed into the Stacey West Stand at Sincil Bank but, despite their best efforts, their relentless support failed to inspire an accomplished performance from the visitors.
David Moyes’ side finally reached the fourth round, overtaking the side currently 13th in Ligue 1, thanks to Tomas Soucek’s finish from a Said Benrahama corner in the 70th minute. However, few men in blue will have been able to draw confidence from their individual performances here. It was a dog fight. Lincoln, for much of the competition, was the better team.
The last time West Ham were here they drew 1-1 in a 1982 tie in the same competition and needed a replay at home to eliminate the Imps. For a long time we seemed destined for a similar story, even though that tie would have been decided on penalties that evening.
In the end, Soucek’s winning goal allowed West Ham to get the job done, although it was Lincoln who put the ball in the net first. Alex Mitchell found himself with his head in his hands when the assistant referee rightly flagged his opening goal as offside.
Lukasz Fabianski made some decent saves throughout the affair, notably when Ali Smith’s floating cross looked to be headed in by Reeco Hackett-Fairchild for the opening goal, but Fabianski made a springy one-handed save.
As the second half progressed, Lincoln’s threat subsided somewhat, allowing West Ham to exploit spaces. But they couldn’t take advantage of the open play. Even with James Ward-Prowse rested for this match, they remained a decidedly specialist set-piece team. Soucek returned from Benrahma’s corner. West Ham succeeded – just.