West Ham were made to pay for an incredibly lacklustre second-half performance as League One Oxford United secured a major cup shock, battering the men from east London 4-0 in front of a packed out Kassam Stadium.
Goals from centre-back Elliott Moore, striker Matty Taylor, winger Tariqe Fosu and midfield orchestrator Shandon Baptiste condemned the Hammers to an embarrassing defeat in Oxfordshire, with Karl Robinson’s men well deserving of the victory.
This was the first competitive clash between Oxford United and West Ham since 2010, where a late Scott Parker winner at Upton Park sealed the Hammers’ progression to the Carling Cup third round.
From a West Ham perspective, the main talking point as the teams were announced was the inclusion of 21-year-old Nathan Holland, who was making his senior debut for the Hammers.
Meanwhile, Karl Robinson made six changes to Oxford United’s team from the XI that battered Lincoln City 6-0, handing a first start to George Thorne and a start for Rob Hall against his former club.
West Ham started the better of the two in this encounter, with Holland, whom was clearly looking to make an impression had the ball on the left and dribbled at pace before finding Ajeti. The winger went for the return and looked to be in on goal, but Oxford’s Rob Dickie got back superbly and to block his powerful, low left-footed shot.
After some huffing and puffing from the east London side, the tide started to turn and Oxford grew into the game and just after the 10th minute mark, Cameron Brannagan found himself with space in the box but wasn’t able to get a clean connection on the ball, scuffing horribly wide.
Just moments later, another huge chance for Oxford United was wasted as Anthony Forde was played clean through by the effervescent Shandon Baptiste, but he sliced his shot wide, not troubling West Ham goalkeeper Roberto.
The U’s pressure continued and the first-half’s best opportunity fell to former Hammer Rob Hall whose fierce free-kick from 25-yards out, hit the cross-bar – a few inches lower and it was in.
As the first-half progressed, West Ham and Jack Wilshere in particular started to see a lot more of the ball, the former Arsenal man was starting to get into his stride but his link-up play ultimately didn’t materialise into anything, with Oxford’s defence standing firm.
It’s unclear what Karl Robinson said at half-time, but it clearly worked as the Yellows started the second half in electric fashion and in the 55th minute, the home side took the lead.
Oxford were awarded a free-kick following a clash of heads, and it was floated into the Hammers box, Dickie won a header and West Ham couldn’t clear, the ball then dropped to centre-back Elliott Moore, who shot low past Roberto.
The League One side’s pressure didn’t end there and for only a superb save from Roberto froma Jamie Mackie effort just a few moments later, it could have been two.
Oxford were playing with confidence and purpose, and West Ham simply could not cope with the home side’s intense tempo and in the 71st minute, West Ham left too many gaps and Mark Sykes took advantage, he slid the ball across the six-yard box for Matty Taylor, who gleefully thumped the ball into the net.
Karl Robinson’s men were not finished there, as Tariq Fosu was played clean through, the West Ham defence nowhere to be seen, and he took the ball calmly past Roberto to cooly slot it into the West Ham net, for 3-0.
The sensational cup shock was sealed as Shandon Baptiste, who had an excellent match at the heart of the Oxford midfield, weaved his way into the box to strike it past the beleaguered West Ham keeper to round of an amazing night for the third tier side.