West Ham booked an FA Cup fifth round trip to Manchester United as goals from Jarrod Bowen and Michail Antonio sealed a 2-0 victory at third tier Derby on Monday.
Bowen put West Ham ahead early in the first half and Antonio doubled the lead soon after the interval in the fourth round tie.
West Ham might be perilously close to the relegation zone in the Premier League, but they were never seriously threatened by League One promotion chasers Derby.
David Moyes’ side will head to Old Trafford in late February as they continue their bid to reach the FA Cup final for the first time since 2006.
Avoiding an embarrassing defeat against Derby was essential for the under-fire Moyes, but it is Premier League survival that remains his top priority.
The Hammers are languishing in 16th place in the Premier League, just one point above the relegation zone.
So Moyes made six changes following West Ham’s vital 2-0 victory over Premier League relegation rivals Everton in their most recent match nine days ago.
Despite the selection gamble, West Ham proved too strong for a Derby side on the up after a turbulent period.
Just 12 months ago, Derby were in turmoil, with the club close to going out of business after they plunged into administration and suffered relegation to the third tier for the first time since 1986.
Finally rescued in July 2022 when lifelong Derby fan David Clowes bought the club from Mel Morris, the Rams have been revitalised this term.
Paul Warne’s side sit fourth in League One and the FA Cup exit shouldn’t detract from their promotion challenge.
Bowen was one of West Ham’s established stars to feature despite a difficult season that Moyes admits has been caused by the winger’s frustration at failing to make England’s World Cup squad.
The 26-year-old is finally showing signs of getting back to his best after netting against Everton and he was on the scoresheet again in the 10th minute.
Antonio’s long pass caught out the Derby defence and Tomas Soucek headed the ball towards Bowen, who coolly slotted home from close-range.
Moyes has insisted Antonio will not be sold before Tuesday’s transfer deadline after he hinted he might be ready to quit the London Stadium amid reports of interest from Everton.
With Gianluca Scamacca and new signing Danny Ings injured, Antonio is West Ham’s only fit senior striker.
And it Antonio who killed off Derby in the 50th minute with a close-range header after Bowen’s cross deflected into his path off Derby’s Craig Forsyth.
West Ham’s victory came just hours after the last 16 draw was made.
Wrexham will host Tottenham if the non-league side can beat Sheffield United in a fourth round replay.
Fifth-tier Wrexham, who are owned by Hollywood actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, were seconds away from a shock win against Sheffield United on Sunday before the Championship side snatched a 3-3 draw.
With Reynolds watching at the Racecourse Ground, John Egan scored a late equaliser for United and the teams will meet again at Bramall Lane for the right to face Tottenham.
Manchester City, 1-0 winners over Premier League leaders Arsenal on Friday, travel to second tier Bristol City, for the first meeting of the sides since the League Cup semi-finals in 2018.
Pep Guardiola’s men won then and are among the favourites for this year’s FA Cup, a trophy they last lifted in the 2018-19 season.
Brighton head to second tier Stoke after knocking out holders Liverpool with a dramatic 2-1 victory on Sunday.
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