22 min: It was half a chance for Stockport, but there was no blue shirt where Randolph’s weak punch fell. A lucky break for West Ham.
20 min: The pyrotechnics put an end to West Ham’s gallop and Stockport won their first turn of the match. It is tipped into the mixer and Randolph takes a closing momentum to clean it. His punch is hopeless, ringing the side of his fist, and the situation requires intervention from the neighboring Ogbonna, who emerges.
18 min: It’s loud and irritating enough that Mike Dean stops playing until he’s done. Hopefully, the organizer’s pockets aren’t too deep.
17 min: A disturbing fireworks display takes place outside of Edgeley Park. It’s really spectacular, November 5th and New Years Eve all in one, and it’s been going on for a few minutes already.
15 minutes: West Ham so far holds 68 percent of possession. They look very comfortable. Stockport hasn’t done anything in attack yet, but with the scoreless score they’ll be pretty happy too, in their own way.
13 min: Dawson is down after taking a hit on the noggin. The physiotherapist enters and passes his checks.
12 min: Yarmolenko finds a little time and space on the right. He pushes the ball into the field before shredding a low diagonal drive off the left post. Not too far, though Hinchliffe had almost certainly covered it.
11 min: West Ham wins the first corner of the match, on the right. Noble’s delivery fails to beat the first man.
10 minutes: West Ham continues to push Stockport back. Rice thinks of a shot before commuting to Noble, who tries to barge into the box through the left inner channel. He throws the ball for a goal kick, but only fair. This gambit almost paid off.
8 min: West Ham now caresses him with confidence. Rice, Lanzini and Antonio take turns probing this and that. David Moyes will be happy with the start of his strong selection.
6 min: Rice hugs the straight sideline and does extremely well at digging a deep cross. He finds Benrahma, who drops a shoulder to move the ball in and loops one down to the right. It’s just wide – in fact, it skims the outside of the post. A smart effort, and so close to the first goal. Hinchliffe was beaten on all ends.
5 min: Noble performs a garden tackle in midfield and in aquaplanes off the field. Suffice to say that this surface is quite slippery and that the players will succeed in timing each tackle. There’s a good chance we will see some slapstick bangs tonight. Hopefully Mike Dean is in a lenient mood.
4 min: There are 86 places between these two teams in the pyramid. There is no good ground evidence of this sinkhole yet, but that’s right, look at the timestamp.
2 min: A very disjointed first minute that could be better described as agricultural. The third round of the cup: we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Referee Mike Dean – who took charge of the 2008 final between Portsmouth and Cardiff City – blows the whistle, and let’s go! Stockport launches the ball.
The teams are out! Stockport is in his first choice blue, forcing West Ham to become the black third choice. The rain is falling – it’s January in Manchester after all – and the conditions are so harsh. Anyone’s FA Cup hopes will fade tonight, one way or the other. But to whom? We will find out soon enough. We’ll be leaving in a minute!