Craig Dawson endured a slow start to his West Ham career but he is starting to show his worth after turning in a succession of impressive performances.
West Ham narrowly edged past Stockport County 1-0 in the FA Cup third-round on Monday evening thanks to a late goal from Dawson who thumped a header into the back of the net after a quickly taken corner routine.
As well as scoring the crucial goal, his first for the Hammers, he helped to keep a clean sheet which now makes it three in a row for West Ham.
Coincidentally, or maybe not so, these three games have been Dawson’s first outings for the club since his loan move from Championship side Watford in October.
Prior to his shock start at Southampton on December 29 where he made his debut, David Moyes’ side had not kept a clean sheet in their last six matches, dating back to a 1-0 win over rock-bottom Sheffield United on November 22.
Angelo Ogbonna and Fabian Balbuena have been the regular centre back duo for West Ham this season with Ogbonna, in particular, impressing as an ever-present in the backline.
Issa Diop is another option at the centre of defence and he might have lined up on Monday night in place of Dawson if he was not ruled out through an injury doubt.
As it was, Dawson seized another opportunity to impress and cement himself in this West Ham side and prove to Moyes that he is undroppable.
Dawson was awarded the WhoScored man of the match after his goal secured safe passage into the next round, but it was his defensive abilities that were also evident for all to see at Edgeley Park.
He won six of his aerial battles against the National League high-fliers, more than anyone else on the pitch, while only captain Mark Noble (84) made more passes than Dawson’s 77, with a respectable 87% pass accuracy showing he is more than capable of playing out from the back.
Of course the caveat of this performance was that it was against a team four divisions below West Ham and the gulf should be wide between the sides, but it was still a night where gutsy performances were required on a difficult pitch and Dawson more than played his part in ensuring there would be no upsets.
It adds to the impressive start he has made for the Hammers where he helped to keep out two of the country’s most impressive strikers.
His debut against Southampton saw him pit his wits against Danny Ings whose 22 Premier League goals last season were bettered only by Jamie Vardy. Ings did not register a shot in the whole game.
The following match saw Dawson and co travel to Goodison Park to face Everton and 11-goal striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin who failed to have a shot on target as Dawson helped to marshal the defence to another clean sheet.
Ings and Calvert-Lewin are strikers with contrasting qualities with the former famed for his terrific movement and runs in behind the defence while the latter is a dominant force in the air.
Along with Ogbonna, Dawson helped to nullify their threats showing that he is able to cope with any danger thrown at him.
Given that these were his first minutes since he played in Watford’s 3-1 defeat to Newport County on September 22 it is an exciting prospect for Hammers fans ahead as he shows his abilities.
A loan move for a relegated Championship defender might not have inspired Hammers fans at the time but Dawson is starting to show why Moyes was so keen to bring him to the club.
Chipping in with goals will and keeping up West Ham’s terrific clean sheet record of late will ensure he continues to endear himself to supporters and may break up the Ogbonna-Balbuena partnership.
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