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Premier League
Wednesday, 5th January 2011

Newcastle United 5
West Ham United 0

by Staff Writer


Was the productive Christmas period merely a false dawn? West Ham returned to their bad old ways with a good old-fashioned hammering at St James Park tonight.

Seven points from a possible nine over the Christmas period offered hope that the much-criticised Avram Grant had finally found the solution to a season of dispair as he led his side to vital wins against fellow relegation candidates Fulham and Wolves.

However all that good work was undone tonight as the Hammers capitulated against a side who were playing Championship football last season - and a side currently managed by a character last seen working in League One.

Since being forced out of West Ham by Eggert Magnusson in December 2006, Alan Pardew has pursued a somewhat less-than-illustrious career having been booted out of both Charlton and Southampton. Yet once again tonight he came up trumps against his former employers, as he did when his then-Charlton side beat Alan Curbishley's Hammers back in 2007 (even if we had the last laugh that season).

Although Pardew will no doubt receive plaudits for masterminding the win that leaves West Ham bottom of the Premier League, again, it is in no doubt that the Hammers were the architects of their own downfall. A defence at sixes and sevens was protected by a midfield lacking cohesion and energy. As for a front line that failed to fashion more than one or two meaningful half-chances, the less said the better.

A fairly even opening gave no indication of the horror that was to follow; Tiote and Parker both saw decent efforts come to nothing as the two sides traded blows. However once the recalled Leon Best - standing in for regular striker Andy Carroll - put the Magpies ahead on 18 minutes the Hammers were never in the game.

Best's first goal of a fruitful evening emanated from an awful pass from Frederic Piquionne whilst West Ham were attacking, with the loose ball picked up and quickly turned into a counter attack. The move was finished by the former Coventry man who was left with just Rob Green to beat after being put through on goal.

Six minutes ahead of the break Newcastle doubled their lead with Best grabbing his second of the night after the West Ham defence fell asleep, failing to pick up Jonas Gutierrez wide on the left from a free kick. The Argentinian's cross from the byeline was bundled home at the far post by Best, with Hammers defenders still scrambling back.

Worse was to follow ahead for Grant's side on the stroke of half time when Kevin Nolan made it 3-0 after further inept defending allowed the Newcastle captain to turn the ball home from close range. James Tomkins, so strong in recent weeks was the guilty party on this occasion; the young centre half gifting the ball to the opposition inside the penalty box after failing to clear his lines.

With the most disappointing performers, Radoslav Kovac and Piquionne replaced by Behrami and Obinna at the break, West Ham set out with some purpose at the beginning of the second half making several forays into opposition territory. But as was the story of the night, the end product was always poor.

Not so for the home side - who have already put six past Aston Villa and five past bitter rivals Sunderland at St James' Park this season - or young Best, making his first Premier League start of the season - one in which he secured the match ball with a third goal on the hour mark.

Although West Ham may feel that Best was offside, the lack of cohesion between the back four as they attempted to play what appeared to be some sort of rudimentary offside trap was cruelly exposed as the youngster strode through before finishing finely to grab his hat-trick.

As if West Ham's misery wasn't severe enough, Newcastle decided to pour salt into the would by adding a fifth just three minutes later as once again, West Ham's defence resembled a collection of Sunday league hangover victims. Joey Barton, who had an excellent night sent a low cross into the near post where Matthew Upson was beaten far too easily to the ball by a less-than-prolific Peter Lovenkrands.

Ten minutes later Nile Ranger missed one easier than any of the five chances taken when he somehow managed to sidefoot an effort wide from six yards out with West Ham's defence nowhere to be seen. Had he hit the target the score would have replicated West Ham's 6-0 defeat at Reading three years ago this very week - coincidentally of course, another of Pardew's former clubs.

It took Alan Curbishley's team of 2006/07 more than two months to fully recover from that particular defeat, which came when Curbishley's team had played the same number of games as Grant's current side (22) with two points less (18 to the current team's 20).

38 points was the minimum requirement to survive that season and with the teams at the bottom all picking up points in recent weeks - including Wolves, who beat Chelsea 1-0 tonight to rise above the Hammers - it is likely that a similar tally will be required this term.

WIth only four league wins under his belt, it is hard to see at present how and where Avram Grant can conjure up the necessary five or six wins from the remaining 16 matches. Despite their public backing of Grant, this cannot have gone unnoticed by Messrs Sullivan and Gold who are nearing the end of a torrid first year at the Boleyn Ground.

The two Daves have the opportunity to address the latest problems to some degree with a financial injection into the playing squad during the transfer window. Whether or not they'll swallow their pride and bow to popular opinion by replacing Grant along with that remains to be seen.



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Player Ratings

Robert Green
Comments to follow.


Danny Gabbidon
Comments to follow.


Tal Ben Haim
Comments to follow.


James Tomkins
Comments to follow.


Matthew Upson
Comments to follow.


Radoslav Kovac
Comments to follow.


Mark Noble
Comments to follow.


Scott Parker
Comments to follow.


Frederic Piquionne
Comments to follow..


Carlton Cole
Comments to follow.


Fred Sears
Comments to follow.


Substitutes


Victor Obinna
(Replaced Piquionne, 46 mins) Comments to follow.


Valon Behrami
(Replaced Kovac, 46 mins) Comments to follow.


Zavon Hines
(Replaced Noble, 70 mins) Comments to follow.


Ruud Boffin
Did not play.


Winston Reid
Did not play.


Jonathan Spector
Did not play.


Pablo Barrera
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Mike Dean.

Attendance: 42,387.

Man of the Match: Scott Parker.

West Ham United

Robert Green, Danny Gabbidon, Tal Ben Haim, James Tomkins, Matthew Upson, Radoslav Kovac, Mark Noble, Scott Parker, Frederic Piquionne, Carlton Cole, Fred Sears.

Goals: None.

Booked: Radoslav Kovac 13 Tal Ben Haim 85 Victor Obinna 90 Zavon Hines 90    .

Sent off: None.

Newcastle United

.

Substitutes: .

Subs not used: .

Goals: Best (18, 39, 60), Nolan (45), Lovenkrands (63).

Booked: None.

Sent Off: None.

 
Staff Writer's Man of the Match: Scott Parker


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