Filed: Tuesday, 23rd September 2003
By: Graeme Howlett
Jermain Defoe is the toast of the East End tonight after answering his critics in perfect fashion - by scoring all three goals against Cardiff in tonight's Carling Cup second round tie.
Defoe - heavily criticised in recent days for his perceived lack of commitment - obviously took heed of supporter's comments by producing his best performance of the season, scoring a penalty and two finely crafted strikes in what was his first competitive hat-trick for West Ham.
Before Defoe struck it looked like being Robert Earnshaw's night; the pacy Welsh forward had given the home side a two goal advantage with goals in the 12th and 25th minute - only the second time this season the Hammers had conceded more than once in a game (the other coming at Gillingham last Saturday).
But Defoe gave the Hammers a glimmer of hope with a perfectly timed penalty, coming after Tony Vidmar was harshly adjudged to have brought down David Connolly in the box. TV replays confirmed that Connolly had simply lost his footing, but Billericay based official Andy D'Urso saw fit to award the spot kick which Defoe duly dispatched, just a minute before the break. Perhaps he was trying to make amends for some of his abominable decisions against the Hammers in the past ...
At 2-0 it might have been game over - but with the deficit reduced to one the Hammers pulled up their socks and came out fighting.
And on 65 minutes Brooking's side - who had obviously received some kind of rollicking from their boss during the half-time interval - got a deserved equaliser, thanks to the determined play of Jermain Defoe.
The diminutive striker weaved his way through a couple of flailing challenges before burying the ball in the left hand side of Martyn Margetson's goal, restoring parity for the Hammers who, at one point, had looked out of the game.
But there was still time for one more goal - and how fitting that it came from the right foot of Defoe. Picking up the ball just inside the Cardiff half with just a minute of normal time remaining he weaved he way through two defenders before unleashing a powerful drive into the bottom right corner of the Cardiff net. Cue joyous celebrations on the terraces for the travelling faithful, who yet again gave tremendous support to the team.
The win has to rank as the Hammers best of the season so far; on what would always prove to be a difficult night (both on and off the field) the Hammers dug in despite being all but out of it after conceding the two early goals and responded with a performance full of grit and determination - exactly the kind of spirit that was missing from Gillingham last Saturday.
Trevor Brooking , for one, was a lot happier than he was at Gillingham three days ago; speaking after the game he told reporters:
"I think that's probably as satisfying as it gets as a caretaker manager.
"To be fair to Cardiff they started a little bit better and Robert Earnshaw scored two terrific goals for them. We could have wilted - but instead we showed great spirit.
"At half-time I said to them I wanted them to carry on where they left off; we did that, and I always felt we were going to get the second and the third.
"It's a big pat on the back for Jermain Defoe. He had his criticism, we asked him to respond and he's done that by getting his first senior level hat trick - hopefully the first of many."
And temporary boss Trevor Brooking will no doubt make his players acutely aware that they'll need more of the same in abundance this weekend when local rivals Millwall come to Upton Park ...
West Ham United: James, Quinn, Repka, Dailly, Pearce, Ferdinand, Lee, Horlock, Mellor (Garcia 81), Connolly, Defoe
Subs not used: Bywater, Kilgallon, Noble, Sofiane
Booked: Dailly (61)
Goals: Defoe (44, 64, 89)
Cardiff City: Margetson, Weston, Barker, Gabbidon, Vidmar, Bonner, Kavanagh, Boland, Bowen (Campbell 80), Earnshaw, Thorne (Gordon 74)
Subs not used: Alexander, Prior, Croft
Goals: Earnshaw (12, 25)
Referee: Andy D'Urso
KUMB Man of the Match: Jermain Defoe
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