Filed: Saturday, 19th October 2002
By: Graeme Howlett
Onwards and upwards ... West Ham are off the bottom of the Premiership table for the first time since mid-August after a first half Trevor Sinclair strike earned a vital three points against fellow strugglers Sunderland.
Sinclair struck midway through the first half with the only goal in a tense, tightly-fought contest at the Stadium of Light this afternoon.
The teams went into today's game filling the Premiership's bottom two slots, and with Sunderland welcoming their new management team of Howard Wilkinson and Steve Cotterill, installed at the club as replacements for the sacked Peter Reid.
That decision caused a fair degree of unhappiness amongst Sunderland fans when it was announced earlier this week - and today's result, which leaves the North East club in 19th place will have done little to appease those very same supporters.
Of the opposing manager's the similarly under-fire Glenn Roeder will sleep the better tonight - and deservedly so, as the Hammers produced a resolute - if not pretty - performance to complete a second successive away victory in the Premiership (or three competitive away games if you count the win against Chesterfield in the Worthington Cup).
Fitting perhaps that Trevor Sinclair should prove to be the match-winner today - his wife gave birth to the couple's third child in midweek; new arrival Sky Sinclair duly celebrated with the Brazilian-style 'babe-in-arms' routine made famous by Bebeto and chums during the 1994 World Cup Finals.
And what a great goal it was too. Paolo Di Canio, who, according to reports has given West Ham until the end of October to offer an extended contract pinged a 50 yard pass onto Sinclair's toes; the new dad took two touches before slamming the ball into the top corner of the net from all of 25 yards. Yet another challenger for TV's Goal of the Month competitions from a player who loves to score the odd belter.
Chances were few and far between for both teams, although the home side did have a second half effort disallowed when Kevin Phillips, taking advantage of a David James spill was adjudged offside after tapping in from two yards. TV evidence suggested it was a good decision, although the linesman who gave it was subjected to howls of derision for the remainder of the match.
Big Niall Quinn nearly snatched a point late on for Sunderland when he hit the post from an audacious lob; fortunately for the Hammers the rebound fell kindly.
Joyous scenes ensued at the final whistle, as the victorious Hammers embraced in celebration; Paolo Di Canio finished his act with a virtuoso performance in front of the ecstatic travelling support, moved almost to tears it would seem by the victory. Heaven help us all if we ever won something ...
The win lifts the Hammers up into sixteenth place, above Sunderland, Charlton, Bolton and Manchester City. Charlton face Middlesbrough at The Valley tomorrow; a win for them would see the Hammers drop a place.
Next up for Roeder's men is the trip across the capital to face Fulham. Jean Tigana's men, who drew 1-1 with Manchester United yesterday will no doubt prove a much tougher proposition that Wilkinson and Cotterill's woeful Sunderland did today.
West Ham United: James, Minto, Repka, Dailly, Pearce (Breen 68), Cole, Lomas, Carrick, Sinclair (Cisse 77), Di Canio, Defoe.
Subs not used: Van Der Gouw, Winterburn, Camara.
Sunderland: Macho, Gray, Babb, Craddock, Wright, Kilbane, Reyna (Thirlwell 79), McCann, Piper (Bellion 45), Phillips, Stewart (Quinn 61).
Subs not used: Bjorklund, Ingham.
Goals: Sinclair (23)
Booked: Kilbane, Carrick
Referee: Graham Barber
KUMB Man of the Match: Ian Pearce
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