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Crewe Alexandra 0 West Ham United 3

Filed: Tuesday, 16th September 2003
By: Graeme Howlett

Trevor Brooking's West Ham extended their winning spree to four successive league games with a thoroughly emphatic victory over Crewe at Gresty Road tonight.

Brooking - who gave a heavy hint after the game that this was to be his last match in charge, lending weight to speculation that Alan Pardew's appointment is set to be announced imminently - saw his side wrap the game up inside half an hour thanks to a brace from David Connolly and a scorcher from Matthew Etherington, restored to the side tonight following a brief illness.

After the Hammers had weathered the early Crewe storm David Connolly struck on 16 and 21 minutes to settle the visitors nerves, before Matt Etherington unleashed a powerful 25-yard drive four minutes later to put the game beyond the home side. From then on it was plain sailing for the Hammers who were rarely stretched.

Connolly's first came from nothing; a poor back pass let the Irish international in; he coolly rounded the keeper and a couple of defenders before slotting home to give the Hammers the lead.

His second was a typical poachers special; Kevin Horlock's ferocious free-kick was spilled by goalkeeper Ince and Connolly was on hand to pounce on the loose ball.

Matt Etherington wrapped up the scoring on 25 minutes when a fiercely struck shot from 25 yards evaded all before flying into the top left hand corner of the net. It was a special way to get off the mark.

Although Crewe huffed and puffed they were never going to claw their way back into the game; David James was called into action on a few occasions but did enough to keep the Crewe attack at bay.

The win leaves the Hammers in second spot in the First Division tonight; Wigan's 1-0 win over West Brom was enough to ensure they stay above Brooking's men, albeit on goal difference.

Caretaker boss Brooking was clearly delighted - although perhaps a touch sad that this might prove to be his last game in charge.

"We'll have a talk tomorrow because we've got the day off now and we'll talk through what that situation is," he told the post-match press conference.

"To have a game on Tuesday after Saturday is a quick turn around and this was what I was focusing on.

"Tomorrow is a day off and we will look at how the situation has moved on since the weekend. If it's sorted out sooner then great - and I think whoever takes the side over will take them on from here.

"We've full of confidence and we're looking to be up there at the top to stretch away like Portsmouth and Leicester did last year."

Next up for the Hammers is the visit to Gillingham - who lost 1-2 at home to Norwich tonight - this coming Saturday.

*Our full in-depth match report is now available on our fixtures/reports page.

West Ham United: James, Quinn (Kilgallon 27), Repka, Dailly, Pearce, Etherington (Ferdinand 80), Alexandersson (Noble 86), Lee, Horlock, Defoe, Connolly

Subs not used: Bywater, Mellor

Crewe Alexandra: Ince, Foster, Walker, Wright, Tonkin, Cochrane (Sorvel 77), Rix, Brammer, Lunt, Ashton, Jones (Edwards 73)

Subs not used: Bankole, McCready, Varney

Goals: Connolly (16, 21), Etherington (25)

Booked: Connolly (88)

Referee: Alan Butler

Attendance: 9,575

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