Ipswich Town 3-5 West Ham United
Dean Ashton made it six goals in his last three pre-season games with an electrifying hat-trick as West Ham United beat Ipswich Town on Monday night.
An action-packed first ten minutes saw three goals and plenty of goal-mouth action before the England international took control with two more goals in the second half. The striker had opened the scoring in just the fourth minute. The home side soon levelled but the Hammers quickly hit back when Craig Bellamy, who was to be substituted on 23 minutes, raced clear to finish. Ipswich equalised again before an Ashton brace and a Mark Noble volley secured the win. Alan Lee pulled another back at the death but the visitors were out of sight.
Ashton had made a welcome return to the starting lineup after a virus to renew his partnership with Bellamy that had shown such promise in the early summer fixtures. Academy product Joe Widdowson got another chance in defence with new signing Valon Behrami pushed further forward into a right-midfield role.
The visitors got off to the perfect start when, in the fourth minute, Behrami won the ball strongly in midfield and his pass allowed Etherington to race clear down the left-hand side. The winger's cross fell perfectly for Ashton on the edge of the area and he finished emphatically off the crossbar with his right foot. It left former Hammer Richard Wright in the Ipswich goal with no chance. Town hit back in the sixth minute. A neat passing move allowed Veliche Shumulkoski to get free and he dinked the ball into the far corner of the net.
Just two minutes later Ipswich attacked again, but this time they could not find a way past Robert Green. A free-kick from the right allowed Tommy Smith to get above the Hammers defence. His header was firm but Green was more than equal to it, diving to his left to brilliantly parry the ball away. Danny Haynes then tangled with Widdowson in the West Ham United area, but the referee waved his appeals away.
The visitors were back in front in the tenth minute. Captain Lucas Neil played a perfect ball over the top of the Ipswich defence to send Bellamy racing clear. The Welshman finished in style with a lob in the far corner of the net. Zavon Hines got a chance to continue to his excellent pre-season form when he came on for Bellamy, who appeared to signal towards his hamstring.
Ipswich levelled the match in the 25th minute. After Green made another brave stop, this time from Lisbie, the rebound fell to Owen Garvan, who was on hand to drive the ball past two defenders on the line. In the 29th minute after a clever run by Paulo Counago, Neill did well to slide across and clear the danger. From the resulting corner, Lisbie headed over under pressure from Green.
The Championship side were certainly fired up for the game and another attack almost put them in front for the first time. Another ball into the visitors' box, this time from Quinn, found Gareth McAuley, whose header hit the outside of Green's left-hand post. The visitors were not to be out-gunned though. After a nice passing move, Behrami broke down the right but the Swiss international's teasing ball was just too far in front of the on-rushing Ashton.
After Anton Ferdinand went off for Calum Davenport just before half-time following a kick, Kyel Reid came on for Etherington at the interval. Just five minutes later a bursting run from Noble followed by a deft back heel from Hines nearly put the midfielder in. Behrami was certainly capitalising on his more advanced role and his ball in from the right nearly fell for Hines.
The visitors took the lead again in the 56th minute when Neill burst into the area and his cut back allowed Reid to shoot. His effort was blocked but the ball fell kindly to Ashton and he made no mistake by finishing with a low drive into the bottom left-hand corner.
After a fine evening's work, Green made way for young prospect Marek Stech on the hour, but it was the other end of the pitch that the action was happening as Ashton knocked down a long ball for Noble - the youngster's snap-shot sailing just over. Hayden Mullins then got another pre-season run out when he came on for the hard-working Behrami in the 63rd minute.
Ashton then completed his striking masterclass in the 73rd minute. Reid broke free down the left and his ball into the box was perfect. The returning striker made no mistake, taking it first time and slotting into the bottom right-hand corner. Noble added a fifth with a sublime volley from the edge of the area five minutes later; his muted celebrations in respect of his loan spell at Portman Road. Substitute Alan Lee added a late third for the hosts, but it was too little, too late.
Ipswich Town: R Wright, D Wright, Balkestein (Bruce 65), McAuley, Smith, Shumulikoski, Haynes (Peters 82), Garvan (Miller 76), Counago (Rhodes 76), Lisbie (Lee 65), Quinn (Trotter 82)
Subs not used: Supple, Naylor
West Ham United: Robert Green (Marek Stech 60), Lucas Neil (c), Anton Ferdinand (Calum Davenport), Matthew Upson, Joe Widdowson, Valon Behrami (Hayden Mullins 62), Mark Noble, Scott Parker, Matthew Etherington (Kyel Reid 45), Craig Bellamy (Zavon Hines 23), Dean Ashton (Junior Stanislas 83)
Subs not used: Tony Stokes, Jack Collison, Jordan Spence