West Ham United 1-3 Wolverhampton Wanderers
A hugely disappointing night at the Boleyn Ground against a resurgent Wolverhampton Wanderers has left West Ham United deep in Barclays Premier League relegation trouble.
Kevin Doyle set Wolves on their way midway through the first half with a cool finish after James Tomkins misjudged a back-pass. Scott Parker came close to making amends with an effort that rattled the post at the end of the first half. It was to prove hugely pivotal as Ronald Zubar and Matt Jarvis went on to score after the interval, and Guille Franco's late consolation was witnessed by barely half the original crowd.
West Ham began the contest a point and place behind their visitors, knowing they had a chance to move six points clear of the bottom three. Gianfranco Zola had given Benni McCarthy his home debut in place of Franco while Parker and Carlton Cole were restored at the expense of Junior Stanislas and Mido.
Wolves, unsurprisingly perhaps after a win and a draw in their last two away games, were on top from the kick-off. They were the first to go for goal, with Kevin Foley hitting the crossbar as early as the eighth minute. The Hammers by contrast did not show at the other end until 20 minutes gone when Cole fired tamely at Marcus Hahnemann.
As the half-hour mark approached, a Tomkins error allowed Doyle to race through and the Republic of Ireland forward slotted calmly past the despairing Robert Green. Matthew Upson and Cole had chances after that but neither could make them count and Wolves dominated the play by playing a neat passing game.
After a legitimate Wolves shout for a penalty from a Radoslav Kovac challenge, Parker's run and shot as half-time approached summed up the night. The midfielder did tremendously to surge through the defence before cracking an effort across goal with Hahnemann beaten only to see the ball strike the post and come away to safety.
The manager made a double change at half-time, introducing Junior Stanislas and Jonathan Spector for Radoslav Kovac and Tomkins but it did not have the desired affect. It was a good nine minutes before the Hammers tested Hahenmann with a low shot from distance by Alessandro Diamanti that the US keeper comfortably saved.
Wolves were just biding their time and quickly added the second and third goals. Firstly Zubar found space on the right-hand side and fired confidently into the net. Then, Jervis latched on to Doyle's pass and executed a similarly precise finish. The goal left the home fans stunned before making their feelings known.
The last throw of the dice came on 71 minutes with Franco on for McCarthy while Stephen Ward arrived for Jarvis. The Mexico striker had his first go on goal soon after but it was wild and wayward. He was more direct on 78 minutes with a neat swerve past two men before letting fly with an effort that Hahnemann pushed over.
Zubar made way on 80 minutes for Greg Halford as Mick McCarthy looked to make sure of no nervy moments for his men. In the final five minutes Diamanti twice let fly but neither effort really troubled Hahnemann before Franco beat the offside trap and lifted the ball over the keeper and into the net. Too little, too late.
The defeat made it five straight for Zola's men, and raised the stakes for Saturday's home encounter with Stoke City. With Wolves moving four points clear, the Hammers will instead have to looking over their shoulders at Hull City and Burnley and hope they can do enough in the last seven matches to keep them at bay.