Ipswich Town 1 West Ham United 2

Should West Ham achieve their aim of an immediate return to the Premiership come next May, it's a fair bet that Hammers fans will point to the goals of Jermain Defoe and David Connolly as the key difference.

A goal each from the two strikers earned Hammers a deserved three points against Ipswich Town and made it two wins in two for temporary manager Trevor Brooking in a lively and entertaining affair at Portman Road.

In six games so far this season - five in the league and one in the Carling Cup - the Hammers have scored eight goals. Defoe has hit four of them…and so has Connolly. The fact that goals haven't come from any other part of the team would perhaps be a concern in many cases, but if the pint-sized double-act continue their current ratio it's doubtful there will be too many complaints at the end of the season.

Defoe followed on from his match-winning display against Bradford on Tuesday with another stunning strike to put Hammers 1-0 up in the 21st minute today, while Connolly added the vital second with a clinical finish just two minutes after the break. Ipswich bravely fought back and claimed a goal through Jermaine Wright during a spell of pressure that should really have seen them equalise but, in truth, Brooking's men always looked a class above their opponents, especially when going forward.

Once again, the caretaker boss proved he isn't frightened to make attack the best form of defence - even away from home when the majority of managers would baulk at the idea of a 4-3-3 formation - by continuing with the three-pronged attack of Defoe, Connolly and Neil Mellor, supported ably by a hard-working midfield three of Michael Carrick, Kevin Horlock and Matthew Etherington.

Trevor may also have found a solution - short-term at least - to the troublesome left-back spot, in the shape of on-loan defender Matthew Kilgallon, who gave an assured display on his Hammers debut and allowed Horlock to push forward and add more bite to the midfield in his preferred role.

After a busy opening few minutes, in which Ipswich came close to taking the lead when striker Pablo Counago burst through only to be denied by a brave block from James, Hammers settled into their natural passing rhythm - with Carrick again pulling the strings from the centre of the park - and began to dictate the play against their Suffolk rivals.

On 19 minutes, the breakthrough appeared to have arrived when a tantalising cross from Kilgallon on the left found the run of Connolly, who missed with his original attempt but gleefully saw the ball bounce off his head into the net. Sadly, his celebrations were cut short by the linesman's raised flag, much to the dismay of the once again excellent travelling support.

Two minutes later, though, their cheers were for real. A sweeping pass from Connolly found Defoe, who beat one man on the right and cut inside before unleashing an unstoppable left-foot shot inside the near post from 20 yards out. Yet again, the England under-21 striker was simply on a different level to that of his opponents but this was a strike that no goalkeeper in the Premiership would have been able to do anything about, and if Sven-Goran Eriksson is looking for an in-form goalscorer to add to his full England squad for the upcoming Euro 2004 qualifiers, he need look no further than West Ham's young number nine.

Hammers were on top for the rest of the first half without creating any real clear-cut chances, although Connolly and Carrick both went close with efforts that just missed the target, while Mellor worked hard to retain possession and create space for his goal-hungry strike partners.

Ipswich provided another scare close to the break when Counago saw his point-blank header superbly saved by the legs of James, but it seemed that Hammers were on their way to a highly comfortable victory when Connolly grabbed a second just minutes after the restart.

It was a move started and finished by the Irish international. Collecting a bouncing ball on halfway, his clever hooked pass released Mellor who charged in on goal but was denied his first strike by a smart block from Davis. However, displaying the poaching instincts that stand all good strikers apart, Connolly was in the right place at the right time to volley home the rebound from 18 yards out.

That should have been the prelude to a comfortable second half performance with perhaps another goal or two from the deadly duo, but maybe a slight degree of complacency crept in and Ipswich slowly began to build a comeback.

With captain Jim Magilton dropping deeper to find space between Hammers' two banks of three, the hosts attempted a more direct approach and found more joy in the attacking third.

Striker Alun Armstrong and defender Drissa Diallo both went close on two occasions, while substitute Darren Bent should have done better when the ball dropped to him just 12 yards out in front of goal. With 25 minutes remaining, the Tractor Boys finally pulled one back, although it owed more to a poor display of defending than a high quality of finishing.

Another long ball forward wasn't dealt with, and as the ball bounced around in the area, it was prodded out to midfielder Wright, whose shot from the edge of the area took a wicked deflection off Pearce and wrong-footed James, who was heading in the opposite direction as the ball nestled in his bottom left corner.

Ipswich's fightback made it a rather bumpy ride in the closing stages but, with Don Hutchison on for Mellor to block the supply route from Magilton and add further stability to the midfielder, Hammers kept their discipline and shape to ensure there were no more hiccups and the three points were safe.

With a two-week break now looming due to the international schedule, the focus of attention turns to the small matter of who will become the 10th manager in the history of West Ham United. Ask the few thousand Hammers fans here today and they will tell you that the man already in the dug-out is their choice.

Trevor may have already ruled himself out of the permanent position, but his efforts in ensuring that the new man takes over a ship that is now back on course for a voyage back to the top flight will always be remembered at Upton Park.

by Danny Francis.


3 - The first effort on goal from the Hammers, as Etherington's driven cross from the left is met by Mellor, whose header from just inside the penalty area is too weak to trouble Ipswich keeper Davis.

4 - Ipswich miss a glorious opportunity to take the lead as Dailly and Pearce fail to deal with a long ball over the top, allowing Counago to sneak in on goal. Thankfully, the striker makes poor contact and James punches clear, but the ball is immediately returned to Counago, who tricks two defenders with a neat turn before seeing his shot blocked on the line and then grabbed by James.

14 - Carrick's low shot from 25 yards out flies just past the post.

16 - Magilton goes closer with his effort from a similar distance, forcing James to dive low to his right and palm the ball round the post for a corner.

19 - Hammers think they have taken the lead, as Kilgallon's superb cross from the left is turned in by Connolly from six yards out, but the linesman's flag spoils the striker's celebrations.

21 - GOAL! Two minutes later, and the celebrations are for real, as that man Defoe again gives Hammers the lead with a stunning strike. Receiving a pass from Connolly out wide on the right, the young striker beats one man with an instant turn and cuts inside on to his left foot before firing a superb left-foot shot past Davis and into the top corner of the net. Ipswich Town 0 West Ham United 1.

24 - Horlock booked for foul on Santos.

30 - A neat exchange between Connolly and Carrick sees the midfielder cut the ball back to the Irish striker, whose left-foot shot is blocked by a defender.

34 - Connolly cuts in from the left before firing in a low shot straight at Davis that is gathered comfortably.

37 - Ipswich look set to equalise as a cross from the left lands on the head of the unmarked Counago just eight yards out, but his point-blank effort is superbly saved by James, who shows magnificent reflexes to clear with his feet.

43 - Makin booked for foul on Connolly.

44 - Defoe's free-kick from 20 yards out zips just over the crossbar.

Added time: 1 minute.

Half-time: Ipswich Town 0 West Ham United 1.

Second Half:

47 - GOAL! The perfect start to the second half for Hammers, and this time it's Connolly who takes his turn to continue the record of all our goals so far this season being scored by either he or Defoe. Picking up the ball midway, he releases Mellor who charges in on goal only to see his effort blocked by Davis. However, Connolly is following up to hook the ball home. Ipswich Town 0 West Ham United 2.

51 - Another moment of worry in the Hammers defence, as a long ball over the top again causes confusion with Dailly leaving it for James, only for the keeper to hesitate and allow Armstrong to head goalwards. Thankfully, Pearce is on hand to clear the ball off the line.

53 - Counago's neat turn in the box gains him a yard of space and Kilgallon can only divert the ball to Armstrong, whose shot is deflected just wide for a corner.

58 - Another long ball causes panic in the Hammers' rearguard, but Diallo's shot is once again cleared off the line by Pearce and James then gathers the loose ball as it spins upwards.

60 - Substitution for Ipswich, Bent replaces Westlake.

63 - Ipswich are getting closer, but again the quality doesn't appear to be there as Bent fires a superb chance over the bar from 12 yards out.

65 - GOAL. The goal they have been threatening finally arrives, as Ipswich get back into it with 25 minutes still remaining. A fairly innocuous ball forward again isn't dealt with and Wright is on hand to fire in a low shot that is deflected off Pearce to deceive James and nestle in the opposite corner of the net. Ipswich Town 1 West Ham United 2.

66 - Substitution for West Ham, Hutchison replaces Mellor.

69 - Substitution for Ipswich, Richards replaces Makin.

69 - A poor pass from Naylor gifts possession to Defoe, who surges at the Ipswich defence but, rather than release the unmarked Etherington, elects to go for goal himself and fires a shot wide of the target.

75 - Connolly booked for dissent.

82 - Wilnis booked for dissent.

Added time: 3 minutes.

Full-time: Ipswich Town 1 West Ham United 2.