Crewe Alexandra 0 West Ham 3

West Ham made it four wins in four and continued their assault towards the top of the Nationwide First Division table with an excellent 3-0 victory at Crewe Alexandra on Tuesday night.


Two goals from David Connolly and one from Matt Etherington - all in the space of nine first half minutes - earned the three points and ensured Trevor Brooking's 100% record stayed intact…


First half report:


Hammers made a bright start and almost found an opening as early as the second minute, when David Connolly clipped a ball over the top for Jermain Defoe, but a defender got back to clear in the nick of time.


Five minutes later, the Hammers came even closer, with Dailly inches away from claiming his second goal for the club in the space of three days. An inswinging corner from Wayne Quinn was met by the Scottish defender, who saw his firm header cleared off the goalline by Ben Rix.


Despite the visitors' early dominance, though, it was Crewe who should have taken the lead in the 11th minute. A neat flick into the box was headed on by Dean Ashton to strike partner Steve Jones (no, not the former Upton Park cult hero!) who, with only James to beat, saw his point-blank shot blocked by the England keeper's legs.


Thankfully, that minor scare proved to be a solitary one, and Hammers did indeed take the lead on 16 minutes. A weak back-pass from defender Foster was intercepted by Connolly, who was coolness personified as he rounded keeper Ince and then checked back inside to avoid the despairing lunge of a defender before slamming the ball home for his fifth goal of the season.


Just five minutes later, the Republic of Ireland striker struck again. After Rob Lee had been fouled some 30 yards out, Quinn's fierce, low free-kick was spilled by Ince, and Connolly was typically first on the scene to gobble up the rebound from six yards out.


Brimming with confidence, Hammers surged forward at every opportunity, playing neat, incisive, one and two-touch football, and it was no real surprise when, in the 25th minute, they made it three. Quinn's corner from the right was again met by Dailly, who this time nodded the ball down to the edge of the penalty area for Etherington to unleash a stunning left-foot volley that flew into the top corner of the net.


Three goals in the space of nine minutes may have been slightly unexpected, but it was no less than Brooking's men deserved. The only surprise was that Jermain Defoe hadn't claimed at least one of the treble - although the England under-21 striker almost rectified that with a stinging shot moments later that was deflected just over the bar.


Hammers were dealt a blow in the 27th minute when Quinn was forced off through injury, giving fellow loan signing Matthew Kilgallon another chance at left-back, but that certainly wasn't going to dampen the spirits of the travelling claret and blue faithful, who were clearly delighted to have been rewarded in such a way for their fantastic support. The Hammers fans filled two sides of the ground and were once again unrelenting in their vocal backing of the team. The hope is that West Ham United will have the best team in the Nationwide First Division this season - they already have the best fans.


Although clearly shocked by the events of the opening 25 minutes, Crewe attempted to fight back as the first half entered the closing stages, and David James had to be alert to keep out a curling drive from midfielder Kenny Lunt. The three-goal cushion was carried into the interval, though, leaving the ecstatic fans hoping for more of the same in the second half.


Half-time: Crewe Alexandra 0 West Ham 3.


Second Half report:


After no doubt receiving a half-time rocket from boss Dario Gradi, Crewe unsurprisingly began the second half in a more determined mood and started to exert some pressure on the Hammers' goal.


Despite being a virtual bystander for most of the opening 45 minutes, though, David James once again proved his credentials to deny Ashton twice in the space of two minutes. First the England keeper dived low to his left to wonderfully palm a fierce shot wide of the target, then he displayed lightning-quick reflexes to keep out the Crewe striker's near post header.


Ashton's frustration and James' brilliance seemed to demoralise Crewe even further and, after weathering that early storm, Hammers again began to control proceedings and peg the hosts back in search of a fourth.


Defoe came mighty close to doing just that in the 59th minute, when his long-range effort again took a deflection and this time crashed off the angle of post and crossbar before being gratefully collected by Ince.


The Crewe keeper denied Defoe again 13 minutes from the end with a smart low stop, but by then Hammers had completely killed off the game and enjoyed a spell of keep-ball to wind down the clock in the closing minutes.


Anton Ferdinand and David Noble both made substitute appearances late on in place of hard-working wingers Etherington and Alexandersson, and Trevor Brooking was left to reflect on yet another successful 90 minutes as West Ham United's manager.


By Danny Francis