First-half Fight-back Beats Birmingham!

GOALS from Bobby Zamora and Marlon Harewood secured a fantastic 2-1 win for West Ham United over Birmingham at St Andrews.

Having gone behind to an Emile Heskey strike with only 12 minutes gone Alan Pardew's Hammers mounted a brilliant first-half comeback - with a wonderful individual effort by Zamora and a close-range strike by Harewood late in the first period enough to secure the three points over struggling Birmingham.

This result left Steve Bruce's Blues languishing three points from the safety zone in 19th place in the table. No such worries for Hammers though as they gave further weight to their top-half of the table claims with a hard-working display.

Pards made one change to the side that went down 2-1 at Manchester United. Zamora came in for Teddy Sheringham, who was absent with a calf injury.

Mark Noble kept his place to make a third Premiership start because of Nigel Reo-Coker's ankle injury. Roy Carroll shook off injury to play. On the bench, Clive Clarke was named among the West Ham United substitutes for the first time in the Premiership.

Hayden Mullins was named as captain for the first time in a Hammers shirt due to Sheringham's absence.

There was little action to speak of in the opening ten minutes apart from the early introduction for Birmingham of former Hammer Stan Lazaridis, who replaced the injured Mario Melchiot on seven minutes.

Moments later Emile Heskey had the first real chance of the game, a snap shot after the ball had dropped to him from Pennant's corner, but the former England striker blazed wide from close range.

It was a warning from Heskey though that Hammers failed to heed. On 12 minutes David Dunn broke through Yossi Benayoun's challenge on the left and threaded a brilliant ball for Heskey.

The big forward showed good balance to skip around the advancing Roy Carroll and fire into the empty net from a tight angle to give Birmingham a 1-0 lead.

Hammers looked to respond, Marlon Harewood firing their first real effort of the game over the bar from just inside the box on 18 minutes.

Three minutes later West Ham created their best move of the game so far, Benayoun eventually whipping in an excellent cross that Harewood did well to head goalwards only for Nico Vaesen to push the looping header onto the crossbar.

Moments later Steve Bruce suffered a further injury blow when Muzzy Izzet, only just back from a prolonged injury lay-off, limped off to be replaced by Nicky Butt.

On the half hour Tomas Repka went in the book for a handball as David Dunn tried to flick the ball past the Czech defender after Repka had missed controlled a clearance. The Birmingham fans thought that the Hammers right-back deserved more than just a caution from referee Martin Atkinson as the last line of defence, but Danny Gabbidon was also in attendance.

Hammers looked to be struggling for a way into this game, until a wonderful piece of individual skill by Bobby Zamora brought West Ham level.

He received a throw-in from Harewood with his back to goal, but was not caged for long as he flicked the ball over Martin Taylor's head, turned the Birmingham defence, cut inside a desperate Damien Johnson tackle and poked the ball through the legs of Vaesen to make it 1-1.

Then on the stroke of half-time Hammers completed a superb second-half comeback when they made it 2-1. Etherington pulled the ball back on the by-line, the ball bobbled away from Benayoun, but Marlon Harewood was alert at the back post to smash home his second goal in as many games to give Alan Pardew's men the lead at half-time.

HT: 2-1

The start of the second-half saw Steve Bruce make his third and final change, bringing on Neil Kilkenny for Martin Taylor. And almost instantly the dangerous David Dunn was forcing Carroll into a save with a fierce low drive.

Birmingham were pushing for a way back into the game, but the strength of Danny Gabbidon in the heart of the Hammers defence was proving more than adequate to deal with the physical threat of Heskey.

In fact, an acrobatic over-head kick from Nicky Butt on 58 minutes was their best chance of a period when they dominated possession without really threatening.

At the other end, Harewood tested Vaesen with a low drive from all of 25 yards that was deflected on its way through to the goalkeeper, who made a comfortable save.

With Hammers comfortably containing the home side, Pards brought off Zamora and replaced him with French loanee David Bellion.

Moments later Birmingham had a great chance to pull level when the ball dropped to substitute Nicky Butt 12 yards out and he hit a scorching volley that zipped just over the West Ham crossbar.

On 75 minutes Roy Carroll suffered a bizarre injury when he was watching a Jermaine Pennant free-kick over the crossbar and collided with his right-hand post. After extensive treatment the Hammers goalkeeper was able to continue, albeit with his kicking restricted.

Dunn extended the goalkeeper with a well-struck half-volley from the back post that went across goal and hit the outside of the far post before bouncing away and out of play.

It prompted Pards to introduce Christian Dailly to shore up his midfield, replacing Mark Noble with 13 minutes remaining. Just moments later Matthew Upson blazed a wild shot high over the bar from barely six yards out to the despair of the home crowd.

And still it was the magnificent army of travelling Hammers who were making all the noise inside St Andrews.

Carroll was then called upon to make a solid stop from Heskey's edge of the area drive after a misplaced pass from the otherwise excellent Paul Konchesky.

The Hammers keeper then made an even better save from Butt's low shot, going down to his left and pushing the ball away. As the ball broke loose, Gabbidon, who was superb all night, cleaned up for West Ham.

In the final minute of normal time only an excellent decision from referee Atkinson prevented Heskey from conning an equaliser. It was a great cross from Pennant that picked out the big striker and he looked to have coverted with a powerful header.

But Atkinson pulled the play back and instead brandished a yellow card to Heskey for handball. Indeed, television replays confirmed that Heskey had punched the ball Maradona style into the goal.

Shaun Newton replaced Benayoun to help with Hammers rear-guard action, as Alan Pardew's men held on to record a brilliant away victory taking all three points at St Andrews with a 2-1 win and banishing those painful relegation memories of May 2003 to cement West Ham's 9th place position in the Premiership table.