IT'S a great start to the New Year for the Hammers, after
Marlon Harewood's early strike and a Matty Etherington goal in
the last minute earned West Ham United a fantastic 2-0 win over
Championship leaders Ipswich Town at Portman Road.
Alan Pardew was without the experienced duo of Teddy Sheringham and Steve Lomas, suffering respectively from ankle and calf injuries sustained at Rotherham on Tuesday. Fit-again Carl Fletcher returned to the midfield after missing two games with a groin problem, while Bobby Zamora earned a recall in attack, starting for the first time in five games.
West Ham made the perfect start to 2005, taking the lead with just 55 seconds on the clock. A short back-pass left Ipswich goalkeeper Kelvin Davis under pressure from the approaching Marlon Harewood, and as Davis tried to go around the Hammers striker Harewood robbed him of the ball and rolled it into the unguarded net.
On 17 minutes Alan Pardew's side had the ball in the net again. After Zamora had won a free-kick, Etherington's ball into the box was fired home by Hammers captain Nigel Reo-Coker from close range. But West Ham's celebrations were cut short when referee Taylor ruled the goal out for offside.
Still Hammers swept forward, roared on by a passionate travelling contingent. Just five minutes later the hard-working Zamora slipped Gavin Williams in, but he shot straight at Davis from 12 yards out. The ball rebounded off the Ipswich goalkeeper and was smuggled clear from the circling Harewood.
With West Ham dominating, Stephen Bywater was nothing more than an interested spectator. He was partially woken after half an hour by a Darren Currie drive from the edge of the area, but gathered Ipswich's first goal-bound effort with ease.
He then had to be alert to parry a treacherous Currie free-kick that had alluded everyone inside the Hammers penalty box.
Ipswich began to grow in confidence as the half progressed, encouraged by a crackling atmosphere at Portman Road. However, Hammers defence, which paired Tomas Repka and Malky Mackay in the heart of a back four, remained solid to send Alan Pardew's side in 1-0 ahead at the break.
With the second-half just three minutes old West Ham were on the
attack again. Reo-Coker found Etherington on the left, whose
whipped cross would have found Zamora at the back post had Richard
Naylor not intervened.
A similar chance at the other end saw Chris Powell intercept Shefki Kuqi's cross under pressure from Tommy Miller.
The willing Bobby Zamora earned his fifth booking of the season seven minutes into the second-half for a foul on Fabian Wilnis, and will now face a one-match suspension. However, it failed to dampen the striker's enthusiastic performance.
The Hammers weren't the only ones letting their passions run high, though. On the hour Kuqi committed a foul on Carl Fletcher then proceeded to square up to the Hammers midfielder, receiving little reaction from Fletcher and a yellow card for his troubles.
Joe Royle brought on teenager Dean Bowditch for the ineffective Darren Bent, but still it was West Ham that made the running. On 64 minutes another dangerous Etherington free-kick was met by Zamora, but his header went straight at Kelvin Davis.
Zamora left the field seven minutes later to be replaced by Sergei Rebrov, just before Hayden Mullins received a yellow card for hauling down Bowditch.
The Ipswich forward was causing some nervous moments in West Ham's defence and with ten minutes left he almost wriggled away from Fletcher, before the tenacious former Bournemouth player got back to make a tackle.
Stephen Bywater then had to make a smart block at his near post from Bowditch's shot on the turn and did well to hold Jason De Vos' late header.
With just a minute of normal time remaining Harewood's cross was cleared only as far as Rebrov, who hammered in a shot that Davis could only parry at the feet of Etherington. The winger duly slotted home from close range to get 2005 off to a perfect start with a resounding 2-0 victory.