Etherington Keeps Hammers On Track At Palace

MATTY Etherington's first-half strike gave West Ham United a 1-0 win over London rivals Crystal Palace in this pre-season friendly at Selhurst Park.

This was the first time these two sides had met since the 2004 Play-off Final, so it was hardly a surprise that neither side gave an inch in a fiercely competitive game.

The tables have certainly turned in the year since the Eagles last crossed the path of Hammers, with Iain Dowie's team just a week away from the start of their Championship season and Alan Pardew preparing his team for a return to the Premier League.

Pards handed another start to Roy Carroll in goal, but made four changes from the side that drew 1-1 in Munich.

James Collins and Elliott Ward are recalled in the centre of defence with Danny Gabbidon moving to right-back in place of Tomas Repka. Anton Ferdinand was the other player to drop out.

Christian Dailly replaced former Palace star Hayden Mullins in midfield while Gavin Williams started in place of Shaun Newton on the right.

Teddy Sheringham and Marlon Harewood were again paired up front, while in the Crystal Palace ranks there was a start for former Hammer Jobi McAuff who arrived at Selhurst Park via Cardiff this summer.

Hammers did not waste time getting into their stride, a lovely touch from Sheringham releasing Paul Konchesky down the left, but his cross was blocked out for a corner by Mark Hudson.

In a clash that was more competitive than its friendly tag suggested, Palace winger Tom Soares received the game's first booking after only six minutes with a clumsy challenge on Elliott Ward, who then had to be alert to block a thunderous drive from Ben Watson.

It took all of 14 minutes for either side to register a worthwhile attempt on goal, Watson pumping the ball forward for England's Andy Johnson to chase but his first time volley was easily saved by Carroll. Moments later the lively McAnuff caught Collins in possession and fed Watson on the edge of the box, but he drilled his shot low and wide of Carroll's right-hand post.

With 20 minutes gone Harewood used his strength well to win a free-kick from Fitz Hall and promptly fired a fearsome shot that Palace goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly flew to his left to beat away.

An awful challenge from Gary Borrowdale on Williams earned the home full-back a yellow card with 27 minutes gone, and left West Ham's right midfielder limping through the rest of the first-half.

With 15 minutes remaining in the half Iain Dowie sent on defender Darren Ward - a recent signing from Millwall and brother of Hammers centre-back Elliott - for the two to do battle for the first time since West Ham drew 1-1 with the Lions at Upton Park last season.

Moments later Johnson was picked out with a deep cross and the much-coveted striker executed a wonderful volley which Carroll did well to save at the near post.

But Hammers were posing enough danger of their own and on 36 minutes a flowing claret and blue move was converted by Matty Etherington to make it 1-0. A great ball from Williams was the catalyst for the goal, releasing Harewood down the right, and he cut it back across goal to leave Etherington with a tap-in to beat Kiraly and send Alan Pardew's men in for half-time with a well-earned advantage.

HT: 1-0

Williams failed to recover from the knock he picked up in the first-half and was replaced by Shaun Newton for the start of the second period, while another former Hammer, Michael Hughes, came on for Palace to a raptuous reception from both sets of fans.

It was Newton that had the first effort of the second-half, running at Hudson before letting fly with a curling effort that whistled just wide of Kiraly's post.

Hammers dominated proceedings at the start of the second-half, but couldn't quite force their way through the Palace back-line, Harewood having the best opportunity with a header at the back post which flew well over.

Palace were certainly not prepared to throw in the towel though and Carroll had to be at his best when Emmerson Boyce's cross deflected off Etherington and looped up, but the back-pedalling Hammers goalkeeper flicked it over the crossbar for a corner. From the set-piece the ball very nearly dropped kindly for Johnson at the back post and but for a courageous Elliott Ward tackle the England hitman would have had a clear sight at goal.

Czech trialist Mario Licka replaced Dailly in midfield on 66 minutes, but it was the scale of Palace's changes that sapped the pace out of the game, with eight Eagles swapping places in the second-half

Still Hammers pressed though, Etherington cutting inside Danny Butterfield, but his shot skipped wide of the near post, before Licka pounced on the ball 25 yards out and let fly with a dipping volley that very nearly got the better of substitute goalkeeper Julian Speroni.

On 79 minutes a fantastic reverse pass from Licka set Harewood clear of the Palace defence. The striker used his pace to skip around Speroni, but the goalkeeper did enough to make the angle difficult and Harewood could only shoot into the side netting.  

Palace pressed until the end, Hughes' long-range shot looking good until it smashed into the back of team-mate Joonas Kolkka. But Hammers were firmly in command and Konchesky should have done better with his cross from the by-line than pick out Aaron Fray.

With five minutes left Israel international Yossi Benayoun was introduced for Matty Etherington, and a minute later Harewood saw another headed chance go begging, ballooning his effort over after good work from Newton.

Trialist Licka looked determined to impress and it was another clever piece of play from the Banik Ostrava midfielder that saw the ball cut back to Benayoun 12 yards out, but his low shot was blocked by the legs of Speroni.

With two minutes to go Dougie Freedman brought the best out of Carroll his angled volley acrobatically tipped over by the Northern Ireland international as Palace looked to apply some final pressure to the solid Hammers defence.

Just a minute of the game remained when Hayden Mullins stepped off the bench in front of the fans that watched him develop into an England Under-21 international, replacing Nigel Reo-Coker for the final acts of the game.

Alan Pardew's men were hardly troubled in the closing stages of the game, holding on to a well-deserved 1-0 victory and continuing their unbeaten pre-season campaign.

WHU: Carroll; Gabbidon, Konchesky, Reo-Coker (Mullins 89), Collins, Ward, Dailly (Licka 65), Sheringham (Trialist 65), Williams (Newton 45), Harewood, Etherington (Benayoun 85).

Attendance: 10,400 (1963 away)