Best batters hapless Hammers
Striker bags treble on first top-flight start for Toon
By Ben Collins. Last Updated: January 5, 2011 10:57pm
Best: Hat-trick hero
Leon Best scored a hat-trick on his first Premier League start for Newcastle as the Magpies hammered West Ham 5-0.
With top scorer Andy Carroll and Shola Ameobi both injured, Alan Pardew gave Best a rare chance to impress, and the former Coventry striker took full advantage.
Best bagged a first-half brace before Kevin Nolan pounced on the stroke of half-time to leave the Hammers reeling.
Best then completed his hat-trick on the hour mark before strike partner Peter Lovenkrands piled on the misery for Avram Grant's men by scoring Newcastle's fifth just three minutes later.
The Hammers had climbed out of the relegation zone during a four-match unbeaten run but they have now slipped back to the bottom of the Premier League table, with a woeful performance putting Grant back under pressure.
It was the third time this season Newcastle had scored five or more at St James' Park, and substitute Nile Ranger passed up a glorious opportunity to match the six they managed against Aston Villa back in August.
Best was making just his second Premier League start after appearing for Southampton in October 2004 and just his second this season after a miserable run of injuries had hampered his progress on Tyneside.
But he needed just 18 minutes to justify his selection when he ran on to Lovenkrands' ball over the top to thump a left-foot volley across Robert Green and into the bottom corner.
Former Magpie Scott Parker had earlier tested Steve Harper with a swerving shot and he attempted to stamp his authority on the midfield battle as the visitors looked for a way back into the game.
However, Cheik Tiote and Joey Barton recognised the danger and started to close Parker down, and with Jonas Gutierrez and Jose Enrique teaming up to terrorise the Hammers down their right, the home side were threatening at regular intervals.
They increased their lead six minutes before the break when a quick-thinking Barton and Lovenkrands carved the sleeping visitors open from a free-kick.
Barton picked out the Dane's run into space and when he slid the ball across goal, Best was again on hand to fire home left-footed.
West Ham woe
West Ham's woes deepened markedly on the stroke of half-time when Gutierrez once again found space down the left and sent in a low cross which James Tomkins could only stab out to Nolan two yards inside the penalty area.
Nolan was a model of composure as, with Green desperately trying to recover his ground, he sidefooted the ball firmly into the bottom corner for his ninth of the season.
Grant sent on Valon Behrami and Victor Obinna for Radoslav Kovac and Frederic Piquionne at the break in a desperate attempt to breathe new life into his team.
But despite Parker's continuing industry they were unable to create anything of note, and Newcastle killed off any hope of a fightback with 30 minutes left when Nolan turned Enrique's pass into Best's path and he beat the offside trap to finish with aplomb.Lovenkrands added a fifth from a low cross by the excellent Barton and there was still time for Ranger to fire horribly wide with the goal at his mercy and the visitors in tatters.
|Newcastle United||Team Statistics||West Ham United|
|3||1st Half Goals||0|
|9||Shots on Target||3|
|4||Shots off Target||7|
Barclays Premier League
|13||West Bromwich Albion||14||15|
|17||West Ham United||14||13|