IMPRESSIVE IRONS SPRING FROM BOTTOM
By Patrick Goss
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Glenn Roeder has been criticised from all angles after a slow start for The Irons, but his tactics - and the desire of his players - were there for all to see as Don Hutchison gave his side a first half lead, and strike partners Paolo Di Canio and Freddie Kanoute completed a comfortable win.
Following Hutchison's goal from a well-worked short corner, Di Canio made the game safe with the second in the 52nd-minute, when he raced through onto a superb long ball through by Christian Dailly before bewitching the much maligned Warren Barton and lashing home superbly across Shay Given.
Newcastle would have earned a life-line five minutes later, but Nikos Dabizas could not quite reach a Nolberto Solano header, and Clarence Acuna saw a thumping header cleared off the line by the impressive Laurent Courtois.
With Bobby Robson's men clearly beginning to believe that it was not to be their day, Alan Shearer made a timely interception at the other end, when Michael Carrick volleyed a Di Canio corner towards goal - only for the marksman to throw himself into the ball's powerful path.
Given had to be alert in the 72nd minute when Sebastian Schemmel cut back for Kanoute who slipped before shooting but regained his composure to force a fine diving save from the Irishman.
But The Hammers and Kanoute were not to be denied a third and with nine minutes left on the clock, a Trevor Sinclair clip in was left cleverly by Hutchison, and converted with aplomb by the French goal-getter.
A storming first half had given West Ham fans all the indication that they needed that their attacking play alone should ensure that they are in the top half of the table.
With Sinclair in the kind of from that will justify an inclusion in the England squad, and the front two of Kanoute and Di Canio a handful for any defence - The Magpies' back-line was ripped to shreds on numerous occasions, most noticeably from set pieces.
Newcastle had an early call for a penalty, when Robbie Elliott appeared to be felled by Dailly, rejected out of hand by referee Peter Jones.
But with 18 minutes on the clock a short corner brought the opener, with Courtois given time and space to pick out a lovely flighted cross that was converted via the diving head of Hutchison.
Shearer is one of the greats at converting good crosses into good headed goals, and the travelling support would have collectively put their mortgages on their talisman converting from a wonderful cross from the effervescent Laurent Robert.
On this occasion however, houses would have been lost as the former England captain rose wonderfully but powered his effort narrowly over the bar.
West Ham drew confidence from the increasingly sporadic forward play of their visitors and Sinclair came close to doubling the advantage in the 21st-minute when he was given time from a corner to turn and shoot past Given only for Robert Lee to clear off of the line.
Kanoute pounced on the rebound to fire in a sliced shot, but Sinclair's reactions almost saw him divert the ball into the net.
Robert then showed that his silky skills can also be devastatingly direct when he teased the opposition defence, crucially delayed his shot, and saw Hislop spill his effort narrowly away from Craig Bellamy.
Hislop then crucially got a hand to a Bellamy chip that was heading over his head and into the net, whilst at the other end Tomas Repka arrived late to a corner but could only volley high, wide and handsome.
It was the defender's clever ball to Kanoute that almost carved out a second ten minutes before the break, although the ungainly Frenchman's effort after cutting inside was parried by Given, who watched in relief as an acrobatic follow up by Di Canio drifted wide.
The best effort of the half came from the right boot of Sinclair, whose diagonal shot came within six inches of sneaking in the top corner with Given reduced to a distant admirer by the power and swerve.
In the dying seconds Hislop had to be aware as Kanoute came perilously close to putting through his own net.
Newcastle were certainly not at their best on their visit to the capital, and were clearly lacking something through the middle, although Robson will be buoyed by the performances of a rejuvenated Shearer and simply magical Robert.
But West Ham were good value for their win, and if they can continue to display the kind of performance that they put in for a delighted home support - then they could cause problems to anyone at Upton Park.
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West Ham v Newcastle
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