Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Hammers edging towards safety

Demba Ba

West Ham hauled themselves out of the Barclays Premier League drop zone with a 3-0 win as Stoke pressed the self-destruct button at Upton Park.

The Hammers made it back-to-back league wins for the first time in more than a year to stay on course to complete the 'great escape' from relegation.

Striker Demba Ba was gifted his fourth goal in just five appearances after a calamitous Stoke mix-up, the recalled Manuel da Costa made it 2-0 and Thomas Hitzlsperger smashed in a late third to inflict a club record sixth straight away league defeat on the visitors.

There looked little danger when Mark Noble played a ball through but Asmir Begovic and Marc Wilson got in each other's way trying to clear and Ba outmuscled the latter to bundle home.

Hitzlsperger curled in the left-footed free-kick and Da Costa rose unchallenged at the far post to power home a header, his second goal against Stoke this season and first in the Premier League for 11 months.

West Ham were rampant and Frederic Piquionne missed a great chance to make it three when he hit the side-netting after a shot deflected straight to him.

Hitzlsperger unleashed a trademark volley on the stroke of half-time that was tipped over by Begovic before a desperate Robert Huth clearance denied Ba. James Tomkins nodded against the outside of the post from the resulting corner.

Green parried Rory Delap's long-range drive as Stoke hit back with a rare attempt.

Stoke's erred again midway through the half when Ryan Shawcross' header to Begovic was seized upon by Carlton Cole, but this time the goalkeeper recovered to save.

The game was over seven minutes from time when Piquionne's shot from Scott Parker's cutback was blocked and Hitzlsperger thundered in the rebound.

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