Hammers outclass Tractor Boys
West Ham reached the 40-point milestone courtesy of a 3-1 win at home to relegation-threatened Ipswich Town. The Hammers had too much class for the Tractor Boys and can now go into a run of four London derbies in 24 days with a top-ten finish firmly in sight.
West Ham secured top-flight status with a comprehensive 3-1 win over basement boys Ipswich Town.
And the Hammers showed the kind of flair and finesse that suggest they'll be fighting for a place in the top seven or eight as opposed to scrapping to steer clear of the bottom three.
As early as the second minute Sinclair, Schemmel and Kanoute combined with the kind of wonderful, flowing move you come accustomed to seeing at Upton Park, only for di Canio to loose control when bearing down on goal.
But despite repeated ineffectiveness in and around the goal di Canio gave the visitors a lesson in football. He was 'Paolo the Wizard', an Italian enigma, a joy to behold.
It was all West Ham for the first half an hour, but the closest they came to breaking the deadlock was a Fabian Wilnis miss-kick following a Schemmel cross. Matteo Sereni had to scuttle across his goal to claw the potential O.G out of the bottom corner.
Di Canio, Kanoute and Cole were all wasteful as Ipswich struggled to contain the home side's onslaught. But the breakthrough arrived 36 minutes- and for the second game running courtesy of Steve Lomas' head. The Ulsterman rose to nod home a beautifully weighted di Canio centre to give the hosts the lead they so richly deserved.
But the Hammers didn't stop there. Winterburn's rasping drive was well held by Sereni, Cole forced the Italian stopper to make a fine flying save and di Canio volleyed straight into his compatriot's arms after some more breathtaking football.
The best the visitor's could muster were two long-range efforts from Marcus's Bent and Stewart who both blazed wide.
The Hammers should've put the game beyond doubt in the opening second-half exchanges. Kanoute scooped inexplicably over from 6-yards, Schemmel's vicious volley was turned behind by Sereni and the busy keeper saved a spectacular 30-yard Sinclair volley.
Kanoute was having a nightmare- he knew it- but he kept going to his credit. He blazed over again when clean through, stumbled in a one-on-one situation, and looked like he might force a di Canio corner over the line before Sereni scrambled the ball to safety.
The Hammers were cruising and a Finidi George 30-yarder was the first action David James had in over an hour, but the England keeper was beaten after 71 minutes.
Ipswich threw bodies forward in search of an equaliser and their gamble paid off as Repka's scewed clearance fell to Stewart whose shot was saved by James, only for the ball to drop to Bent who buried his chance from 10-yards out.
But justice was done as West Ham regained the lead just three minutes later. Cole found di Canio with a chipped free-kick and the Italian volleyed goalwards from the edge of the box. Sereni could only parry the ball back to di Canio who slammed home emphatically on the second time of asking and duly threw his shirt into the Bobby Moore Stand in a wild celebration.
And di Canio didn't stop there. With five minutes to go he dribbled past a tangle of legs on the edge of the away side's area and attempted an audacious chip that drifted agonisingly over- it would have been a goal of the season contender.
Defoe, who was introduced to expectant applause with 15 minutes on the clock, produced the goods with four minutes on the clock racing onto a di Canio pass and firing low into the corner from 18-yards.
From The Terrace