Football: Holmes leads the Hammers uprising

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The Independent Online
Southampton. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

West Ham United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

WHILE supporter-power won the day elsewhere, it would seem to have met its match at Southampton, where Ian Branfoot soldiers on with great fortitude. He believed he was over the worst until this crushing defeat, inflicted by opponents expected to be down among the relegation places with the Saints.

Not that West Ham resembled anything like a team from the lower orders last night. Their self-belief has grown appreciably in recent weeks and with two first-half goals they took a huge bound to 10th in the Premiership, their highest position for seven years.

Their improvement stemmed from the arrival of Lee Chapman, David Burrows and Mike Marsh, whose passing instincts have found a natural home at Upton Park. He was missing at The Dell because of a family bereavement but Chapman was there to lend his bustling presence to the cause and he weighed in with a goal after setting up Trevor Morley's opener.

Both goals derived from the persuasive left boot of Matt Holmes, whose role has been every bit as important in the club's revival. 'We have been playing like that for half a dozen games now and there's no reason why we cannot maintain this position,' Bonds said.

Continuous rain made conditions difficult, but not so bad that it inhibited West Ham's willingness to decorate the surface with their passing patterns. Holmes was immediately involved, testing Ian Andrews after two minutes and then feeling the rough end of Ken Monkou's elbow.

Apart from anything else, this challenge was poorly timed on the day the players' union urged stronger action against this growing blight on the game and rightly it brought him a booking.

Southampton, uplifted by their win at Villa Park, put aside that initial scare to threaten, with Matthew Le Tissier becoming increasingly influential. Their purple period came and went, however, and it was the other Matt who began to talk loudest.

His free-kick on the half- hour exposed Southampton's lack of discipline as they left Chapman all alone to divert the cross to Morley, who had no trouble sweeping home.

Andrews had more protection seven minutes later when Holmes delivered again to telling effect, but the goalkeeper had not bargained on Chapman applying a splendid volley to the ball, which took a slight deflection on its way into the net.

Southampton (4-4-2): Andrews; Kenna, Wood, Monkou, Benali; P Allen, Cockerill (Adams, 59), Maddison, Charlton (Bennett, 59); Le Tissier, Dowie. Substitute not used: Beasant (gk).

West Ham United (4-4-2): Miklosko; Breacker, Potts, Gale, Burrows; Butler, M Allen, Bishop, Holmes; Chapman, Morley. Substitutes not used: Rowland, Boere, Peyton (gk).

Referee: M Bodenham (East Looe).

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