Football: West Ham revel in purple patch

West Ham United 3 Wimbledon 1
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The Independent Online
Could West Ham be London's hottest ticket? From the well choreographed pre-match efforts of the cheerleading Hammerettes to the groundsman's ever-decreasing-circles grass cutting effect, the Hammers are an attractive option.

While most in the press box were here to size up the talents of Rio Ferdinand, it was West Ham's Eyal Berkovitch who shone most brightly. Harry Redknapp has had a patchy record with skilful foreigners in the past, but tempting Berkovitch from Southampton was a very astute move. The Israeli forward was at the centre of most of the game's better moments.

His performance deserved a goal and it duly came in the 55th minute of a fine all-round display. Latching on to a hopeful Tim Breacker through ball, Berkovitch coolly beat the advancing Neil Sullivan for the home side's third goal in seven minutes.

The visitors had no answer whatsoever for West Ham's free-flowing football, and looked out of sorts all afternoon. This was a very different looking Wimbledon from last season's snarling and resilient outfit.

The starting forward partnership of Dean Holdsworth and Jason Euell posed few problems for young Ferdinand and his colleagues in the West Ham defence. Joe Kinnear brought on Marcus Gayle and Efan Ekoku at half-time to break the deadlock but, unfortunately for him, it was West Ham's impressive John Hartson who found the back of the net.

The Welsh international looked threatening throughout, and could be really dangerous if he learns to stay onside. His third goal of the season was a fine strike from the edge of the area, and he could well have added a few more with a little more luck.

As for Rio Ferdinand, there is no doubt that he is phenomenally talented. There was one glorious moment in West Ham's purple patch when the youngster stepped between two advancing Wimbledon players and fired a perfect 40- yard pass on to Stan Lazaridis' chest.

He has everything that Glenn Hoddle is looking for in an international defender, except experience. How the England manager will remedy this is anybody's guess. English cricket has been having the same "if you're good enough, you're old enough" debate for years, and they still have not found an answer.

In the meantime Rio and his team-mates can reflect on a positive start to the season. Their next match is at Old Trafford, and Redknapp quipped: "Alex Ferguson is not sleeping tonight."

After Manchester United comes Newcastle, Arsenal and Liverpool. August was something of a stroll, September may be slightly more taxing.

Goals: Hartson (48) 1-0; Rieper (54) 2-0; Berkovitch (55) 3-0; Ekoku (81) 3-1.

West Ham United (3-4-1-2): Miklosko; Breacker, Unsworth, Rieper; Hartson, Lomas, Dowie, Ferdinand; Moncur; Lazaridis, Berkovitch. Substitutes not used: Potts, Bishop, Lampard, Hughes, Forrest (gk).

Wimbledon (4-4-2): Sullivan; Cunningham, Kimble, Blackwell, Earle; Holdsworth (Ekoku, h-t), Perry, McAllister (Clarke, 71), Ardley; Jupp, Euell (Gayle, h-t). Substitutes not used: Hughes, Heald (gk).

Referee: G Poll (Tring). Booking: West Ham: Moncur.

Man of the match: Berkovitch. Attendance: 24,516.

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