Football: Wright and Hartson resume service

West Ham United 2 Coventry City 0
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The Independent Online
THE SENSE in Harry Redknapp's contention that it probably would not take much more than a couple of favourable bounces to get his strike force going again was borne out by the manner of Ian Wright's first goal since the last day of October.

The way things had gone for Wright since he put two past Newcastle, there was no guarantee that he would accept a gift that came his way after only six minutes when Eyal Berkovic's miscue from John Hartson's low centre flatfooted Coventry's defenders. Seeming to take an age over a simple execution, Wright finally bundled the ball past Steve Ogrizovic.

Wright's evident relief was, of course, shared by West Ham's manager, who had further cause for satisfaction when Hartson snapped up Wright's cross to secure victory in the 67th minute with his first goal for more than a month.

"When strikers aren't scoring they are bound to lose confidence," Redknapp said. "That can spread throughout the team, so it's good to see Ian and John back in business."

The remarkable thing, proof of West Ham's burgeoning stability, is that they are more or less established in the top seven places of the Premiership despite the difficulties Hartson and Wright have experienced.

Conspicuous by their ineffectiveness against Arsenal on Boxing Day, when there was the spur of doing well against their old club, they looked a lot more like themselves again.

Despite being opened up rather too easily along their left flank for anyone with affiliation, Coventry managed to work hard enough at disputing possession in midfield to force West Ham wider than normally suits them. Nevertheless, Wright especially went about his work with such renewed vigour that Frank Lampard should have done better with a pass that set up a wasted opportunity.

Coventry were put out when Stephen Froggatt's surge from the left was brought to an abrupt end in the penalty area without any response from the referee, Paul Durkin, who had the unusual experience of completing the match without producing one yellow card.

Coventry caused West Ham one or two anxious moments, particularly when a swinging cross from Roland Nilsson was only just reached by Ian Pearce with Noel Whelan threatening. Another Coventry attack forced Shaka Hislop to punch clear but West Ham's response was immediate, Steve Lomas breaking way to find Wright, who came close to scoring after lifting the ball over Ogrizovic.

The liveliness Coventry showed at the start of the second half may well have been a response to some unseasonal utterances in their dressing-room. Before Hartson, more or less, put the game beyond Coventry's reach Whelan should have equalised when left free at a corner kick. But by then Coventry had lost too much of their earlier conviction.

Goals: Wright (7) 1-0; Hartson (68) 2-0.

West Ham United (3-5-2): Hislop; Pearce, Ferdinand, Dicks; Sinclair, Lomas, Berkovic (Potts, 80), Lampard, Lazaridis; Hartson, Wright (Omoyinmi, 83). Substitutes not used: Breacker, Hodges, Forrest (gk).

Coventry City (4-4-2): Ogrizovic; Nilsson, Shaw, Breen, Edworthy (Telfer, 78); Boateng, Soltvedt, McAllister, Froggatt; Aloisi (Huckerby, 57), Whelan. Substitutes not used: Williams, Shilton, Hedman (gk).

Referee: P Durkin (Dorset).

Man of the match: Wright.

Attendance: 25,662.