Football: Wright's goal touch sinks Southampton

West Ham United 1 Southampton 0
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The Independent Online
IAN WRIGHT scored his fourth goal of the season for West Ham last night to take his side to fourth in the Premiership and leave Southampton bottom of the table with one point from seven games.

The match was not without controversy, with the visitors having a potential equaliser disallowed 10 minutes from time after a dubious decision by the referee, Uriah Rennie. From a corner, Ken Monkou volleyed the ball into the net and turned to celebrate. Rennie had blown his whistle, however, a split second before Monkou made contact with the ball, and disallowed the goal. The referee perhaps thought Monkou had barged into Julian Dicks as he went to shoot, but replays clearly showed no contact was made, and even Harry Redknapp, the West Ham manager, thought the decision was harsh.

"It looked like a good goal," he said. "But that's the way it goes." His Southampton counterpart, Dave Jones, said: "I can't see why the referee disallowed the goal. He missed an awful lot tonight."

Jones added that, the goal apart, he was not unhappy with his side's display, which was a marked improvement on recent games. "It just shows there is plenty of fight in us," he said. "When our backs are up against the wall we come out fighting." They will need to, as their next two fixtures see them face Manchester United and Arsenal.

Both sides went into the game with problems, not least having been knocked out of the Worthington Cup by Second Division opposition. West Ham have been blighted by injuries - although John Hartson returned to the starting line-up last night - while Saints have lacked confidence all season.

The opening chance of a competitive first half fell to the home side, when Hartson made a run down the left and laid the ball back to Dicks, whose shot had to be deflected wide. Hartson and Wright also went close, but Southampton countered and their best chance in the opening half fell to Matt Le Tissier, whose 40th-minute drive from 20 yards produced a good stop from Shaka Hislop.

The addition of Stan Lazaridis - whose pace and crossing were telling - at the start of the second half in place of Eyal Berkovic, led to a West Ham goal. Lazaridis ran down the left and fed the ball to Wright, whose initial shot was blocked. But when Lazaridis crossed the the ball in again Ian Pearce headed back across goal and Wright was on hand in the centre of the goal to head in.

His celebration - taking a push from Neil Ruddock, stumbling backwards and falling over - was a mickey-take of Paolo Di Canio's assault on Paul Alcock last weekend, but on this occasion the referee did not seem to mind. In the programme, Rennie's hobbies were listed as "boxing, kick- boxing and most other contact sports". He did not need such skills last night, despite seven bookings, but Dave Jones is sure to think he should spend more time on the basics.

West Ham United (4-4-2): Hislop; Pearce, Ruddock, Ferdinand, Dicks; Sinclair, Lampard, Berkovic (Lazaridis, h-t), Keller (Moncur, h-t); Hartson, Wright (Potts, 89). Substitutes not used: Impey, Forrest (gk).

Southampton (4-4-2): Jones; Warner, Lundekvam, Monkou, Benali; Gibbens (Beattie, 64), Palmer, Le Tissier, Bridges; Hughes, Ostenstad. Substitutes not used: Howells, Hiley, Basham, Moss (gk).

Referee: U Rennie (Sheffield).