Trevor Brooking's value as a talisman is clearly on a par with his skills as a player for West Ham. For the second time inside a week since stepping into the dug-out to replace Glenn Roeder, this Upton Park director and former chairman of Sport England saw his team claim the points. In five games at the end of last season and the start of this one, Brooking has come up with four wins and a draw.
"This could be my last game," said Brooking, revealing that interviews for the manager's job will take place starting tomorrow and that the new man should be appointed before the end of the week. "And that will keep me unbeaten." No names, but he says the replacement will be someone "of proven merit." If this was undeniably a victory which further boosted spirits at a club urgently in need of a lift, it was a grievous blow to Ipswich, still looking for their first win of the season.
In the end, there was not a lot between the sides, with Ipswich fighting back from a two-goal deficit. They were not quite good enough, though, despite defending from West Ham which at times verged on the comical. Fortunately for West Ham, David James at his England-class best was always on hand to rescue his side from the jokers in front of him, and Ipswich's misery was made complete by the admirable fashion in which Jermain Defoe and David Connolly took their goals.
Defoe was a menace to Ipswich wherever he popped up, linking smoothly with Connolly and Neil Mellor, on loan from Liverpool, to give Chris Makin a nightmare afternoon.
James had already needed to make a breathtaking stop from Pablo Counago's close-in blast before the increasingly assured West Ham build-ups saw the two Matthews, Etherington and Kilgallon, combine to land the ball in front of Connolly for a shot which he miscued successfully over Kelvin Davis, only to be denied by an offside decision.
Two minutes later Connolly pumped a pass out to Defoe on the right touchline. The England Under-21 striker darted past Makin as if he did not exist and, with Ipswich wondering vaguely what he might be thinking of next, uncorked a fizzing left-footer to which Davis hardly moved.
Mainly through Counago's dogged persistence, Ipswich kept their supporters' hopes alive. One of the Spaniard's efforts, a sharp downward header, was somehow turned over the bar by James's boots but either side of the interval Connolly demonstrated the difference between these teams. Just before half-time only desperate action by Makin, who collected a booking for hauling back the Irishman as he headed for goal, saved his side. After the restart Davis did well to repel a blast from Mellor. The reprieve was brief. Connolly latched on to the loose ball and put it away, left-footed on the volley.
There were gifts on offer for Ipswich. Christian Dailly left a bouncing ball for James and Alun Armstrong nipped in to head towards the empty net, only for Ian Pearce somehow to hook it away. Then Tomas Repka's decision not to play another harmless-looking pass demanded a desperate full-length dive from James.
Ipswich's goal midway through the second half came following a series of ping-pong rebounds. The last of these dropped nicely for Jermaine Wright, who had come on for the second half. It was inevitable that the shot took a deflection which wrong-footed James. The scores might have been level had James not produced another stunning stop to deny Counago, put through by Tommy Miller. But that would have been a bit hard on Trev and his lads.
Ipswich Town 1
West Ham United 2
Defoe 21, Connolly 47
Half-time: 0-1 Attendance: 29,679Reuse content