Etherington hat-trick sinks Wimbledon

West Ham United 5 Wimbledon 0
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The Independent Online

West Ham United produced their biggest win of the season, thanks largely to a Matthew Etherington hat-trick, and with it moved up to third place in the First Division. Having been relegated last season, the Hammers lie seven points off second place and the lure of automatic promotion is now as close as it has been all season.

West Ham United produced their biggest win of the season, thanks largely to a Matthew Etherington hat-trick, and with it moved up to third place in the First Division. Having been relegated last season, the Hammers lie seven points off second place and the lure of automatic promotion is now as close as it has been all season.

In some respects this was Wimbledon past versus Wimbledon future. West Ham raided the Milton Keynes side for their best young players during the January transfer window and Alan Pardew had some of that haul on display here. One was in the starting XI, namely Nigel Reo-Coker and two more, Jobi McAnuff and Adam Rowland, were on the bench. David Connolly, a less recent former Don, was also up against his old side. Meanwhile all that is left of Wimbledon now is a team largely made up of ex-youth team players.

The home side's display was mostly emblematic of West Ham present. They were afflicted by stage-fright for most of the first half against a Wimbledon side that is bottom and heading for the Second Division next season.

Frustration was the key word until two goals in three minutes broke Wimbledon's resistance. With 36 minutes gone Marlon Harewood reached the byline and although his cross eluded Connolly, Etherington, back from suspension, was lurking at the far post. Three minutes later Bobby Zamora was on target with an impressive solo effort. With the ball 30 yards out he cut inside Peter Hawkins and let fly from 25 yards to beat the despairing dive of Steve Banks.

The stadium announcer informed everyone that there were 190 away supporters in the ground - a fact which received a huge, ironic round of applause from the home fans - and those that had made the journey must have felt like leaving early in the second half.

West Ham went on the offensive again and the attack produced their third goal. It was simplicity itself. Michael Carrick launched a long ball over the top of the Dons' defence, Etherington ran on to it and finished well for his second of the night.

The show-boating began with the fourth goal, scored after 62 minutes. A four-man move started with Tomas Repka and Etherington and culminated with a flick by Harewood to Reo-Coker. Although his shot beat Banks at the near post, the former Don hardly celebrated his first goal for his new club.

Etherington's third came with 20 minutes remaining when Steve Banks rushed out of goal and the former Tottenham player calmly chipped his shot inside the post.

West Ham United (4-4-2): Bywater; Harley (Ferdinand, 66), Dailly, Melville, Repka; Etherington, Carrick (Nowland, 66), Reo-Coker, Harewood; Zamora (McAnuff, 57), Connolly. Substitutes not used: Srnicek (gk), Deane.

Wimbledon (4-4-2): Banks; Hawkins, Williams, Gier, Darlington; Harding, Barton (Jarrett, 56), Chorley, Kamara; Herzig, Gray (Oyedele, 47). Substitutes not used: Worgan (gk), Puncheon, Gordon.

Referee: E Evans (Greater Manchester).

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