Harewood stings Hornets

West Ham United 4 Watford 0
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The Independent Online

The nervous frustration of West Ham's long battle to stay in the running for a return to the Premiership is not quite over. However, in one of their most convincing performances of an erratic term, they dismissed Watford with ease. Wigan's defeat also caused confidence to rise but with pursuers Crystal Palace and Reading both winning, nothing, as yet, is certain.

The nervous frustration of West Ham's long battle to stay in the running for a return to the Premiership is not quite over. However, in one of their most convincing performances of an erratic term, they dismissed Watford with ease. Wigan's defeat also caused confidence to rise but with pursuers Crystal Palace and Reading both winning, nothing, as yet, is certain.

This has been a disjointed season for the home side, and simply staying in contention for a play-off place has never brought total satisfaction. There were all of those drawn home matches that ought to have been won. There was the drab, mistake-laden football. And there was the seemingly endless waiting for the new manager to make the best of what he inherited; a club left with insufficient talent to fulfil unrealistic expectations. The troublesome thought that, come the last day of the season, they might need to win at Wigan still haunted. As it is, Wigan will need a 4-0 victory to go above them. How they needed their victory against a team only just on the safe side of the relegation threat.

Watford gambled dangerously after only 12 minutes when Paul Mayo grappled Bobby Zamora to earth with the West Ham striker bearing down on goal. Mayo was fortunate that the referee gave only a lenient yellow card. But five minutes later, they repeated their misdemeanour when Micah Hyde brought down Steve Lomas a step outside the penalty area. Don Hutchison, making his first full appearance since January, struck the resultant free-kick through the wall to give West Ham a justified lead.

Not for the first time this season, taking an advantage did not inspire West Ham to greater endeavour as Watford lifted their game in midfield. But Michael Carrick, in particular, reclaimed the ascendancy and provided a well-placed corner that Zamora returned a few inches wide.

So it was predictable that the Hornets should concede their second goal to another badly defended corner. This time it came from Matthew Etherington on the left. No Watford defender was near Christian Dailly, and his header, deflected slightly by Hutchison, gave West Ham a comfortable half-time cushion.

But there was no comfort for Watford's goalkeeper Alec Chamberlain, who held firm against West Ham's barrage before he had to face a twice-taken penalty. Zamora was brought down by Mayo but after Chamberlain saved Marlon Harewood's kick, the referee insisted it was retaken because players had encroached. This time Harewood drove in.

Harewood crowned West Ham's (and his own) successful day when, in added time, substitute Jobi McAnuff had a low drive well stopped by the unlucky Chamberlain. The keeper could not get up quickly enough to stop Harewood netting the fourth.

West Ham United 4 Watford 0
Hutchison 17, Dailly 44, Harewood pen 63, 90

Half-time: 2-0 Attendance: 34,685

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