Kanoute hits the high note

West Ham's revival begins in earnest as Redknapp's side finally move out of the bottom three
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West Ham's need to turn promise into something more positive plus Newcastle's forbidding and still unrelieved 20 visits to London without a win combined to lead the Hammers out of the bottom three thanks in large measure, and unexpectedly, to their defensive resistance.

West Ham's need to turn promise into something more positive plus Newcastle's forbidding and still unrelieved 20 visits to London without a win combined to lead the Hammers out of the bottom three thanks in large measure, and unexpectedly, to their defensive resistance.

For both managers it was a game with more relevance than first may have appeared. Having been told by his chairman that any re-association with England was not permissible, Bobby Robson was, in effect, also being reminded that, if he thought Newcastle's considerable ambitions were already within sight of fulfilment, he should think again.

As for Harry Redknapp, he was well aware that, with West Ham stumbling around in the thistles of the relegation field, continued talk of his certainty that they would soon flower and finally reach the top half of the table urgently needed some evidence. And for both managers there was the prospect of conceding a lot of goals.

Robson, being without Didier Domi, Marcelino, Warren Barton and Carl Cort, called in Robert Lee as a sweeper and gave full debuts to the Chilean midfielder Clarence Acuña and Lomano Lua Lua, from the Congo via Colchester.

Redknapp brought back Ian Pearce for his first start in 15 months after cruciate ligament damage but Igor Stimac, Javier Margas and Steve Lomas were all absent.

Perhaps thinking that they faced a soft defence, West Ham promoted many speculative long balls, which gave Lee few problems until Frank Lampard found space as Frédéric Kanouté centred. Lampard headed down with such power that the ball bounced over Shay Given and the crossbar. Generally, though, Newcastle's neatness in midfield made the greater impression, with Acuña particularly productive - even upstaging Joe Cole until, in the 37th minute, the young West Ham midfielder sliced a fine 25-yard pass through Newcastle's defensive lines. Again Lampard had moved secretively into the penalty area and his instant shot was wonderfully turned over the bar by Given.

Not that Given should have been given any chance towards the end of the first half, when Kanouté took possession unmarked and with only the goalkeeper blocking his way. With time on his hands, Kanouté still shot over. That was not an unrepresentative moment in a windswept game that failed to attain full-blown entertainment.

Acuña remained the most resourceful and imaginative of all. His willingness to single out Cole for special attention as well as create Newcastle's more hopeful attacks was impressive. Yet even his ingenuity was all too often wasted ahead of him, where Alan Shearer had carried a forlorn expression throughout, thanks partly to the splendidly diligent work of Rio Ferdinand and the unrelenting physical pressure of Stuart Pearce, who, at 39, deserved his manager's effusive praise: "The most incredible player I've seen".

Some tough challenges eventually led to Cole calling it a day, leaving Newcastle with an opportunity to make their midfield superiority count for more than territory. Shearer did at last break away from Ferdinand and Pearce, only to thunder a shot across the mouth of the goal. West Ham were largely in retreat but after 72 minutes took a rare chance with real aplomb.

Davor Suker had only just come on to replace Cole when he controlled the ball under pressure approaching the penalty area and sweetly played it ahead to see Kanouté squeeze a belting shot between Given and the near post.

So, despite all of their possession and the promise of Acuña, Newcastle's long run of failure in the capital continued and, though Robson thought that this was "the third game in succession we didn't deserve to lose", yesterday they could easily see the reasons.

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