Pardew suffers festive overload

West Ham 0 - Sheffield United 2
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The Independent Football

The best away record in the Championship was further improved yesterday afternoon as Sheffield United reinforced their position in the play-off places at the expense of one of their main rivals.

Despite claiming their best result of the campaign in winning away at Ipswich at the weekend, this was clearly a match too far for West Ham. Two wins and a draw had been the east Londoners' record over the festive period and Alan Pardew must have wished the glut of games could have stopped there. This sorry display brought a bitter end to that run.

The home fans were not slow to remind him of their feelings either, with brief chants of "We want Pardew out" emerging after Leigh Bromby, a defender, had volleyed, unchallenged, past Stephen Bywater from 20 yards to double the Blades' lead.

Pardew acknowledged those chants, saying: "After a performance like this there is pressure on me. It's a results business."

That goal came 20 minutes after United's opener. With no team looking willing or able to break the deadlock, Derek Geary's harmless cross from the right five minutes before the break caused enough confusion for Tomas Repka to poke the ball past Bywater.

For Sheffield's part, this was the perfect away performance, and Warnock's men have now won eight times on the road, better even than the two sides alternating at the head of the Championship, Ipswich and Wigan. If they could begin to duplicate this form at Bramall Lane, the perennial play-off contenders could yet mount a challenge for automatic promotion.

Although Wigan did show the Blades on Saturday that they still have a way to go with a 2-0 win, the gap between the sides is only two points and yesterday's win for Warnock's charges - their third in the four games since Boxing Day - lifts them into fifth place, with West Ham slipping to sixth.

Warnock was impressed with what he saw. "This was as good a performance as I've seen in my career," he said, "especially if you look at the circumstances with our defeat at the weekend. We could have been lambs to the slaughter."

The Hammers' failings were obvious right until virtually the last kick of the game. Luke Chadwick managed to round Paddy Kenny in the dying moments, but with an open goal in front of him, Bromby managed to stick out a foot to deny the midfielder some small consolation from the afternoon.

Chadwick and his fellow substitute Sergei Rebrov had provided the only glimmers of hope for the home side, with the Ukrainian beating two players and then shooting low past Kenny's post from 25 yards after 64 minutes.

But with the Hammers - who are still without Teddy Sheringham - displaying a desperate lack of imagination, the visitors were able to cope comfortably with their one-dimensional approach. A disappointed Pardew did not spare the rod either, saying: "Some of our displays were not good enough. We had no answers today."

West Ham United (4-4-2): Bywater; Mullins, Repka, Mackay (Cohen, 79), Powell; Williams, Fletcher, Reo-Coker, Etherington (Chadwick, h-t); Zamora (Rebrov, h/t), Harewood. Substitutes not used: Burch (gk), Ferdinand.

Sheffield United (4-4-2): Kenny; Bromby, Morgan, Cullip, Harley; Geary, Quinn, Jagielka, Tonge (Wright, 71); Liddell (Montgomery, 77), Gray (Cadamarteri, 89). Substitutes not used: Thirlwell, Forte.

Referee: T Kettle (Berks).