West Ham's dreams of a return to the Premiership will remain just that unless they start scoring more goals. Once again, domination of a match was translated into the narrowest of wins, and what's more, by the input of a 38-year-old substitute.
The fact that the sub was Teddy Sheringham fed some overdue glitz into a messy match in which the Hammers began to look threatening only when the former England man replaced the disappointing Bobby Zamora.
The decision to be named a substitute was taken, according to the West Ham manager Alan Pardew, by Sheringham himself. "He had a hard game at Derby in midweek, so we had a chat and I left it to him," said Pardew. "Teddy said perhaps sitting on the bench would be better for him. That decision was down to his professionalism and management of himself."
The decision to take him off the bench with an hour gone was, of course, Pardew's and it followed the strange removal of his team's wide men, Matthew Etherington and Luke Chadwick, at half-time when they had looked to be West Ham's best bet.
Etherington, Pardew explained, "was struggling a wee bit with his groin" but the introduction of Sergei Rebrov, who assumed Etherington's set-piece duties, and Steve Lomas did not appear to bother Wolves unduly.
In fact, they looked a lot more comfortable, being bothered only by the aggressive running of Marlon Harewood until Sheringham trotted on. It was appropriate that the pass for the goal came from him, but Sheringham only gained possession because Joleon Lescott miscontrolled the ball. Sheringham promptly snapped it up and drove a low shot past Michael Oakes.
"That lapse of concentration cost us the match," said the Wolves manager Dave Jones. "But that's what happens when you are struggling to find form."
So out of form are Wolves that more than half-an-hour had passed before they landed a shot on target, and that was a speculative 40-yarder from the Nigerian midfielder, Seyi Olofinjana, which Stephen Bywater fielded with ease.
By then West Ham ought to have been in front. Zamora strayed offside when Harewood presented him with a tap-in and Scott Oakes pulled off an incredible save to deny Calum Davenport's header.
Paul Ince was relentlessly booed as a former Hammer who went elsewhere. He deserved better than that for an excellent match which culminated in one shot which almost deceived Bywater.
West Ham ran with more confidence after Sheringham's arrival and Wolves' defence began to wilt. To panic, too, as Mark Clyde showed by almost putting through his own goal with an over-strong back-pass which eluded Oakes but bounced just past a post.
The excellent Davenport got away down the left to lay a ball across the goal area which narrowly eluded Sheringham, but when the next chance presented itself, in the 75th minute, Sheringham took it impressively. There was never much likelihood of Wolves getting back into the match and in the end one was enough. Just. A relieved Pardew rightly called it "a big, big result for us".Reuse content