Alan Pardew praises Newcastle hat-trick hero Leon Best

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew watched striker Leon Best prove there is Barclays Premier League talent in the npower Championship as he tore West Ham apart.

The 24-year-old, a late replacement for the injured Shola Ameobi, started his first top-flight game for the Magpies and emerged from it with a fine hat-trick after ending a personal goal drought dating back almost a year.

With Ameobi having joined 11-goal frontman Andy Carroll on the sidelines, his contribution could hardly have been any more timely and Pardew was delighted with his display.

He said: "Leon has a good record in the Championship, but he is unproven at this level.

"Like all strikers and players in the Championship, there is sometimes a snobbish opinion that they are not going to be good enough.

"But as Charlie Adam has proved at Blackpool and Leon has tonight, there are players in that division who can play at this level if they have the belief."

Best, who had not scored since January last year before he left Coventry for Tyneside, plundered a fine treble to set up a win which was every bit as comprehensive as the scoreline suggests.

He struck after 18 and 39 minutes and on both occasions was indebted to strike-partner Peter Lovenkrands, and then after Kevin Nolan had made it 3-0, completed his hat-trick on the hour.

Lovenkrands was rewarded with the fifth three minutes later as the Magpies coasted to victory, although substitute Nile Ranger was guilty of an astonishing miss with 17 minutes remaining.

The win came at some cost with Pardew losing defender Steven Taylor and midfielder Cheik Tiote to hamstring injuries, but the manager was at least able to console himself with back-to-back victories which have left the club in eighth place.

He said: "I said to the players, when you lose a big player - and let's make no mistake, Andy Carroll is a massive player for this football club - you need people to step up to the plate, and as a squad we have done that."

By contrast, the Hammers left St James' Park with their four-game unbeaten run in tatters and having slipped back to the foot of the table.

However, the league is so tight that they are only eight points worse off than the Magpies, and that was a source of consolation to manager Avram Grant.

He said: "Yes, we are disappointed with this, of course. We don't want to be at the bottom.

"But the most important thing is where we are at the end of the season.

"We spoke even today about continuing to do what we have done well until now - we forgot to do it today - and then we will continue to pick up points. That's what we need to do."

Asked if he feared for his job, Grant replied: "I am not thinking about that, never. I am thinking how I need to do my job, and that's all."

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