West Ham United approached their third visit here this season with optimism, beginning the day level on points with Bolton Wanderers and unbeaten in nine games. They returned to London to start their preparations for Wednesday night's fifth-round FA Cup replay against the same opponents utterly deflated after Bolton had inflicted the heaviest defeat of the season on Alan Pardew's men.
The Lancashire side, who had won only one of their previous eight games, were simply stunning in the opening half. Stelios provided the first two, and in applying the final touch to Kevin Nolan's low shot he leapfrogged his team-mate as the club's leading scorer with 12. Gary Speed added a third before the break and the second half was little more than a procession, with Teddy Sheringham's late consolation matched by Henrik Pedersen's first of the season.
"The first 45 minutes was the best level we have been at this year," said Sam Allardyce, the Bolton manager, whose side are now unbeaten in 20 games at the Reebok since the opening day of the season. "We simply tore into West Ham throughout the first half. The 3-0 scoreline at the break certainly didn't flatter us. The players were absolutely magnificent and in the second half it was just a case of seeing the game out and maybe adding another one if we could."
With West Ham's captain, Nigel Reo-Coker, absent through illness, Anton Ferdinand was pushed into midfield. It was a decision that backfired on Pardew as early as the 12th minute. Elliott Ward, making his full Premiership debut as Ferdinand's replacement in central defence, lost track of Ricardo Vaz Te as Ricardo Gardner swung in a routine deep cross from the left. The young forward could only steer his header against the far post but Stelios reacted quickest to tap in the rebound.
Then Nolan was allowed to drive forward from midfield unchallenged. His raking drive from outside the area was fractionally deflected by Stelios on its way into the bottom corner.
Bolton's third was messy in design, but the finish was spectacular. As West Ham struggled to deal with yet another set-piece, Gardner headed the ball back into the penalty area where Speed's overhead kick was both athletic and highly effective.
West Ham can rarely have been as relieved to hear a half-time whistle, and had it not been for Shaka Hislop they might have been five or even six behind. Ward was withdrawn and Ferdinand restored to the defence when Pardew finally got his dishevelled side into the sanctuary of the dressing room.
In the second half Bolton were understandably unable to replicate their furious earlier tempo and Sheringham, making his first Premiership start of the year, was perfectly placed to turn in Yossi Benayoun's parried shot late on.
Minutes later, substitute Pedersen's 20-yarder restored the three-goal margin that accurately reflected what was a humbling afternoon for the Hammers.
"I made some changes today that didn't come off and for that I accept responsibility," said Pardew, the latest victim of the manager-of-the-month award curse. "We weren't at our best but Bolton did play very well - so it was a combination of things," he said.Reuse content