Cole double brings level pegging to Manchester

Manchester City 2 West Ham United 1

The West Ham United veteran will, of course, remain oblivious to such forgiveness. The former Old Trafford colleagues never spoke when they were on the same side. Now that they are in opposition there was no chance of a friendly conversation even before Cole marked his 34th birthday on Saturday with the match-winning performance that elevated City to fourth and sealed a victory that was far more emphatic than the scoreline suggests.

Cole has been reborn at City, repaying the faith his manager, Stuart Pearce, invested in him after two disappointing seasons with Blackburn and Fulham had threatened to drain his love for the game and also the backing of the City faithful, who cast old associations aside to provide the welcome he needed.

In fact, the only person he has let down this season is his son, 10-year-old DeVante, who is at the academy at Manchester City.

"He asked me to score a hat-trick for my birthday and give him the match-ball," revealed the striker. "I haven't delivered on that one so I will dedicate my two goals to him instead."

Cole Jnr will cherish the opener most of all, an exquisite chip over Roy Carroll from a difficult angle that illustrated the years have not dimmed his predatory instincts.

"That was the mark of an absolute goalscorer," said Pearce, who has now guided City to their best start to a season for 28 years.

"Others would have blasted it, he picked his spot, that's why he is so good. He has something to prove here. He wants to stay beyond this season and if he carries on like that, he will force my hand."

No contract talks are planned before Christmas, but an offer should be a formality. Pearce added: "He is a great influence in the dressing-room, a real leader. That has surprised me. Before he arrived I only knew him close enough to kick him and he did have a reputation, but he has a great attitude."

It was not only the veterans that thrilled Pearce during this convincing triumph, one that Bobby Zamora's injury-time consolation goal did nothing to disguise.

With youngsters such as Stephen Ireland seizing the opportunity that injuries have provided, and which will stretch City's thin squad if they continue, the former England captain has every reason to believe in the European qualification target that he has set for himself.

"You can guarantee that Arsenal and Liverpool will be in the top five by the end of the season," he added; "but if we continue like this then we can keep pushing for what everyone here knows we are trying to achieve."

Cole put the result beyond doubt 11 minutes after the restart when West Ham's Hayden Mullins was caught dithering in possession and Carroll could only palm Kiki Musampa's shot into the path of the striker for his fourth of the campaign.

"We invited trouble too often," reflected the visiting manager, Alan Pardew; "We were naïve and cavalier at times. This is only our first away defeat so we will not get carried away by one misguided performance, although I will be looking for a reaction."

Goals: Cole (18) 1-0; (56) 2-0; Zamora (90) 2-1.

Manchester City (4-4-2): James; Mills, Onuoha, Distin, Jordan; Ireland (Croft, 81), Barton, Reyna, Musampa (Sun, 87); Cole, Vassell. Substitutes not used: Sommeil, Sibierski, De Vlieger (gk).

West Ham United (4-4-2): Carroll; Repka (Dailly, h-t), Ferdinand, Gabbidon, Konchesky; Benayoun, Reo-Coker, Mullins, Etherington (Newton, 82); Sheringham (Zamora, 67), Harewood. Substitutes not used: Hislop (gk), Bellion.

Referee: M Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).

Booked: Manchester City: Musampa, Jordan.

Man of the match: Cole.

Attendance: 43,647.

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