Hammers in clear water after Sears ends goal drought

West Ham United 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0
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The Independent Football

The last time Freddie Sears scored, Alan Curbishley was in charge of West Ham and the current manager Avram Grant was on his way to the Champions League final with Chelsea. Times may have changed but the West Ham forward's goal to seal a win over fellow strugglers Wolves was never more important as it lifted the Hammers out of the bottom three.

Sears had not found the back of the net since his debut for his boyhood club, back in March 2008. Since then he has been farmed out on loan to Crystal Palace, Coventry and Scunthorpe, with no joy.

But after West Ham had gone ahead with an own-goal that was memorable for sheer comedy value, Sears struck with the calmness of a man to whom scoring may not prove a problem now he has that 74-match monkey off his back.

Grant, who has won seven points out of a possible nine over the Christmas period, was understandably elated. "Freddie has done well on loan even if he hasn't scored, but today he scored a fantastic goal.

"It's much nicer to be out of the bottom three but we know we have a long way to go to do what we want to do.

"I felt before this run that we were very efficient but you can imagine how the players feel – they are very happy."

Both West Ham and Wolves kept faith with the same starting line-ups that posted much-needed festive victories, with Grant's men having beaten Fulham away and Mick McCarthy's outfit having stunned Liverpool.

With the two sides beginning 2011 propping up the Premier League, it was understandable that they started the game in nervy fashion. The first clear cut chance arrived on 29 minutes with Carlton Cole squandering the opportunity. Scott Parker slid a perfectly weighted pass to the striker on the edge of the area, before defender Christophe Berra slipped to leave him with only goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey to beat. But Cole sliced his shot well wide of the post.

Then five minutes before half-time Sears had a shot cleared off the line by Richard Stearman, before Junior Stanislas's follow-up was batted away by Hennessey.

Directly after the restart Robert Green was tested twice in two minutes, as he first managed to keep out a loose ball after it bounced clear from a goalmouth scramble, then Berra rose to head towards goal and the goalkeeper made an instinctive stop.

Five minutes later the home side went ahead as a perfectly placed Cole swung and missed Frédéric Piquionne's cross, then the ball bounced in off the defender Ronald Zubar.

Parker then crossed for Matthew Upson's powerful header, but Hennessey clawed the ball clear. After Sylvan Ebanks-Blake hit the hosts' crossbar, Sears calmly sidefooted home to seal the match.

McCarthy said: "We are two points from safety and as far as I am aware we are not getting relegated in the morning. We are scrapping away and we played well enough today."

Attendance: 33,500

Referee: Lee Probert

Man of the match: Sears