When Harry Redknapp finally relented and waved back to the Tottenham support last night the first low boo rang out around Upton Park. It was the reaction of a crowd who have loved and lost and now see a former manager spearheading a revolution at Spurs that would make any struggling Premier League club envious.
The first goal for Ledley King in three years, another brilliant late strike from Jamie O'Hara and Redknapp chalked up his fourth win at Upton Park since he left West Ham in 2001. The last time King scored, in December 2005, it was against Redknapp's Portsmouth team. It has been that long coming but then at the moment, Redknapp seems capable of anything, even conjuring goals from his talented, injury-prone captain.
To the victor, the spoils. West Ham conceded 15th place in the Premier League to Spurs who struggled in the first half and then dominated the second. There were even two exceptional Heurelho Gomes saves from Lucas Neill and David Di Michele shots just as Spurs were clinging to their lead before O'Hara's late goal.
The excitement that built in the second half was not reflected in the events of the first. Roman Pavlyuchenko struck a post in the last three minutes of the half and by then it was as much as you could do to remember the last decent effort from Spurs. That had come in the first minute when Luka Modric had hit a limp shot straight at Robert Green when he should have done better. For the 40-odd minutes in between, Spurs had been poor.
On the evidence of the first half you can see why Redknapp believes that new recruits in January is non-negotiable if he is to make a decent go of moving Spurs up the division this season. There was no serious bite in midfield, not unless you count the clumsy tackle from behind by Didier Zokora on Craig Bellamy in the first four minutes that had Bellamy threatening all sorts of revenge.
Redknapp left out Tom Huddlestone to accommodate the return of Modric, who dodged brilliantly around two West Ham defenders out on the right wing at one point during the first half but there was precious little else from the Croat.
Gianfranco Zola's team were brightest when Bellamy came short for the ball in midfield and tried to get his side moving forward quicker. They had a goal disallowed on 22 minutes when Jermaine Jenas deflected a corner from Bellamy past Gomes and into his own goal. The referee Chris Foy appeared to have given the decision for a foul on Jenas by Neill.
David Bentley and Aaron Lennon switched wings but neither of them got in behind West Ham much. Bentley seems to labour under the misapprehension that he has the pace to get away from defenders. Lennon, of course, does but he got on the ball so rarely it was easy to forget that.
Pavlyuchenko did not even make it as far as the hour for Spurs, as he was withdrawn from service to be replaced by Darren Bent, who immediately did even worse than the Russian had with his first chance. It was a nice move, Jenas out to Lennon, who cut it back sweetly for Bent to drag wide. Redknapp needs a goalscorer who can bury chances like that without thinking twice.
Zola had also substituted the deeply unimpressive Julien Faubert for Mark Noble, perhaps because he could see the game turning. After a promising low cross early in the second half from Neill that Faubert failed to react too, Spurs seized the initiative. They passed the ball better in midfield and they did so about 15 yards further into West Ham territory than they had managed in the first half. Even Zokora surged for about 30 yards and tested.
The goal for Tottenham came on 68 minutes, a simple move from Jenas in the middle out to Lennon on the right. Restored permanently to the right wing, Lennon had looked much more confident, although he was given way too much time by Herita Ilunga to pick his spot and land the ball plumb on the head of the rampaging King. The Spurs captain had made a decision to push forward and rose well above Danny Collins to head past Green.
Disaster for West Ham, who had dominated the first half but had done nothing to make it count. Carlton Cole had a header that seemed to brush Benoit Assou-Ekotto's raised arm, and the substitute Di Michele tried to get a shot off in a busy penalty area and was closed down by Jonathan Woodgate.
West Ham threw what they had left at Spurs and they came so close to an equaliser, denied only by Gomes' double save. Seconds later, O'Hara, on as a substitute, collected the ball and ran at the Spurs goal. His shot was unstoppable, which is how Spurs under Redknapp feel most of the time.
Goals: King (68) 0-1; O'Hara (89) 0-2.
West Ham United (4-4-2): Green; Neill, Collins, Upson, Ilunga; Faubert (Noble, 58), Parker (Tristan, 83), Mullins (Di Michele, 73), Behrami; Bellamy, Cole. Substitutes not used: Lastuvka (gk), Boa Morte, Davenport, Collison.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-1-4-1): Gomes; Corluka, Woodgate, King, Assou-Ekotto; Zokora; Bentley (O'Hara, 80), Jenas, Modric, Lennon; Pavlyuchenko (Bent, 55). Substitutes not used: Sanchez (gk), Bale, Huddlestone, Dawson, Boateng.
Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).
Booked: West Ham Behrami, Noble.
Man of the match: Woodgate.
Attendance: 34,277.Reuse content