Manchester City 2 West Ham United 0: Pearce opts for fresh legs to ride out growing crisis

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The Independent Football

It has been typical of the man during his first crisis at Manchester City that Stuart Pearce has not flinched in the face of questions over his managerial skills, yet he was not afraid to expose his softer side on Saturday.

Here was an occasion that would intensify the pressure if the result had gone against City and, of course, Pearce declared himself ready to take it on the chin. Only this time among his cohort in the technical area was an unfamiliar source of moral support in the form of a small toy animal.

"He's Beanie the Horse," Pearce admitted, a little bashfully. "My wife told me she was coming to see the game this week and that my daughter, Chelsea, was bringing Beanie and wanted him to sit with me on the touchline.

"It's difficult explaining to a seven-year-old that this is the Premiership and I'm known as 'Psycho'. I had to put all that to one side and be the family man. But I don't mind and he'll be coming to Everton next week as well."

The shaky start to City's season had been part of the damaging run of 13 defeats in 16 matches that led bookmakers to flag up Pearce as the likeliest Premiership manager to be sacked before Saturday's solid win. While one suspects that Pearce would not really countenance the thought that a child's toy might have made the difference, he is clearly unwilling to put the theory to the test by leaving Beanie at home just yet.

He would prefer to believe the improvement resulted from his decision to place his faith in the younger members of his squad, resisting the temptation to recall 33-year-old striker Paul Dickov after the embarrassing Carling Cup defeat at Chesterfield and leaving out Claudio Reyna for the explosively leggy 19-year-old, Ishmael Miller, handed his first senior start on the left of midfield.

It was Miller's surging run along the left flank, too strong to be halted by West Ham's makeshift defence, that created the opportunity for Georgios Samaras, picked instead of Dickov, to volley City in front with evidence of the fine finishing technique he was to use again when his flick over Roy Carroll effectively clinched the points.

Samaras cost City £6m in January, a price some would argue should buy a stream of goals more consistent than the 6ft 3in Greece international has so far been able to supply. Yet Pearce believes allowance should be made for inexperience almost as much as in the raw, unpolished Miller.

"Ishmael has a lot to learn," Pearce said. "If he falls over it doesn't matter because he is an academy player but if Georgios does he is a £6m flop. Yet he is a 21-year-old who is learning the job.

"When I named him as someone I wanted to sign the chairman's reaction was to say 'Who?' and it was a gamble, as it is with any player. But I believe that if Georgios stays on this learning curve and begins to show those flashes of brilliance consistently, in three or four years' time he will be worth more than we could afford to pay for him."

If Samaras' goals took some pressure off Pearce, it shifted more on to Alan Pardew, whose West Ham side have not won since the opening day and will face Palermo in the Uefa Cup on Thursday on the back of three straight defeats.

Pardew felt the first-half loss of Anton Ferdinand, joining a roster of injured defenders that already included John Pantsil and Tyrone Mears, was a major factor in the latest and refused to blame the arrival of the high-profile Argentinians, the ineffective Javier Mascherano and the benched Carlos Tevez.

"They are two guys who want to do well but whose talents we need to harness without going away from what we are about," he said, although he is clearly not sure yet how that conundrum is to be solved.

Goals: Samaras (50) 1-0; Samaras (63) 2-0.

Manchester City (4-4-2): Weaver; Richards, Dunne, Distin, Jordan; Sinclair, Barton, Hamann, Miller (Reyna, 81); Samaras (Ireland, 89), Corradi (Dickov, 70). Substitutes not used: Hart (gk), Beasley.

West Ham United (4-4-2): Carroll; Dailly, Ferdinand (Mullins, 22), Gabbidon, Konchesky; Benayoun, Mascherano, Reo-Coker, Etherington; Zamora (Cole, 66), Harewood (Tevez, 65). Substitutes not used: Green (gk), Bowyer.

Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).

Man of the match: Samaras.

Attendance: 41,073.