Sturridge leaves Hammers stunned

Bolton Wanderers 3 West Ham United 0: Worrying lack of passion means time is running out for Grant to save his side from relegation
Click to follow
The Independent Football

Despite playing in the most beautiful spring sunshine imaginable, it still never rains but it pours for West Ham United.

The season is at that point where timing can become everything yet even the fixture secretary seems to be against them. Last weekend's loss to Manchester United made it seven straight League defeats to Sir Alex Ferguson's team so West Ham could have done with playing a side yesterday with a whiff of the patsy about them; somebody willing to surrender and give them three desperately needed points.

Instead, they faced another outfit that they have come to dread in recent years as Bolton Wanderers were also looking for their seventh win on the bounce against West Ham. To make matters worse, had never won in 11 previous games at the Reebok Stadium.

The portents were not good. And they soon got worse. Wonderfully executed finishes from Daniel Sturridge and Lee Chung-Yong ended the game as a meaningful contest after just 19 minutes, allowing Bolton to relax and go on to play some of the most entertaining and sumptuous football of the season.

Sturridge's second after the break added the gloss for Bolton and to the gloom for West Ham, even if their manager Avram Grant believes relegation is not a certainty.

"I believe we can stay in the League because what you saw in the first half is not something you see every day in our team," he said. "It was something exceptional and we will do everything to make sure it remains exceptional.

"We will show that we can play and we have shown this season that we can recover from situations like this and we need to do that again in the next six games."

A bright opening from Bolton set the tone and saw Sturridge go ominously close as the inefficiencies that have so hindered West Ham's defence all season were there for all to see.

Kevin Davies, Johan Elmander, Martin Petrov and Sturridge all revelled in the ridiculously plentiful space afforded them before Sturridge curled in a beautiful effort from 20 yards out, prompting Robert Green to berate midfielder Mark Noble for failing to stick closer to the on-loan Chelsea forward.

Noble was not willing to take that lying down but it was just a shame that the passion displayed during their furious looking altercation was not displayed in more important facets of West Ham's game. Like passing the ball to a team-mate. Or defending.

"I don't know, I need to see it and speak to them," Grant added.

"I'll speak about everything with the players. Everything we are trying is not going well."

Bolton conjured up a stunning second as a quite brilliant cross from Petrov back into the box from a difficult angle gifted Lee the opportunity to head past the helpless Green.

Apart from their League position, their inability to defend and a season run-in involving matches against both Manchester City and Chelsea, what must concern Grant the most is that his side has no discernible ability to shift through the gears until they are really up against it, which they most certainly were after Sturridge added a third after half-time.

Sturridge scored his sixth Bolton goal in only his eighth appearance as he drove low and hard past Green from outside the box and that appeared to be that.

However, inexplicably, and to the visible frustration of Grant, West Ham then played their best football when the game was already finished. Demba Ba forced the hitherto redundant Jussi Jaaskelainen into a fine save before hitting the post shortly afterwards.

"We've been outstanding here at the Reebok and I think West Ham came up against a very good side," said the Bolton manager, Owen Coyle.

"We were never comfortable even at 3-0 up because they have good players, so I have no doubt West Ham will pick up points."

Attendance: 25,857

Referee: Lee Probert

Man of the match: Sturridge

Match rating: 7/10