West Ham United 3 Birmingham City 0: Latest claret and blue vintage serve Greenwood tribute

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The Independent Online

The West Ham bubble simply keeps on growing. A euphoric seventh straight victory - five in the League, plus two in the FA Cup - lifted them to sixth place in the Premiership. Talk of European competition is certainly not hot air. The only thing going pop last night was the fuse in Nicky Butt's head after he was excluded by Steve Bruce, with the Birmingham manager handing his son, Alex, a full Premiership debut instead. His side were, at times, a dispirited shambles and, without a dramatic intervention, relegation appears inevitable.

There was a minute's silence for Ron Greenwood, the former West Ham and England manager who died last week, and a parade of his former players to lead out the teams. It has upset West Ham - and certainly seems mystifying - that Greenwood will not be accorded a similar tribute at other grounds.

The dynasty that he created is something that West Ham have long hoped to emulate and it spoke of the confidence coursing through their squad that they have talked of a new era dawning.

That has indeed begun to emerge and such is the strength of manager Alan Pardew's squad that he included three strikers among his substitutes. That meant a start for Marlon Harewood and he made the breakthrough after just 10 minutes. The striker alertly latched on to Nigel Reo- Coker's blocked shot to drive in his 12th Premiership goal of the season.

Birmingham were reeling. But despite their predicament and parlous season, they have started to show flickers of resolve of late, which has coincided with a bolstered line-up, although Emile Heskey was suspended last night and Muzzy Izzet injured.

Their main threat was Jermaine Pennant and he created an opportunity for Mikael Forssell which was blocked by Lionel Scaloni.

At the other end, Paul Konchesky's diving header, from a corner, was scuffed away before another shot by Reo-Coker veered wide, while Bruce's crude late challenge on Danny Gabbidon led to an angry confrontation - and a booking - before West Ham's balance was disrupted by the loss of Mullins to injury.

It allowed Birmingham to achieve a foothold. But Forssell failed to push that further when he did not make enough contact from Chris Sutton's flick-on. For the home side, Yossi Benayoun lofted over and then tried to find Harewood when he should have shot.

No matter. Harewood soon had a second after a ridiculous handball by Martin Latka, his arm high in the air as if slam-dunking, from Christian Dailly's header into the box. Taylor saved the penalty, but Harewood scored the rebound.

Soon it was three. A brilliant, curling centre from the impressive Scaloni was glanced on by Benayoun for Dean Ashton to easily head in his second goal in two starts.

Bruce, perhaps in shock, hauled Latka off - sending his son back into defence. D J Campbell added some impetus while Pennant struck two hopeful free-kicks wide. On the touchline Bruce, his arms wrapped tight around his chest, looked grimly forlorn.

West Ham United (4-4-2): Hislop; Scaloni, Gabbidon, Ferdinand, Konchesky; Benayoun, Reo-Coker, Mullins (Dailly, h-t), Etherington (Katan, 78); Ashton (Zamora, 78), Harewood.Substitutes not used: Bywater (gk), Sheringham.

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Maik Taylor; Melchiot, Cunningham, Latka (Clapham, 71), Gray; Pennant, Bruce, Clemence, Jarosik (Painter, 71); Forssell (Campbell, 67), Sutton. Substitutes not used: Vaesen (gk), Birley.

Referee: D Gallagher (Oxfordshire).

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