Football

Sears seals crucial win for Hammers: Match Review

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Freddie Sears put the seal on a sweet 2-0 victory for West Ham as they climbed out of the relegation zone and sent Wolves crashing to the foot of the Barclays Premier League.

Winger Sears, a product of the club's academy and lifelong Hammers fan, struck from 15 yards in the 79th minute for his first goal since scoring on his debut in March 2008.

West Ham were already ahead by that stage, but they owed a debt of gratitude to Wolves' Ronald Zubar for their 51st-minute opener, the right-back letting the ball trickle in off his knee after Carlton Cole had taken an air shot.

Wolves had plenty of chances but Mick McCarthy's side, who won at Liverpool in midweek, could not find a way past Robert Green.

Sylvan Ebanks-Blake did beat the England goalkeeper but headed against the crossbar shortly before Sears scored the second goal.

West Ham boss Avram Grant, who for so long has been under pressure, might find that eases now.

Grant made four changes to his team after their 1-1 draw with Everton, bringing back Cole, Tal Ben Haim, Danny Gabbidon and Junior Stanislas who all featured in the Boxing Day win at Fulham, while Wolves were unchanged following their Anfield success.

Wolves went close when Stephen Hunt almost curled a corner from the right inside the near post, but Frederic Piquionne headed over his own bar.

Cole and Piquionne combined for the first time in the 10th minute, culminating in the latter lashing a 20-yard strike high and wide.

With Hunt on the left and Matt Jarvis on the right, Wolves had plenty of quality, while Hammers wideman Stanislas was also heavily involved early on and the hosts might have benefited had his crossing been of a higher standard.

Wolves won their fifth corner in the 19th minute and Hunt's delivery was a good one, culminating in Ebanks-Blake heading straight at Green.

At the other end, Sears sidestepped Christophe Berra before drilling a left-footed shot which Wayne Hennessey dealt with comfortably.

Cole should have scored after captain Scott Parker threaded a pass through the Wolves defence and into the striker's path, but the former Chelsea frontman made a hash of his finish from 10 yards and the ball bobbled wide of the left post.

Piquionne and Richard Stearman clashed off the ball just after the half-hour mark, when the French striker lashed out but escaped with a warning from referee Lee Probert.

West Ham went close to taking the lead when Stearman, on the goalline, booted away a firm shot from Sears.

Wolves had the first opening of the second half when smart play from Hunt fed Ebanks-Blake.

The striker's wayward shot took a deflection to bring about a corner, and then came a flurry of attempts on Green's goal, but Ebanks-Blake and Berra were foiled with headers and Green kept out a crisp left-footed strike from Stephen Ward before Nenad Milijas headed over from close range.

The visitors were dealt a huge blow after 51 minutes when West Ham took the lead in bizarre circumstances.

Piquionne sprinted down the right and sent over a cross which Cole ought to have smashed past Hennessey.

The striker missed his kick, yet his blushes were spared by Zubar, with the ball trickling off the defender's knee and into the bottom right corner.

Stearman was booked for a foul on Parker, with the crowd baying for a heavier punishment.

Upson looked a certain scorer in the 61st minute when he met a corner from Parker, but Hennessey managed to turn his header against the crossbar.

Mark Noble came off the bench to replace Stanislas after 70 minutes, and Wolves made a double switch when Steven Fletcher and David Edwards replaced George Elokobi and Hunt.

Ebanks-Blake should have equalised after 76 minutes but planted his close-range header against the bar after Fletcher picked him out with a cross from the right.

The cost of that miss was emphasised three minutes later when Sears steered Ben Haim's measured delivery from the right into the bottom left corner.

Sears, 21, celebrated exuberantly in front of the joyous home fans, who after seeing Avram Grant's side take eight points from a four-match unbeaten run can look forward to the rest of 2011 with growing optimism.

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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