Sam Baldock grabs brace as West Ham thump Blackpool
West Ham 4 Blackpool 0: Steve Blowers reports from Upton Park
Blackpool were left all at sea by this fantastic four-goal blast that sent the Hammers into second spot in the Championship, writes STEVE BLOWERS.
The Tangerines were simply tangoed by Sam Allardyce’s side, who saw in-form Norwegian John Carew give them an interval lead before Sam Baldock hit a quick-fire double just after the break, ahead of Jack Collison cementing this emphatic victory.
Kicking off in fourth spot, two points and four places above his former team, Big Sam made a quartet of changes from the side that had drawn at Crystal Palace two weeks ago.
Baldock, Carew, Winston Reid and Matt Taylor each returned to a welcome 4-4-2 formation in place of substitute Abdoulaye Faye, rested duo Henri Lansbury and Carlton Cole plus on-loan David Bentley, whose midweek knee surgery has seen him return to Tottenham Hotspur.
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And Carew, who had followed up his late equaliser at Selhurst Park with a midweek goal for Norway against Cyprus, took just a dozen minutes to find the net with another timely strike.
Skipper Kevin Nolan superbly swept the ball out wide to Julien Faubert, who delivered an inch-perfect right-wing cross towards the penalty spot, where the towering striker out-jumped Ian Evatt to send a downward header inside the base of Matt Gilks’ right-hand post.
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With the claret-and-blue fans amongst the sun-soaked crowd of 31,448 still celebrating Carew’s opener, strike-partner Baldock then tried his luck with a 25-yarder that bounced off the ribcage of the Blackpool keeper, who smothered the ball at the second attempt.
As the half-hour mark approached, Carew seized onto a defensive error and only a fantastic fingertip save from Gilks prevented him from doubling the Hammers lead, while the keeper’s outstretched leg also denied him once again as the internal neared.
Tangerines boss, Ian Holloway had made two changes from the side that had handed Bristol City a five-goal thrashing a fortnight ago as on-loan Thomas Ince – son of infamous ex-Hammer, Paul – and Matt Hill came in for Craig Cathcart and Craig Sutherland.
Although the visitors’ approach play was neat and tidy, they were lacking a cutting edge during an opening spell that saw Barry Ferguson and Jonjo Shelvey launch long-range efforts into the Bobby Moore Stand, while low shots from Kevin Phillips and Shelvey were also easily gathered by on-loan Manuel Almunia.
Indeed, it was a painful opening first-half in more ways than one for Blackpool, as both Ince and Gary Taylor-Fletcher were felled by Taylor and Faubert, who were consequently cautioned by Billericay-based Andy D’Urso, who did little to endear himself to his fellow East Enders during those first 45 minutes.
But the half-time boos for the referee quickly turned to cheers for Baldock, whose two goals inside the opening eight minutes of the second period ensured that all three points were soon in the bag.
Within two minutes of the restart, the 22-year-old capture from MK Dons got behind the pushed-up Blackpool defence and, as the flag stayed down, he coolly ran onto Taylor’s header forward and opened his Hammers account with a low 15-yarder that curled beyond the helplessly exposed Gilks.
And on 53 minutes, Baldock doubled his tally when he bundled the ball over the line after the hesitant Tangerines’ keeper failed to gather from the advancing, juggling Carew.
Quite simply, Blackpool were on the rocks and, just seconds later, galloping George McCartney climaxed his charge down the left flank with a low cross into the box that Gilkes beat into the path of Collison, who had all the time in the world to pick his spot and make it four.
The breaking Baldock was then denied the match-ball by Gilks’ left ankle, and after Taylor also clipped over, Carew selfishly tried an ambitious curler to the fury of his unmarked partner, who would almost certainly have claimed his hat-trick if the Norwegian had gone for the simple square pass.
When Baldock did finally get the ball into the net for a third time, his joy was thwarted by an offside flag and, as the contest entered the final quarter-hour, Gilks again turned another rasping shot aside.
A treble would have been the icing on the cake but the Hammers’ new-boy still trotted off with his head held high ahead of Tuesday’s mouth-watering trip to table-topping Southampton.
HAMMERS: Almunia, Faubert, McCartney, Reid, Tomkins (Faye 60), Collison, Taylor (Sears 62), Nolan, Diop, Baldock, Carew (Noble 80). Unused: Boffin, Piquionne.
BLACKPOOL: Gilks, Baptiste, Crainey, Evatt, Hill, Ince (Omerod 72), Shelvey (Lua Lua 72), Ferguson, Southern, Taylor-Fletcher, Phillips (Bogdanovic 72),. Unused: Howard, Eardley,
Booked: Taylor (7), Faubert (18), Lua Lua (90).
Referee: Andy D’Urso (Billericay)