Hutch saves Hammers

By Eric Brown of PA

Deadly Don Hutchison swept West Ham clear of relegation danger with two goals in successive minutes to launch an Upton Park survival knees-up.

Hutchison's quickfire double strike means the fourth relegation spot will be filled by either Crystal Palace, Aston Villa or Sheffield Wednesday after Sunday's final Premiership programme of the season.

The former Anfield man haunted his ex-colleagues with clinical finishing he has rarely produced since his £5million September move from Liverpool.

Hutchison has been sent off, consigned to the reserves after losing form and was substituted on his previous three appearances. But when it mattered he delivered the goods.

There seemed little danger when Trevor Morley found him with a 60th minute pass on the edge of the Liverpool penalty area but Hutchison turned and fired a crisp low drive into the right-hand corner before any visiting defender shaped to tackle.

A minute later Tim Breacker's lofted 30-yard pass sailed over the Liverpool defence for Hutchison to run on and beat stranded David James.

The vital opening goal came from a player who cost only a fraction of Hutchison's fee. Matthew Holmes, a snip from Bournemouth, scores at the rate of only one every dozen matches or so. But he chose this vital game to get his name on the scoresheet in the league for the first time in over a year.

When John Moncur slipped a short pass through the Liverpool defence, Holmes blasted a cross-shot past James after 29 minutes.

Steve Potts ended Liverpool's hopes of a swift equaliser with a superbly timed tackle on Nigel Clough as the former England man closed in on a Dominic Matteo pass.

Robbie Fowler shot over an open goal as much-depleted Liverpool seemed unable or unwilling to match their superb approach play in front of goal.

Clough and Steve McManaman also missed comfortable chances in the closing stages as West Ham, with just one defeat in their last 10 matches, ensured survival with their first home win over Liverpool since the 1982-83 season.

On this form the East Enders certainly deserve another episode of Premiership football.

Copyright - Press Association

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