Two-goal Hutchison keeps West Ham up

By Martin Smith of "The Daily Telegraph"

WEST HAM became the latest club to confirm their Premiership status this week, leaving Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Sheffield Wednesday to contest the one outstanding relegation place in the final round of games on Sunday.

Two goals in two minutes either side of the hour by Don Hutchison, against his old club, secured the three points that made it impossible for Palace to overtake West Ham.

Hutchison was pressed into front-line action when injuries ruled out Tony Cottee and Jeroen Boere for the rest of the season. His two goals were his 10th and 11th since moving from Enfield; in contrast, the goal that set West Ham moving came from the unlikely source of Matty Holmes, with his first for 13-and-a-half months.

Harry Redknapp, the West Ham manager, said afterwards: "It was a vital game for us. One defeat in 10 games is great form at this stage of the season, especially when people looked at our run-in and thought we were dead and buried."

However, Redknapp recognised the need to spend to avoid a similar struggle next season.

Doubts have been raised about Liverpool's commitment

Liverpool were attractive, if accommodating, opposition, Saturday's stroll in the sun at Villa Park replaced by a stroll under the Upton Park floodlights.

They have collected 13 points from nine League games since qualifying for Europe by winning the Coca-Cola Cup and doubts have been raised about their commitment.

Though it was comfortable for West Ham in the end, it looked far from that after 13 minutes when Julian Dicks hobbled off with a damaged ankle. However, the subsequent reorganisation barely hampered West Ham, and they took the lead after 29 minutes.

John Moncur instigated a break inside the centre circle, playing the ball out to Holmes, who strode on, cutting in on goal and shooting across David James into the far bottom corner.

Robbie Fowler had Liverpool's best chance, just minutes before Hutchison turned the game in West Ham's favour. Fowler looked a forlorn figure in the absence of his partner, Ian Rush, and turned Michael Thomas's low centre over the crossbar.

Trevor Morley set up Hutchison's first, which he drove low past James; Moncur's long pass did the damage for the second, allowing Hutchison to move behind the Liverpool defence.

Now Sunday's sell-out home game against Manchester United takes on less significance for West Ham, in direct contrast to United.

Copyright - The Daily Telegraph

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