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West Ham reap benefits from their academy graduates

SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER: Mark Noble (centre) enjoys the moment after his crucial penalty

WEST HAM got back to winning ways in dispatching a disappointing Newcastle with minimal fuss. Victory here saw Manuel Pellegrini’s charges complete a season double over the Magpies, with goals from Declan Rice and Mark Noble.

That the goalscorers were West Ham academy graduates, separated a generation, was fitting given that the club chose today to rename the east stand in honour of another alumnus: former captain, manager and record appearance holder Billy Bonds.

Relegation will not be a concern in east London this season but Rafa Benitez’s side, on the other hand, are not quite out of the mire, even if there are likely to be three inferior teams come May’s denouement.

This was West Ham’s evening and they were ahead with seven minutes on the clock.

The Hammers had forced two corners in quick succession and the second saw Rice claim his second goal in claret and blue.

Rice evaded the clutches of Fabian Schar a little too easily and met Robert Snodgrass’ corner with a powerful header that picked out the bottom corner before Martin Dubravka could adequately react.

West Ham were ascendant without ever hitting the heights, not that it mattered. As Fulham were obliging opponents at this stadium eight days ago, Newcastle were laboured and ineffective. A fact compounded by crucial errors that gifted West Ham two goals.

The second came on 42 minutes after Florian Lejeune clipped Javier Hernandez’s ankle in the Newcastle penalty area to leave referee Chris Kavanagh with little option but to point to the spot.

Noble demonstrated a cool head in thumping the resultant penalty into the top corner after Kavanagh halted the West Ham captain’s initial run-up due to encroachment from his teammates and opponents alike.

The other major incident of the first half was the accidental clash of heads between Aaron Cresswell and Javier Manquillo that drew blood from both.

Manquillo stayed down longer and sported a bandage for the remainder of the match but Cresswell lasted just a further 22 minutes before sensibly making way for Arthur Masuaku.

The onus was on Newcastle to change the course of this contest but a turnaround seemed improbable.

When Lukasz Fabianski repelled Salomon Rondon just before the hour mark it was the visitors’ first effort on target. The Venezuelan would rattle the post with a free-kick late on but there was little sense of jeopardy for the hosts.

At the other end, Pellegrini, who once again preferred Hernandez to spearhead his attack in place of Marko Arnautovic, would introduce the latter for the former, though it had little bearing on the outcome.

Another positive for the Hammers was playmaker Manuel Lanzini completing 90 minutes for the first time since returning from his long injury lay-off.

As the second half wore on there was ample opportunity for the locals to reminisce and sing Bonds’ name; a luxury they readily indulged.

Bonzo, as he is affectionately known in these parts, could not have enjoyed a much better evening.

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