Sat 09 Apr 11
at 18:06 PM
Report: Wanderers 3 West Ham 0
Wanderers warmed-up for the FA Cup semi-final in perfect style by inflicting their eighth successive defeat on West Ham United.
The largest home crowd of the season, who had waited five weeks to see their team in action, were treated to a brilliant afternoon of football as Owen Coyle's charges chalked-up yet another impressive win at the Reebok.
Wanderers were two goals up at half-time thanks to Daniel Sturridge's curling effort and Chung-Yong Lee's header.
And Sturridge completed the scoring early on in the second half with another equally well-taken goal.
The result - Wanderers' fourth successive home victory following on from the successes over Wolves, Everton and Aston Villa since the turn of the year - maintained their eighth-placed position in the Premier League table.
Owen Coyle made two changes to his starting line-up from the previous weekend at Birmingham as Chung-Yong Lee and Zat Knight both returned. With nine yellow cards to his name, there were no risks taken with David Wheater ahead of the FA Cup semi-final, while Tamir Cohen dropped down to the bench.
With the Reebok bathed in glorious sunshine, there was a real feel-good factor around the place, especially with just under 26,000 fans taking the opportunity to watch the encounter as part of the reduced tickets price promotion.
Bolton seemed up for the challenge right from the first whistle and they could have easily found themselves one or two goals to up before they did nudge themselves in front on 14 minutes.
After Sturridge had earlier seen a close-range attempt deflected inches around the post, the in-form striker buried a superb curling effort into the top corner.
Davies laid the ball into the path of Elmander, who in turn fed Sturridge. The on-loan striker took a quick glance up and, with a precise curling effort, beat Robert Green from the edge of the area. The England goalkeeper had no chance despite a full stretched dive to his right.
It was a lead that was thoroughly deserved, and one which was doubled six minutes later through Chung-Yong Lee.
The South Korean, as he did in the FA Cup quarter-final clash at St Andrew's, found himself in the right place at the right time to plant a bullet header past Green.
Elmander switched the ball over to the left touchline for Petrov, who sent across the perfect first-time centre into the six-yard box. It was such a quality cross that Chung-Yong hardly needed to move, as he made firm contact to guide the ball low into the back of the net.
The first half was all one way traffic as Bolton's slick football left the West Ham players chasing shadows, and those inside the ground with a Wanderers preference would have, in fact, felt that the 2-0 scoreline flattered West Ham at the break.
Rob Green did well to turn a Kevin Davies around the post with his feet, Gary Cahill headed narrowly wide, while Martin Petrov and Johan Elmander both displayed great balance to pivot on the edge of the box before unfortunately dragging their efforts wide of the upright.
As far as first halves go, it was right up there with Bolton's best of the season. The Hammers only real chance had come early on when Wayne Bridge got a run on goal, only for Gretar Steinsson to race across and make a well-timed challenge inside his own penalty area.
Avram Grant, obviously displeased with what he had seen in the opening 45 minutes, made two changes at the break with Carlton Cole and Lars Jacobsen drafted into proceedings to replace Matthew Upson and Frederic Piquionne.
The substitutions seemed to have a desired effect in the opening exchanges of the second-half as West Ham came out with more purpose.
That was, however, for just six minutes as Daniel Sturridge scored his second and Bolton's third of the game on 51 minutes.
The 21-year-old collected the ball midway in the Hammers' half, carried the ball 15 yards forward and hit a brilliantly-placed low finish into the bottom corner of net from the edge of the box.
Sturridge was good value for his brace, and there were further opportunities for him to claim his hat-trick as the half progressed.
On no less than three occasions he beat the West Ham offside trap, only for his final finish to evade him, most notably when a right-footed effort was dragged across goal.
In truth, Wanderers' defence had much more work to do in the second half. Demba Ba was the visitors' main threat, and he could have had a goal or two to his name if it wasn't for bad fortune.
The former Hoffenheim man found Jussi Jaaskelainen in fine form when he guided a close-range header at the target, while the post thwarted the Senegalese international later on.
Gary Cahill and Zat Knight was also tested from wide areas, with the latter showing no signs of rustiness in his first match since his six-week injury lay-off. This was evident when the former Fulham man made two particularly important interceptions with his foot and head.
As time ticked by, Owen Coyle made three quick-fire substitutions as Chung-Yong, Petrov and Davies were all brought off to ensure they picked up no suspensions or injuries ahead of the FA Cup semi-final.
Ivan Klasnic was one of the replacements and his first involvement was to beat two West Ham men and fire a yard wide of the far post from 12 yards out.
Wanderers continued to press and probe in search of more goals and another substitute, Rodrigo, could have found the fourth in the final minute, with Green makimng a decent save diving low to his left.
But three goals and a clean sheet ensured that there was a huge cheer of delight from the Wanderers faithful when referee Lee Probert blew for full-time after two additional minutes.