St. James' Park
Barclays Premier League
By Anthony Marshall
NEWCASTLE UNITED 5 (Best 18, 39, 60; Nolan 45, Lovenkrands 63)
WEST HAM UNITED 0
LEON Best hit a hat-trick on his first Premier League start as Newcastle thumped West Ham 5-0 at St. James' Park.
The Magpies built on Sunday's victory at Wigan with a fine team performance that will have delighted manager Alan Pardew, and they fully deserved the margin of victory for a slick, attacking performance which cut through the visitors time and time again.
Inside the opening four minutes Best had two chances to notch his maiden Newcastle goal.
First, Joey Barton drilled a diagonal cross onto the striker's chest just inside the area, only for a last-ditch tackle from James Tomkins to deny him. And then the same pair combined, with Best directing Barton's left-footed delivery wide of the target.
Cheik Tiote was next to try his luck, but dragged an effort from distance wide of the upright.
Despite all their pressure though, it was West Ham who forced the first save of the match on 13 minutes. Former Newcastle midfielder Scott Parker was given time and space to drive forward from midfield and struck a fierce effort which moved through the air and had Steve Harper diving to his left to keep it out.
But the Magpies hit back and Jose Enrique skipped beneath two challenges out on the left flank before sending over a cross which looked to be sneaking in until the intervention of Hammers keeper Robert Green.
Newcastle finally got the breakthrough on 18 minutes and it was just rewards for their early pressure. Best flicked a long ball on to strike partner Peter Lovenkrands, and when it was returned back to him the front man kept his cool to fire left-footed past Green into the bottom corner.
The hosts continued to apply the pressure as they went in search of goal number two. When West Ham failed to properly clear a corner, Jonas Gutierrez seized upon the loose ball, cut in from the left and shot low through a group of players, which Green did well to hold.
And they doubled thier advantage on 39 minutes through that man Best again. The Hammers were caught cold by a free-kick straight off the training ground, as Barton surprised everyone with a reverse pass into the path of Lovenkrands.
His drive across the face of goal found its way to Best, lurking at the far post, and the former Coventry striker did the rest - checking back inside and sending a shot beyond Green's grasp.
But the Magpies weren't done there and captain Kevin Nolan made it three right on the stroke of half-time. Again, West Ham failed to clear their lines properly and Gutierrez's cross was only knocked into the path of Nolan, who calmly side-footed home from just inside the area.
In an effort to improve their fortunes the visitors made a double change at the break, introducing Valon Behrami and Victor Obinna in place of Frederic Piquionne and Radoslav Kovac.
And Behrami mustered a rare chance for Avram Grant's side 13 minutes after the restart, but could only shank his strike high and wide having done well to ride two challenges.
However, normal service was resumed on the hour mark as Best completed his hat-trick to mark an unforgettable night. Enrique cut inside and slipped the ball into the path of Nolan, who played a first time pass behind the West Ham defence.
Best was on to it like a shot and steadied himself before hammering a shot past Green.
Just a further four minutes elapsed before Green was picking the ball out of the back of his net for a fifth time. Best headed on into the path of Barton, and his right-wing cross was easily tucked home by the unmarked Lovenkrands at the front post.
Having done his work for the night, Best was instantly withdrawn - to a standing ovation - and replaced by youngster Nile Ranger, while there was also a Premier League debut for 19-year-old Shane Ferguson in place of Gutierrez.
Harper was twice called into action as the clock ticked away to make smart save from Carlton Cole, and Freddie Sears rounded the keeper only to flash his shot across the face of goal. But that was as good as it got for West Ham who had long been put out of sight.
Newcastle (4-4-2): Steve Harper; Danny Simpson, Fabricio Coloccini, Steven Taylor (Mike Williamson 46), Jose Enrique; Joey Barton, Cheik Tiote, Kevin Nolan (c), Jonas Gutierrez (Shane Ferguson 66); Leon Best (Nile Ranger 64), Peter Lovenkrands
West Ham (4-4-2): Robert Green; Tal Ben-Haim, James Tomkins, Matthew Upson (c), Danny Gabbidon; Freddie Sears, Scott Parker, Radoslav Kovac (Victor Obina 46), Mark Noble (Zavon Hines 70); Frederic Piiquionne (Valon Behrami 46), Carlton Cole
Subs not used: Ruud Boffin, Winston Reid, Jonathan Spector, Pablo Berrera
Referee: MIke Dean
Attendance: 42,387 (787 West Ham)