By Martyn Herman
Newcastle United slumped to the foot of the Premier League table after a 2-0 defeat at West Ham United on Monday left manager Steve McClaren still seeking a first win in charge.
Dimitri Payet was Newcastle’s chief tormentor, scoring early in each half to lift West Ham into the top five with three wins and two defeats from their opening five games.
If West Ham are unpredictable, Newcastle have been predictably uninspired under new boss McClaren and they offered little to excite their fans at Upton Park.
After being delayed en route because of pre-match traffic and needing to walk the last mile to the ground, Newcastle’s players began slowly and went behind after nine minutes when Frenchman Payet took a pass from Mark Noble and placed a rising shot into the top corner from the edge of the penalty area.
Payet, impressive since signing from Marseille during the transfer window, doubled West Ham’s lead three minutes after the interval when he calmly volleyed the ball home from close range after Victor Moses struck the underside of the crossbar with a fierce drive following a counter-attack.
Newcastle, who have two points and dropped below north east rivals Sunderland because of an inferior scoring record, enjoyed plenty of possession without forcing West Ham goalkeeper Darren Randolph into a difficult save.
They have found the net only twice this season, the lowest total in the top four divisions, and former England manager McClaren is already under pressure to turn things around.
“I don’t know what it was, whether it was the journey, late getting here, the 10-minute warm-up, but we said before no excuses, deal with it, and maybe we didn’t deal with it.
“It was a big wake-up call for everybody because in this Premier League if you are not at 100 percent you get beat,” he said.
West Ham’s first home win of the season after defeats by Leicester City and Bournemouth edged them up five places, six points behind leaders Manchester City, and gave manager Slaven Bilic plenty of reasons to be cheerful.
He even had the luxury of sending on injury-plagued England striker Andy Carroll in the closing stages for his first action since February.
“The second half I was very proud of the team, we were very solid,” former West Ham player Bilic, who as Croatia coach in 2007 masterminded a win over England that cost McClaren his job, told Sky Sports.
“This is proof that we are on the right way and proof we did well in the transfer window.”