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BRING ON UNITED!; High-flying Hammers battle cry.

West Ham 3

Wimbledon 1

Happy Hammers boss Harry Redknapp toasted his side's best start to a season for 11 years last night by trumpeting: "Bring on Manchester United.''

West Ham proved their high-flying start was no fluke by demolishing Wimbledon and now they can't wait for their next Premiership outing - a trip to Old Trafford.

"The way we're playing right now Alex Ferguson must be laying awake at night and worrying," joked Redknapp.

"It's great to be travelling up there in the top three instead of the bottom three. Our confidence is sky-high.

"When I was on holiday in Bermuda this summer somebody told me the bookies had me down as a leading candidate for the sack and that I'd do well to survive September. It'll be nice to prove them wrong.

"We've turned things round well and deserve the 10 points we have on the board. In fact, if we had the maximum 15 we wouldn't have been taking a liberty."

There was never any doubt about this win over a Wimbledon side who were outplayed for most of the 90 minutes.

West Ham totally dominated against a team who are still looking for their first win of the season.

And while Redknapp was characteristically chirpy, Wimbledon's performance rendered manager Joe Kinnear speechless.

He locked himself away in the dressing room and did not emerge until two hours after the final whistle.

When he finally did surface, Kinnear claimed: "I'm not despondent and there's no panic here. We are strong enough to stay up and nothing will change my mind about that."

Kinnear hopes to sign a player from West Ham within 48 hours and the leading candidate is midfield man Ian Bishop.

Perhaps Kinnear would be better advised to buy a striker. To win matches you need to score goals and that's something the Dons seldom looked like doing yesterday.

They managed one from second half sub Efan Ekoku 11 minutes frm time. But it was too little too late.

West Ham were so superior it was a surprise they had to wait until the 47th minute to start the scoring.

Once they were off the mark there was no stopping them and they ripped the heart out of Wimbledon with two more goals in quick succession.

John Hartson started the rout with a wonder strike. He collected a pass from Iain Dowie and then moved inside to leave Neil Sullivan helpless with a ferocious right foot shot.

Five minutes later centre half Marc Rieper popped up in the box to meet a free kick from Eyal Berkovic with a glancing header.

Sixty seconds later Israeli internatinal Berkovic bagged the third. And no one deserved it more.

A long ball from Tim Breacker sent Berkovic racing clear from the halfway line and he kept his head to steer the ball past the advancing Sullivan.

"Berkovic is a class act who plays four or five killer passes in every game. And he gets goals as well,'' said Redknapp.

"A lot of players have improved recently and we look a decent, well balanced side."

That's more than can be said of Wimbledon.

WEST HAM.- Miklosko 7; Breacker 7, Unsworth 7, Rieper 7, Hartson 7, Lomas 7, Dowie 7, Ferdinand 7, Moncur 7, Lazaridis 7, BERKOVIC 8.

WIMBLEDON.- Sullivan 6; Cunningham 7, Kimble 6, Blackwell 7, Earle 6, Holdsworth 5 (Gayle 6), Perry 8, McAllister 6 (Clarke 6), Ardley 6, Jupp 7, Euell 6 (Ekoku 6).
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Steggles, Jack
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 31, 1997
Words:576
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