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West Ham strolled to an impressive victory at Barnsley to keep alive their fading automatic promotion hopes

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Barnsley 0 West Ham United 4

West Ham kept alive their slim chance of automatic promotion as they swept aside Barnsley at Oakwell with a clinical performance that gave them a club-record 12th away victory of the campaign.

Yet another win by relentless Reading earlier in the day stretched the gap between the Hammers and the top two and piled more pressure on Sam Allardyce’s men, but they responded in style and had wrapped up this game long before half time.

The initiated watching on tv must have been wondering why the Hammers were not running away with the Championship as for much of the time this was a Premier League performance by the east London outfit.

Allardyce surprisingly recalled Guy Demel at full back, while Nicky Maynard was preferred to Carlton Cole up front and Winston Reid returned instead of Abdoulaye Faye.

In the first attack of note from either team on seven minutes, West Ham grabbed the lead. Matt Taylor’s corner flew through a crowd of players, deflected of Craig Davies and fell invitingly for Kevin Nolan to tap in from close range.

It was the skipper’s 11th goal of the campaign and he could have added a second four minutes later when he latched on to Mark Noble’s floating free kick, only to fire a volley wide.

West Ham were passing Barnsley off the park by this stage and Ricardo Vaz Te set up Gary O’Neil for a chance which he blazed over the top, before the former Barnsley man tried himself with an overhead kick which was straight at the keeper.

The home side’s only real early chance came when Rob Green’s poor kick was almost fired back in by Davies, but West Ham made it 2-0 on 23 minutes with a beautifully executed goal.

Nicky Maynard played a clever one-two with Nolan and then hit a low shot from the edge of the box that skidded past David Button and into the corner of the net.

Vaz Te had a chance to make it three when he raced past two defenders to get to the danger area, only to decide not to shoot, but seconds later the game was out of sight.

Button went to deal with a back-pass, but was spooked by the sliding arrival of Maynard and miscontrolled the ball into the path of Noble on the left edge of the penalty area.

The midfielder looked up and lobbed Button perfectly to put the ball into the empty net and score his eighth goal of the season, but his first from open play.

Matt Taylor’s low centre was almost turned in by Maynard before half time, while all Barnsley had to show for their efforts in that first half was a couple of moments for David Cotterill on the right which were both expertly cleaned up by the Reid.

The Hammers continued their dominance after the break as they simply outclassed the home side with their passing game which prompted more of those ‘we play it on the floor’ chants.

Nolan headed O’Neil’s cross wide and then on 55 minutes they made it 4-0.

George McCartney cut in from the left and hit a right-foot shot that was palmed out by Button, but Vaz Te reacted first to volley home the rebound and score against his old club.

In truth it could have been many more. Maynard shot wide and then sent another shot crashing against the crossbar.

Allardyce brought on Danny Collins, Henri Lansbury and Papa Bouba Diop and the lively Lansbury went close with a drilled shot that forced a decent save, before he put in Maynard to score what looked like a fifth, only for it to be ruled out for offside.

Green had to save well from O’Brien late on, but that was the only danger to the Hammers in that second half as they cruised to a magnificent victory.

West Ham: Green 7, Demel 6 (Collins 59, 6), McCartney 7, Tomkins 8, Reid 9, Vaz Te 8, Nolan 9*, Noble 8 (Diop 81), O’Neil 7 (Lansbury 70, 7), Taylor 6, Maynard 8.

Unused subs: Baldock, Cole.

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