Date: 5th February 2006 at 12:57pm
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Dean Ashton didn’t let the hefty £7million transfer fee weigh heavy on his shoulders as he made his first full start in claret and blue.

The England Under-21 international struck with just nine minutes to go in a match that was more tougher than many predicted. Sunderland maybe down and out without a hope or a prayer, but they put up shop at Upton Park and it almost worked.

Ashton scored one of the easiest tap-in goals he will ever score to lift the pressure, and Paul Konchesky had time to make it 2-0 with a low strike from the edge of the box.

The Black Cats had full-back Stephen Wright sent off for two bookings to add to their woe. The former Liverpool defender made a rash challenge on Matthew Etherington and, given an earlier caution, referee Rob Styles had little option but to show the right-back a second yellow card.

With his team now facing an uphill battle, McCarthy made a tactical change, replacing Anthony Le Tallec with Nyron Nosworthy.

West Ham stepped up their pressure with the extra man, and peppered the Sunderland penalty area from both flanks. But despite their numerical advantage, West Ham were struggling to make headway in the final third, as Sunderland got plenty of men behind the ball.

The visitors soaked up plenty more pressure around the edge of their own penalty area, but went into the break on level terms.

Veteran striker Teddy Sheringham was sent on for Bobby Zamora at the start of the second half but the change did not make an instant impact as the tempo showed little signs of improving.

Marlon Harewood was sent on for Hayden Mullins in the 73rd minute and the Hammers substitute soon had an effort ruled out for offside after Davis had saved from Ashton.

But Sunderland’s brave resistance was finally broken with just nine minutes left when Harewood got clear down the right and his low cross was parried by Davis straight into the path of Ashton who swept the ball home at the far post. The former Norwich man should have had a second moments later but stabbed Konchesky’s near-post effort wide from six yards.

But the Hammers did make it 2-0 when left-back Konchesky, with three minutes left, sent a 25-yard effort goalwards, which squirmed under the Sunderland keeper.