They even asked for the kick-off to be put back in order to give them time to warm up sufficiently, but to no avail. And they were caught cold at the start of each half as French star Payet fired West Ham to their first home win this season. “We can make excuses and say the preparation wasn’t ideal, but it’s no excuse,” said McClaren. “We felt the preparation wasn’t long enough and asked the referee to put it back. “But we didn’t do tonight what we have done for the previous four games in terms of organisation, discipline and being hard to beat, we lacked that. “We shot ourselves in the foot, especially for second goal. “It’s a learning process and we’ve learned a lot tonight. You don’t like going through nights like tonight, it’s painful, but sometimes you have to.” West Ham could sense Newcastle were there for the taking after just nine minutes when £10.5million summer signing Payet capped a sweeping move with a stunning opener. Mark Noble collected Diafra Sakho’s backheel in the penalty area and laid the ball back for the midfielder to coolly sidefoot a curling effort into the top corner. Three minutes into the second half West Ham doubled their lead when Victor Moses was desperately unlucky not to mark an impressive first appearance with a goal. The Chelsea loanee ran almost the length of the field following a Newcastle free-kick, only to crash his shot against the crossbar. The ball bounced down and out towards the lurking Payet, who thumped it into an empty net to take his tally for the season to three. “We fully deserved the three points, we were better from the start and we scored at the right time,” said Bilic. “It’s small proof that we really did well in the transfer window. Payet is a player I wanted from the start. “I’ve known him for a long time, he is one of those players who is not only a great player who scores goals and makes goals, but he also makes the players around him play better.” The Hammers are now up to fifth in the Barclays Premier League but Bilic added: ” I didn’t set targets in terms of finishing in the top 10. “Our target is that we want a good team that can defend with numbers and can attack with numbers, a team who can keep the ball. “If we succeed in that that should give us more points. But I don’t know if we will be fifth, or 15th.” Steve McClaren was forced to endure another miserable evening at the hands of Slaven Bilic as Newcastle slumped 2-0 at West Ham. McClaren, who lost his job as England boss eight years ago after a Wembley defeat to Bilic’s Croatia, saw his side shot down by two goals from Hammers new boy Dimitri Payet. The night did not start well for the Toon, either, after they arrived late at the stadium having had to walk the last mile of the journey due to the heavy traffic. Press Association
Trainer Harry Fry is plotting a crack at the Grade Two prize on January 14 with the lightly-raced eight-year-old after she impressed in her debut victory over fences at Exeter last month. The seven-times race winner’s previous visit to Ireland last April saw her claim her biggest success to date when capturing a Grade One mares’ novices’ hurdle at Fairyhouse. Fry said: “Bitofapuzzle came out of her race at Exeter very well. As long as the weather doesn’t interrupt, she will go to Thurles for the Grade Two mares novices’ chase on the 14th. “You could not have asked for any more from her at Exeter. She jumped really well and literally galloped her rivals into the ground. “Noel Fehily couldn’t believe how far clear she was halfway down the side of the course. Hopefully this is the start of an exciting career over fences for her.” Fry has pencilled in the Altcar Novices’ Chase at Haydock later this month as the next port of call for Activial. The seven-year-old struck at the second time of asking over fences at Exeter on New Year’s Day having finished second at Newbury on his chasing debut. With the grey now a winner over the larger obstacles, the Seaborough handler is keen to step him back up in class for a tilt at the Grade Two contest on January 23. He said: “We pitched him in a Grade Two first time out over fences and he ran well but he was a little bit novicey. “The idea of going to Exeter was to give him more experience and get his head back in front and it was a case of mission accomplished. “His jumping still needs tidying up but there was a definite improvement. I am keen to get as many runs as possible into him and the plan is now to go to Haydock for the Grade Two on the 23rd. “He is still a work in progress, but hopefully the more runs he has, the more confident he will get.” Bitofapuzzle is being lined up for a trip to Ireland later this month for a shot at the Ocovango Coolmore National Hunt Sires EBF Mares Novice Chase at Thurles. Press Association
Juventus have been linked with a move for Manchester City striker Edin Džeko, reports sportsmole.co.uk.The Bosnian is rumoured to be heading for the exit door at the Etihad Stadium after struggling to live up to his £26m price tag since moving from Wolfsburg two years ago.The Bianocneri were believed to be tracking the 27-year-old before he joined the Citizens and are known to be in the market for another forward this summer.According to Il Sussidiario, Antonio Conte wants Džeko to partner the incoming Fernando Llorente, who is joining on a free transfer from Athletic Bilbao at the end of the season.Džeko has scored 12 goals in 28 Premier League appearances this season.