Alvin Martin scores a hat-trick against 3 different goalkeepers in a memorable match in the chase for the Division 1 league title during the 1985/86 season.
In April 1986, West Ham United, managed by John Lyall, were still in the race for the 1st Division league title and their season had been one of the best so far in the top flight. With a strike force of McAvennie and Cottee who scored 26 and 20 goals each throughout the season, which also included a run of 9 consecutive wins. Frank McAvennie had signed in the summer from St Mirren and Mark Ward from Oldham, the Hammers were pushing both Liverpool and Everton down to the wire for the league title. Martin himself says that “We were always accused of being too nice. Those signings of McAvennie and Ward made us a little angry.”
But the final run in for the end of the season had been impacted by the severe weather over the Winter months, restricting the Hammers to playing just 4 league games between Boxing Day and March. Due to the fixture congestion, the Hammers were faced with 9 games in 29 days throughout April, winning seven of them including the unique match against Newcastle United on 21st April 1986.
It wasn’t just the scoreline that made this such a memorable game, but the fact that Martin achieved his hat-trick against 3 different goalkeepers. The Magpies regular keeper Mark Thomas had suffered an injury during the season and loan signing David McKeller joined from Hibernian to cover, but he had also sustained an injury. Thomas had returned to the side for their trip to Upton Park which Martin says “Of the 586 games I played for West Ham, this is the one people always come back to, and they all say they were there.”
Newcastle were tenth in the league at the time but as underdogs, surely they would not have expected to be torn apart by a team playing some of the most breathtakingly free flowing attacking football that has been witnessed at Upton Park. The Hammers came out of the blocks like a team possessed pushing the Magpies back and forcing errors in defence. Hedworth brought down Orr and Devonshire’s free kick found Martin who volleyed the ball home on the 3rd minute of the game.
By half time the Hammers were racing away with a 4-0 lead and the pick of the goals came from Orr’s 30 yard drive that flew into the net. As if it could not get worse for Newcastle, Thomas’ injured shoulder was sore and he did not return to the pitch after half time, instead Hedworth came on to go between the sticks in only his fourth first team appearance. After being powerless to stop Martin’s headed second goal from Ward’s right wing corner in the 64th minute, Hedworth was lead off the field with a broken collar bone after a challenge from Cottee.
In comes Peter Beardsley to put on the keepers gloves and see out the rest of what proved to be a thorough thrashing from the Hammers. Despite being in line to earn his fourth cap for England in the upcoming match against Scotland at Wembley, Beardsley’s short comings in goal were cruelly exposed. Martin’s final goal for his hat-trick was from the penalty sport after Roeder had handled the ball. Magpies managed a consolation goal from Billy Whitehurst, goals from Ray Stewart, Glenn Roeder – own goal, Frank McAvennie and Paul Goddard secured an 8-1 victory that took the Hammers above Manchester United on goal difference.
In the end, West Ham lost out on 2nd place in the final game of the campaign losing 3-1 to Everton after Liverpool had won the title on the previous final Saturday of the season. At West Ham, Martin says there were no regrets. ‘We didn’t throw it away, we were just behind a brilliant Liverpool team.’ West Ham won the next four matches after beating the Magpies at Upton Park, but so did Liverpool. In the previous season the Hammers had finished 16th so coming third was quite a marked improvement.
Surely a game that will live long in the memory of those who were there, both on the pitch and in the stands.