Andy Carroll double delight as West Ham win at Middlesbrough
Whiplash victim Andy Carroll ensured the Dimitri Payet saga was forgotten for 90 minutes as he fired West Ham to a 3-1 victory at Middlesbrough.
The England striker, whose stunning volley against Crystal Palace last weekend confirmed his return to both fitness and form, gave the visitors the lead with a brutal ninth-minute header and then helped himself to a second from close range after Cristhian Stuani had levelled in front of a crowd of 30,848.
However, the Hammers, who claimed a third in added time through substitute Jonathan Calleri, had earlier been grateful for the woodwork at the Riverside Stadium as the unwitting Stuani was denied a second equaliser by the crossbar after charging down Aaron Cresswell's attempted clearance.
French playmaker Payet may remain absent as he looks to leave the club, but West Ham had enough firepower without him.
Any fears that Carroll's injury, suffered in last week's win against Crystal Palace, might hamper him were dispelled within nine minutes. He lost marker Bernardo and rose to power a trademark header past Victor Valdez from Manuel Lanzini's corner to hand the Hammers the perfect start.
With Lanzini, Michail Antonio and Sofiane Feghouli repeatedly stretching Boro with their pace, the visitors enjoyed the better of the early stages.
However, Aitor Karanka's men gradually worked their way into the game as Chelsea target Adama Traore, aided by right-back Calum Chambers and Stuani and George Friend on the opposite flank, pinned West Ham back.
They got their reward with 29 minutes gone when, after Marten de Roon, Alvaro Negredo and Adam Clayton combined to play Traore into space, he fed the overlapping Chambers.
Chambers crossed for Stuani to slide the ball back across helpless keeper Darren Randolph and inside the post.
Buoyed by the goal, the Teessiders stepped up another gear and Traore sent one cross skidding across Randolph's goal and another inches ahead of Negredo with the visitors living dangerously.
But they succumbed once again with two minutes of the half remaining when Antonio was allowed to run towards goal and unleash a powerful long-range effort which Victor Valdes could only parry and Carroll was on hand to slam home the rebound.
The Hammers wanted an injury-time penalty for Friend's clumsy challenge on Feghouli, but referee Martin Atkinson waved away their pleas.
Antonio passed up a glorious opportunity to increase his side's led within seconds of the restart when he headed over from Sam Byram's cross, and Lanzini was equally wasteful two minutes later, shooting straight at Valdes after being played in by Carroll.
However, Randolph had to claw away De Roon's header from a 56th-minute Traore cross and Chambers fired high over three minutes later after robbing Pedro Obiang as the home side responded.
But the keeper needed a stroke of good fortune when Cresswell attempted to clear Traore's dangerous 65th-minute cross. The defender blasted it straight at Stuani and saw the ball come back off the underside of the bar.
Substitute Rudy Gestede might have snatched a point for Boro late on when he latched on to Negredo's knock-down and volleyed towards goal, but the ball sailed wide with Randolph beaten.
Calleri made sure in stoppage time with a shot which deflected in off Adam Clayton.