David Moyes got the perfect response from West Ham’s players and supporters as peace finally broke out at the London Stadium.
A 3-0 win over Southampton, courtesy of a first Hammers goal from Joao Mario and two from the superb Marko Arnautovic, moved them five points clear of the relegation zone and, more importantly, calmed a previously mutinous crowd.
After West Ham’s 3-0 home defeat by Burnley was overshadowed by pitch invasions, missile-throwing and protests in front of the directors’ box, there were real fears of more unsavoury scenes.
But what a difference three weeks, and three goals, makes. A peaceful protest against the board took place outside the ground before the game but a truce was called inside.
“The players showed how they felt about past events, they were pent up and ready to go,” said Hammers boss Moyes.
“I thought before kick-off the supporters showed they are with the club and with the team, and then the players showed what they were going to do. They really kicked on.
“It was a really big game for us, if we’d lost we could have slipped further down.
“We won’t get carried away, but we’ve not dropped into the bottom three. There are some big games to come and if the stadium stays like it was today it gives us a great chance.”
Despite the ill-feeling towards them joint owners David Sullivan and David Gold were in attendance, although they judiciously took seats further back than usual.
The first goal was always going to be crucial, in more ways than one after Burnley’s opener triggered the trouble three weeks ago.
So the relief was palpable among the players, supporters, and no doubt the authorities when West Ham took a 13th-minute lead through Mario’s 18-yard drive.
Four minutes later it was 2-0, Mario the provider this time with a cross which Arnautovic headed straight at Saints keeper Alex McCarthy before snaffling the rebound.
The game was over as a contest in first-half stoppage time when Arnautovic volleyed in a cross from Arthur Masuaku.
Arnautovic pointedly celebrated both his goals in front of Southampton boss Mark Hughes, who managed him at Stoke and with whom he clashed when West Ham beat the Potters in December.
Moyes appeared to have a word with his maverick forward as the players walked off at half-time, but he would only reveal: “I just told him to do his job.
“I wanted him to get a hat-trick. Marko has done great for us. I was raging when he missed an early chance but he got two more so good on him.”
Hughes, when quizzed about his former player, straight-batted.
“I wasn’t aware he was shouting in my direction. You’d have to ask him what he said, I have no idea. Bless him,” said the Welshman.
Hughes has far bigger problems to worry about following his first Premier League match in charge of a toothless Saints side still in the drop zone and not showing any signs of escaping.
“I’m disappointed to say the least, that wasn’t what we anticipated in terms of performance,” he added.
“We conceded three very poor goals, there were some catastrophic errors which have been prevalent for some time and clearly we need to do something about it.”