West Ham: Hat-trick hero Jarrod Bowen puts Brentford in a spin to give David Moyes a lift

It is little wonder Jarrod Bowen had to pause for thought when asked to explain his goal celebration in the aftermath of this vital West Ham win: for the first time in the forward's professional career, there were three in a game to choose from.

On a night when only three points could ease the pressure on Hammers boss David Moyes, his most trusted performer came up trumps, Bowen's hat-trick setting up a 4-2 victory over Brentford that breaks their winless start to 2024.

Two goals in the opening seven minutes ensured the rumblings of discontent that tend not to take too much prising out around here never had chance to surface, before a headed third soon after the hour stopped Brentford's best spell in its tracks and brought that strange Spiderman-DJ tribute from the scorer.

In the process, Bowen first equalled and then surpassed his best-ever scoring season in the Premier League with February not yet out; a tally of 14 goals quite the feat for a player learning the centre-forward's lot on the job.

Jarrod Bowen with a Spiderman-DJ tribute (Zac Goodwin/PA Wire)
Jarrod Bowen with a Spiderman-DJ tribute (Zac Goodwin/PA Wire)

Nor is he doing so at Manchester City, where the old joke goes that a fridge-freezer might stand at the back post and nick 10 goals a season. The striker's berth at West Ham has borne a strange curse, numerous specialists shipped in and shipped out without success and more often a convert — Marko Arnautovic, Michail Antonio and now Bowen — shouldering the burden.

"Listen, it has been difficult," the 27-year-old conceded, having gone seven League games without a goal prior to last night. "There have been games where I have struggled. I'm 5ft 9in and up against big 6ft centre-halves. It's never easy, [but] I know what I am good at and what I am not good at."

Only Bournemouth's Dominic Solanke has scored a greater proportion of his team's League goals this season than Bowen, who has more than a third of West Ham's 40 — and it is not just as a prolific goalscorer that he is forging a new role.

Since the summer departure of Declan Rice and freshly burnished by the legend of his Conference League Final winner, Bowen has become a talismanic figure to supporters and a leader to his team-mates, for all the captain's armband went elsewhere.

Brentford have now lost 11 of their previous 14 games (Getty Images)
Brentford have now lost 11 of their previous 14 games (Getty Images)

It was tempting to attribute West Ham's lightning start here to the return of Lucas Paqueta, which gave the occasion a tangible lift and brought both balance and tempo to what had been a predictable, one-paced attack. Bowen, too, played his part, not only with two crisp early finishes, but also with a rousing pre-match speech.

He explained: "I said in the dressing room, 'Lads, it's one game that can change this season. We haven't been at a level where we have wanted to be and have slipped down the table. We are the ones who can change it. No one will give it to us on a plate'."

With another international break looming, the last before Gareth Southgate names his Euro 2024 squad, this was a timely display from a player so hurt at missing out on the last World Cup.

Bowen has not quite cracked it on his few forays into the England camp, but his case this season is stronger than ever and may, counter-intuitively, be helped by the reduction in squad sizes to 23.

Players equally capable of leading the line and playing out wide — and, crucially, scoring freely from either — are not two-a-penny, even among England's host of in-form forwards. Carry on in this vein and DJ Spidey may yet land a summer gig on German soil.