The perfect hat-trick, they say, is a goal scored with the right foot, the left foot and a header; so what about three goals in the same game against three different goalkeepers? Well, on April 21st, 1986, that’s just what West Ham’s Alvin Martin did.
West Ham had genuine title ambitions when they welcomed Newcastle United to Upton Park that night as they sat on the tails of Liverpool and Everton, having won six of their past eight matches, and with games in hand on the Merseyside giants.
Their opponents, on the other hand, had been leaking goals at an alarming rate with the Magpies’ previous seven games featuring no fewer than 30 at an average of just over four per match – though even Nostradamus would have had his work cut out to predict what would happen next.
To say Newcastle’s side was depleted by injuries would be putting it mildly; Jeff Clarke, an ever-present all season at the heart of defence, was out with a knee injury, 21-year-old academy graduate Chris Hedworth, was playing as a makeshift midfielder, while defender John Anderson would be forced to play on the wing due to a strained Achilles tendon.
Named in goal that night was Martin Thomas, who had suffered a shoulder injury in training in early March which had caused him to miss seven games before aggravating the injury again following his return to the first team a few weeks earlier.
But the fact that Gary Kelly, his back-up, had only just had his plaster removed following a knee operation and Kelly’s replacement, David McKellar, had picked up hip and groin injuries in a draw with Chelsea the previous Saturday, meant that Thomas was forced into a premature return.
Just two minutes into the game and the Newcastle ‘keeper landed awkwardly on his shoulder making a save severely limiting his ability to handle the ball, let alone save a shot, so when Alan Devonshire floated a free-kick into the area, Alvin Martin had the simplest of tasks to find the net.
Five minutes later and Ray Stewart’s effort slipped through Thomas’s hands, then a long-range strike from Orr did likewise, before Glenn Roeder’s comical own goal made it 4-0 at the interval - which was when Thomas decided enough was enough.
In the days before reserve goalkeepers were commonplace on the bench and only one substitute was permitted, the task of keeping the score line respectable was handed to Chris Hedworth, whose five previous first-team appearances had come at centre-half or right-back.
Ten minutes later and the hapless Hedworth was in the wars, fracturing a collarbone in a collision with Tony Cottee and despite playing on gamely, after Martin headed in his second and the Hammers’ fifth from a corner in the 64th-minute, he also called it a day and went to play in left midfield.
The responsibility of avoiding a cricket score this time fell to striker Peter Beardsley, who had volunteered to go between the sticks earlier in the game but had been told he was too small, but with his side now 5-0 down, finally got his chance to prove himself.
Beardsley kept the Hammers at bay for almost 20 minutes with Billy Whitehurst even finding the net for Newcastle to add a smidgen of respectability to the evening, though that wasn’t to be the end of the drama on what was soon becoming one of the more memorable nights at the Iron’s famous old stadium.
West Ham finally got their sixth in the 81st minute and made it seven within two minutes before referee, Bob Hamer, spotted a foul on Tony Cottee a few seconds after the restart and pointed to the spot.
Ray Stewart was the team’s official penalty taker, but Alvin Martin, now on a hat-trick, insisted he get a chance to achieve his own personal milestone while also completing the rout and Stewart duly obliged - albeit against the wishes of his manager John Lyall.
“Peter did not fill me with fear as he stood there,” Martin later revealed, but the big defender dispatched the only penalty he had taken in his career past the England forward to seal the most unlikely of trebles by a man who would only score 34 times in 598 games for the club as the home team demolished lacklustre Newcastle United 8-1.
West Ham would eventually miss out in the title race to Liverpool by four points with that side often lauded by fans as one of the most entertaining of its time – though few, if any, of the 26 wins they recorded that campaign will be as dramatic as that April evening in 1986.