Two goals from Kevin Nolan took West Ham out of the Premiership drop zone and sent Aston Villa to their 10th home defeat of a troubled season.
The 31-year-old midfielder scored a brace for the second week running to steer Sam Allardyce’s team three points closer to safety.
A swirling wind and heavy rain showers made quality football almost impossible and despite being without suspended striker Andy Carroll, it was the team from London who settled the better. Former Villa favourite Stewart Downing went close early on and should have hit the target following a superb run and cross from the left by Matt Jarvis. The former Wolves winger fired across goal and somehow Downing failed to score from point blank range under pressure from Villa loanee Ryan Bertrand who collided with the post.
Villa midfielder Ashley Westwood fired narrowly wide but the home team’s best effort came from an excellent throw-out from Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan which sent Andreas Weimann clear on the right. The Austrian striker sent a pinpoint crossfield ball to Villa captain Gabby Agbonlahor back after injury but the frontman miscued completely and the chance went begging.
One minute into the second half and with hundreds of fans still enjoying a half-time breather, the ball was pumped into the Villa box where the home defenders failed to deal with it and Kevin Nolan played to the ball to Downing on the right. The Hammers winger jinked one way, then the other before playing the ball back to Nolan who cheekily back-heeled into the net.
The Villa players and 36,000 fans were shell-shocked but within a minute Nolan pounced again robbing a hesitant Fabien Delph on the left of the area and coolly slotting home past the advancing Guzan.
Villa boss Paul Lambert responded by introducing Marc Albrighton on 56 minutes and the flying winger made an instant impact sending endless crosses in from the right, one of which was headed against the bar by Villa striker Christian Benteke. Albrighton capped a superb performance by hitting the post with a screaming 30 yard shot but that was as far as the home team came to piercing the Hammers rearguard marshalled excellently by former Villa favourite James Colllins.
After the game Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert said he was "disappointed" with his team’s poor defending of the two West Ham goals saying: "You cannot concede two goals like that and expect to win a game."
Hammers boss Sam Allardyce said he didn’t expect his team to go out and score two goals in three minutes after giving his players some stick at half-time for not finding the net despite having the better of the play. “I thought we had wasted our opportunity to take the lead and I told the players I hoped it would not come back and bite us in the backside but Kevin’s [Nolan] quality of finishing did it again and it effectively killed Villa off.”Allardyce was quick to praise Nolan who has scored four in two games after being sent off twice this season. “He knew he had let himself and the players and club down but he has come back with a new vigour to try and put right what he did wrong and I think he has done that,” said Allardyce.
The gossip before the game was surrounding the FA’s decision not to overturn striker Andy Carroll’s red card from last week’s victory against Cardiff. The talk was whether West Ham could play without their £19 million summer signing but today’s victory showed they are just as good without the former Liverpool man.