Happy return for Hammers

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WEST Ham boss Sam Allardyce saluted skipper Kevin Nolan as the pair returned to former club Newcastle and left with a victory.

The 30-year-old scored the only goal of the game at St James’s Park as the Magpies turned in another below-par display and succumbed all too tamely.

Allardyce said: “Of course it’s our captain, who is our leading goalscorer, who has got us the three points.

“His instincts in the box are there for all to see. It’s five goals he has got in 11 games now in the Premier League - it should be six because he had one chalked off this week (against Manchester City) that he shouldn’t have done – and for a midfield player to be totalling up that sort of goal tally is fantastic from our point of view.

“That being the winner today is obviously satisfying for us all.”

Nolan (pictured, right) struck from close range, just as he had done so many times in the past for Newcastle, to convert Joey O’Brien’s miscued shot and give the Hammers a 39th-minute lead to which they managed to cling for the remainder of the game.

The win saw the promoted Hammers climb into sixth place in the Barclays Premier League table, to the delight of Allardyce, whose time as manager on Tyneside ended unceremoniously.

He said: “It’s a fantastic start to the season for us now, 11 games, 18 points.”

Opposite number Alan Pardew, whose former clubs include West Ham, was left to reflect upon a performance which was a pale imitation of the entertainment his side produced last season.

Asked if he cut put his finger on the reasons why, he said: “No, I wish I could. I think that’s our 17th game and it’s proving difficult to get any rhythm at home at the moment.

“We need to perform better than we did today, for sure.”

Both sides were left counting the cost of a hard-fought game with Jonas Gutierrez, Papiss Cisse, Matt Jarvis, Yossi Benayoun and George McCartney all leaving the pitch injured and Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye limping through to the final whistle.

There was little to choose between the sides and even less to recommend the game for much of the opening period, with both teams struggling to find a telling final ball.

Jarvis fired high and wide at one end and Cisse was similarly wasteful at the other during the opening skirmishes, and although Hatem Ben Arfa lit up the game with a series of enterprising runs which left claret and blue shirts trailing in his wake, neither goalkeeper was called upon to make a save until 25 minutes had elapsed.

Even then, Jaaskelainen had little difficulty in collecting Cabaye’s dipping long-range effort and the game looked to be heading into the break in stalemate until an explosive final few minutes.

The visitors forced their way ahead with six minutes of the half left to play when full-back Davide Santon could only head Mark Noble’s left-wing cross out to full-back Joey O’Brien, who looked to have dragged his right-foot shot harmlessly across the face of goal.

However, Nolan turned up in exactly the right place to divert it past Krul.

The 30-year-old really should have doubled the lead within two minutes when he was played in by midfielder Diame, but guided his left-foot shot wide of the post.

Newcastle finally responded to mount a sustained assault on the West Ham goal as time ran down and Shane Ferguson was desperately unfortunate to see his goalbound shot hit George McCartney on the back and drop safe.

Ben Arfa saw an injury-time effort deflected into the side-netting and Jaaskelainen got down well to parry Cabaye’s well-struck effort as the Hammers survived until the whistle.

The Finn came to his side’s rescue once again within two minutes of the restart when he somehow managed to claw Ba’s header away after O’Brien’s attempted clearance had dropped nicely for him.

Jaaskelainen fielded another long-range effort from Cabaye four minutes later, but was grateful to see Ba’s effort from similar range fly past his far post seconds later.

The home side might have fallen further behind had substitute Gary O’Neil made more of the free header with which he was presented from Nolan’s 59th-minute cross.

Ben Arfa left McCartney for dead five minutes later, only to drift his cross over Ba’s head as he dived in, and the Senegal international and Cabaye both forced saves from Jaaskelainen in quick succession.

Half-time substitute Shola Ameobi headed just wide from Cabaye’s 69th-minute corner and Jaaskelainen pulled off a fine stop to keep out Ben Arfa’s drive two minutes later.

Krul blocked bravely to deny Carroll a first goal for his latest club as the Londoners staged a breakaway with Nolan providing a tailor-made final ball.

Newcastle: Krul, Simpson (Obertan 79), Steven Taylor, Williamson, Santon, Ben Arfa, Cabaye, Gutierrez (Anita 24), Ferguson, Cisse (Shola Ameobi 45), Ba. Subs Not Used: Elliot, Amalfitano, Bigirimana, Marveaux. Booked: Ben Arfa.

West Ham: Jaaskelainen, O’Brien, Reid, Tomkins, McCartney (Demel 66), Benayoun (O’Neil 52), Diame, Noble, Jarvis (Maiga 34), Nolan, Carroll. Subs Not Used: Spiegel, Cole, Collins, Hall. Booked: Noble, O’Brien. Goals: Nolan 37.

Att: 51, 855 Ref: Mike Dean (Wirral).