Feb 8, 2014, 12:16 PM EDT
Sam Allardyce will go to bed happy tonight, with the West Ham win over Aston Villa pulling his side out of the bottom three. The Irons are just two points into safety, but the victory is absolutely vital to the side. As for Villa, they’re back where they least wanted to be: fighting a relegation battle once more, a mere four points above the drop.
Villa should’ve been warned in the first half. In the 23rd minute, Stewart Downing missed a fantastic chance to put West Ham in front. Matt Jarvis put in the cross and the former Villa man, presented with the ball on a silver platter, somehow managed to put it through his own legs. Missing sitters like that – it seemed inevitable that the winger wouldn’t rest until he’d had his shot at redemption.
And it came shortly after the restart. Just three minutes after the start of the second half, West Ham had a 2-0 lead, thanks to a brace from Kevin Nolan. The first came in the 46th minute, when Downing got behind the defense to send in a low cross. Nolan executed a tricky little backheel, defeating Brad Guzan and giving his side the lead.
But that wasn’t enough for Nolan. Two minutes and forty seconds later, he scored his second. The fault for this one lies on Fabian Delph who, rather than clear danger, attempted to take the ball outside of the area only to be met by Nolan. The easily stolen ball was fired into the bottom corner to put West Ham up 2-0.
With just over thirty minutes left to play, Paul Lambert made a decent attempt at jolting his side into action, introducing winger Marc Albrighton for right-back Matthew Lowton. Soon thereafter Albrighton sent in a rocket from distance, but could only connect with the far post. In what would seem almost farcical to anyone not supporting Villa, the ball then bounced out, hit West Ham keeper Adrian on the back, and bounced over the top of the goal.
And that pretty much spelled the end for the hosts. Allardyce pulled his side back and had them defending, and no matter what Villa tried (including the introduction of on-loan striker Grant Holt) they just couldn’t find a way through.
Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton (Albrighton 56), Clark, Baker, Bertrand (Bennett 74), Bacuna, Westwood, Delph, Weimann (Holt 71), Benteke, Agbonlahor
West Ham United: Adrian, Demel, Tomkins, Collins, McCartney, Nolan (Nocerino 68), Noble, Taylor, Jarvis (Reid 74), C.Cole (Borriello 45), Downing
Subs: Jaaskelainen, Reid, Armero, Collison, Johnson, Borriello, Nocerino
Goals: Nolan 46′, 48′
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