Nolan grabs deadly double as West Ham sink Villa in style
17:06 08 February 2014
Premier League: Aston Villa 0 West Ham United 2
The Hammers won the battle of claret and blue at Villa Park, where another deadly double by Kevin Nolan deservedly gave Sam Allardyce’s side a valuable victory to lift themselves out of the bottom three.
The West Ham United skipper had also bagged a brace against Swansea City last Saturday and, while he was without telepathic pal Andy Carroll this time around, his two quick-fire goals just after the break gave the East Enders back-to-back victories for the first time since their return to the Premier League.
A encouraging goalless draw at Chelsea and that victory over Swansea, had been tempered by the Hammers failure to overturn Carroll’s harsh suspension following his sending off against the Welshmen.
That meant that Big Sam was forced to make just one enforced change as Carlton Cole came in for the banned big man, while deadline day loan signing Pablo Armero made his first appearance on the bench following his arrival from Napoli.
But, when former Villain Stewart Downing floated over a second-minute corner, it was one of Allardyce’s central defenders, who posed the first threat of the afternoon as James Tomkins looped a far post header wide.
With a dozen minutes on the clock, Downing then cut in from the right before depositing a curling 20-yarder into the Holte End, where the fans who used to cheer him took great delight in jeering the wayward shot.
Certainly, Downing was the brightest spark as the Hammers forced five corners inside the opening 20 minutes.
Following last week’s defeat at Everton, tenth-placed had Villa made two changes as Matt Lowton and Gabby Agbonlahor came in for Ron Vlaar and substitute Grant Holt.
And it was Agbonlahor, who had the best chance to break the deadlock, when Andreas Weimann broke down the left and sent a low cross towards the far post, but the returning Villa skipper’s first touch was simply woeful and West Ham gratefully accepted the consequent goal-kick.
At the other end, Matt Jarvis fired across the face of goal but Downing could not get a touch as Ryan Bertrand did enough to get between man and ball, albeit the Villa defender ended up in the back of the net, where he received treatment after colliding with an upright.
West Ham certainly looked the most likely to break the deadlock and, as the half-hour approached Matt Taylor forced Brad Guzan into a low stop before the breaking Jarvis twice had clear-cut chances to put the visitors ahead.
Firstly, he was denied by the retreating Ciaran Clark and, moments later, having got behind a pushed-up defence, he only had the Villa keeper to beat but his 12-yard shot flashed into the side-nettting.
At the other end, Fabian Delph let fly with a 25-yard effort that flew just inches past Adrian’s right-hand angle and, after former Villa defender James Collins was booked for sliding through the back of Christian Benteke, Ashley Westwood sent a low, half-volley just a whisker wide to keep it goalless at the break.
Big Sam, no doubt, would have been questioning how costly Hammers failure to capitalise on eight first-half corners and that handful of chances would prove.
But having replaced former Villa striker Carlton Cole with Antonio Borriello for the restart, he need not have worried for, with less than 20 seconds on the clock, the visitors were in front.
George McCartney’s deep ball from left-back was cleverly nudged out to Downing by Nolan and, after the winger’s wizardry beat Bertrand all hands up, the Hammers captain met the return cross to the edge of the six-yard box with a clever backheel as Clark fruitlessly flew in.
Having just scored the opener, Nolan was soon celebrating his sixth goal of the season in front of the vociferous Hammers, too.
On 48 minutes, Borriello’s attempted through-ball to Jarvis was cut-out but, as the Villa defence dithered, Nolan out-muscled Delph to leave himself with just the helplessly exposed Guzan to beat and he made no mistake with a low 12-yarder.
Quite simply, Villa did not know what had hit them and they responded by introducing Marc Albrighton in place of Lowton and the substitute almost conjured up an instant goal for Benteke but, under pressure from Collins, the striker could not steer the cross home.
Midway through the half, Albrighton posed problems again with a scorching 25-yard shot that steamed through the icy, damp Midlands air before crashing back off Adrian’s right-hand post, onto the diving Spanish stopper and away for a corner.
After Taylor was booked for felling Agbonlahor, Nolan then found himself replaced by Antonio Nocerino, before Benteke again rattled the woodwork with a header.
Paul Lambert also introduced Grant Holt in an effort to get the hosts back into the contest and Benteke continued to threaten with an overhead kick that just cleared the bar and a header that flew wide.
With seven minutes left, though, Nocerino’s low cross was beaten out into the path of Taylor by Guzan, who then saw Leandro Bacuna clear the midfielder’s low shot off the line but by then Villa Park was already under full-scale evacuation by the home fans, who had been out-sung by the West Ham supporters on an afternoon when their team had been outplayed, too. .
VILLA: Guzan, Lowton (Albrighton 56), Bertrand (Bennett 73), Baker, Clark, Bacuna, Westwood, Delph, Weimann (Holt 71), Benteke, Agbonlahor. Unused subs: Steer, El Ahmadi, Helenius, Sylla.
HAMMERS: Adrian, Demel, McCartney, Collins, Tomkins, Downing, Jarvis (Reid 73), Noble, Taylor, Nolan (Nocerino 68), C.Cole (Borrielo h/t). Unsed subs: Jaaskelainen, Armero, Collison, Johnson.
Booked: Collins (40), Taylor (65).
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral)