Nolan goal enough as West Ham claim first win of the season
Doncaster Rovers 0 West Ham 1
De-railed by defeat against Cardiff City and laid-up by looters in midweek, West Ham United finally got their season up and running with a comfortable victory on their inaugural trip to the Keepmoat Stadium.
Captain Kevin Nolan set the Hammers on their way to this workmanlike win with his first goal for the club after just five minutes and, although the visitors failed to trouble the scorers again, all three points rarely looked in doubt.
Following the luckless loss against Cardiff City and the requested police postponement of the midweek Carling Cup clash with Aldershot Town, Sam Allardyce made just one switch from the side that slipped-up last Sunday, as Jack Collison replaced Freddie Sears on the right side of midfield.
And the Welsh international wasted no time repaying the confidence that the Hammers boss had shown in him, when he collected from James Tomkins and floated an inch-perfect, curling cross towards the far post, where Nolan nonchalantly slid the visitors into that fifth-minute lead.
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Although the Yorkshiremen had also lost their opening day fixture, Sean O’Driscoll’s side had got back to winning ways with Tuesday’s Carling Cup victory over Tranmere Rovers.
But Nolan’s strike put them back to square one and, on the quarter-hour mark, the scheming skipper almost doubled the visitors’ lead with an elegant 18-yard chip that eluded the groping Gary Woods before bouncing back off the crossbar.
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Both Tomkins and Matt Taylor also headed over and, although Rovers forced a trio of corners, a relaxed Robert Green was barely troubled during an opening 45 minutes that saw him largely looking upfield, alongside the 3,296 vociferous visiting fans packed behind his goal.
Despite looking livelier after the restart, one-dimensional Doncaster were simply being outclassed in each and every department and, on the hour, their frustration was there for all to see, when James Coppinger was booked for a spiteful late lunge on Winston Reid.
Carlton Cole replaced Frederic Piquionne for the closing half-hour and, after Tomkins saw his looping header saved, Nolan then forced Woods to palm his swivel-kick aside, before the substitute ripped an angled effort into the side-netting.
In reply, the escaping Coppinger only needed to find a supporting shirt but his reckless cut-back ended up in no man’s land and, with a quarter-hour remaining, he then glanced a header just a whisker wide but if the Hammers had departed with anything less than victory it would have been a travesty of justice.
This was West Ham’s first encounter with Rovers since a March 1958 victory in Yorkshire had nudged the East Enders towards a long-awaited promotion and, 53 years on, Allardyce can now only hope that will prove to be a telling omen as the next 44 matches unfold.
ROVERS: Woods, Spurr, Dumbuya, Friend, Naylor, Barnes (Keegan 75), Gillett (Hird 83) Coppinger, Oster, Bennett (Baxendale 75), Brown. Unused: Sullivan, Radford.
HAMMERS: Green, O’Brien, Ilunga (Stanislas 86), Reid, Tomkins, Parker, Noble, Nolan, Collison (Sears 72), Taylor Piquionne (Cole 62). Unused: Boffin, Faye,
Referee: Scott Mathieson.
Booked: Coppinger (56), Parker (85).