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Kevin Nolan's quick-fire double helped West Ham United complete a 2-0 victory at Aston Villa that lifted them out of the Barclays Premier League relegation zone.
Nolan scored twice in as many minutes straight after the half-time interval at Villa Park as Sam Allardyce's side made it seven points from their last three matches to boost their survival chances. Villa, meanwhile, have won just one of their last eight home matches in all competitions and were twice denied by the frame of the goal through Marc Albrighton and Christian Benteke.
West Ham had only scored two goals in their previous six visits to Villa heading into the match and their chances of improving that statistic appeared diminished by the absence of the banned Andy Carroll, but Nolan filled the void as talisman. The 31-year-old midfielder has scored seven goals against Villa,more than he has against any other Barclays Premier League side, and has netted four times in his last two appearances.
Gabby Agbonlahor returned to Paul Lambert's starting line-up following injury, while Allardyce replaced Carroll with Carlton Cole, who spent the 2004-05 season on loan at Villa. It was another former Villa player who had the first half's best chance. Matt Jarvis sprung the hosts' offside trap and slid the ball across goal for Stewart Downing, who failed to connect with the ball when a tap-in beckoned.
Downing's composure deserted him again when well placed and Jarvis fired the ball into the side-netting from close range.
Ashley Westwood's fine volley almost gave the hosts the lead just before the break, but Villa were left to rue that close call soon afterwards when West Ham took the lead within 18 seconds of the restart. Downing tricked his way past Ryan Bertrand down the right and crossed for Nolan, whose cheeky flick took a deflection and looped over goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
Nolan made it 2-0 on 48 minutes. The midfielder robbed Fabian Delph of possession on the edge of the West Ham penalty area before carrying the ball into the area and slotting past Guzan.
Albrighton was quickly sent on by Lambert and the winger smashed a post with a 66th-minute strike. The rebound struck Adrian and went out for a corner, which came to nothing. Albrighton then crossed for Benteke, whose first-time attempt hit the crossbar.
West Ham were camped inside their final third for the remainder of the game and had to defend a series of corners, but held on for a morale-boosting victory.
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert: “The two goals were really disappointing. Especially right after half-time. I had just took my seat, then it was the long ball and we never dealt with it. It doesn't matter if you're young or experienced, you deal with it. That's just a long ball, we should have dealt with it better.
"The second goal is a basic error. Then you come to life in the game. "You have a foothold and you are level just after half-time and you are attacking your favourite end. You think something can happen. "But the two goals in that three-minute spell put you on back foot.
"The thing for me was that we were in a bit of form, even though we lost to Everton, but the two goals were not acceptable.
"But when Marc [Albrighton] came on, we picked up. We looked like we could get one. If we got one, you never know. Marc was a bright spark. He did great. He's hit the post and set up a chance for Chris when he hit the ball. He was a plus point and put in some balls that you would expect us to get on the end of. But it wasn't there today."
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce: "I was giving the lads a little bit of stick at half-time about not getting the lead after so much really good attacking play and stretching Villa’s defence on several occasions. I thought we'd wasted our opportunity to take the lead on several occasions and we should have done our final bit a lot better than that.
"I said to the players, ‘Don't let that bite you in the backside today.’ You don't expect them to go out and score two in five minutes, which Kevin did. We effectively finished Villa off at that stage.
"Kevin's quality at finishing comes to the front again. It's back-to-back wins for us, which at this stage in the season, where we were in the league, it's relieved a lot of pressure on us.
"Professionally we were outstanding and defensively, when they threw more men up front and started pumping high balls into the middle of the box, Winston Reid, 'Ginge' [Collins] and James Tomkins stood up to that aerial threat brilliantly. We've got another clean sheet – 12 this season now – and things are looking a lot better. We've got 10 points from the last five games and hopefully we'll continue a winning run on Tuesday against Norwich."
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|12 Apr 2014||v Crystal Palace (A)|