Nolan strikes on his return to Newcastle as West Ham triumph
17:04 11 November 2012
Premier League: Newcastle United 0 West Ham United 1
Old Boy Kevin Nolan marked his return to Tyneside with a first-half winner at St James’ Park.
The Hammers skipper’s fifth goal of the season gave battling West Ham their second away win of the campaign, on an afternoon when they stood up to a second half barrage of intense black and white pressure to leave their fans singing ‘Bubbles’ all the way back to the capital.
Sam Allardyce returned to the North-East, with his ninth-placed West Ham United side sitting one point and one berth above the Tynesiders and, following last week’s gallant goalless draw with Manchester City, he made just one switch as James Tomkins came in for substitute James Collins.
And after an impeccably-observed one-minute’s Remembrance Day silence, the stretching Tomkins also ensured that there would be no early Toon Army roar, when he diverted Shane Ferguson’s, low fourth-minute cross away from the head of diving ex-Hammer, Demba Ba.
With Nolan and the heavily-booed Andy Carroll each facing their former club, too, Allardyce had boldly opted to play them both up front in an offensive 4-4-2 formation, which obviously took the Magpies by surprise in the opening stages that saw West Ham look the more settled side.
Patrolling the opposite technical area, Alan Pardew also found himself facing one of his former clubs and, having returned from a Europa League sojourn to Belgium, the Magpies boss made nine changes from the side that had drawn 2-2 with Club Brugge on Thursday night.
Only ‘keeper Tim Krul and Mike Williamson survived the cut but midway through the half, Vurnon Anita was also called from the bench to replace Jonas Gutierrez, who had failed to recover from an early collision with Yossi Benayoun.
Indeed, Benayoun had been the only Hammer to muster an effort inside the opening half-hour but his attempted shot with the outside of his boot merely skewed wide and, uncharacteristically, he was then given a warning by referee Mike Dean for another ill-timed lunge on Ferguson.
Newcastle had not fared much better in front of goal either, with Papiss Cisse scuffing wide and Yohan Cabaye then dipping an 18-yarder through the murky Tyneside air into the clutches of Jussi Jaaskelainen, who stood like a shining beacon in his luminous, lime-green ‘keeper’s kit.
Ten minutes before the break, Modibo Maiga seamlessly replaced the hobbling Matt Jarvis (thigh) and, on 38 minutes, the Hammers finally broke the deadlock, when Mark Noble collected George McCartney’s quick throw-in and sent a deep left-wing cross high into the Newcastle penalty area, where Davide Santon could only half-clear the danger.
First to the ball, the supporting Joey O’Brien fired in a diagonal shot back across the face of goal and Nolan gratefully prodded home his fifth goal of the season at the far post before insisting on a respectful, muted celebration despite the joyous jubilation of his team-mates and the travelling Hammers fans in the 51,855 crowd.
Moments later, Nolan might have doubled his tally, when Mohamed Diame steamrolled his way through midfield but his skipper launched an 18-yarder inches wide.
That Hammers goal certainly stirred the winged Magpies into life as Mike Williamson forced Jaaskelainen to save his downward header before Ferguson’s goalbound effort ricocheted off Tomkins’ back and just an inch or so beyond the right-hand angle.
With West Ham living dangerously, Cabaye then had the Hammers keeper scurrying across his goal-line to save, while Hatem Ben Arfa fired a low, angled effort into the side-netting before seeing Noble booked for felling him on one final first-half charge.
Pardew replaced Cisse (back) with Shola Ameobi for the restart and just moments into the second period, Jaaskelainen had to be at his best to save Ba’s powerful header on the line as the home fans and players alike, desperately appealed for a goal.
Ba also tested the flying Finn with another low, long-range effort, while at other end, Diame just ran out of legs on another typical charge into the heart of the Newcastle defence and then substitute Gary O’Neil – who had replaced the battered Benayoun – saw his stooping header saved by Tim Krul.
In truth, though, the Hammers were now on the back foot and after Diame joined Noble on three bookings for tripping Santon, Ba again tested Jaaskelainen from distance before Ben Arfa’s consequent corner was clawed out from under his crossbar by the busy keeper.
A third injury of the afternoon saw Guy Demel replace McCartney (groin) midway through the second half and, shortly afterwards, Ben Arfa saw his low effort scrambled around the base of his left-hand upright by the ever-alert Jaaskelainen, who had a simply superb afternoon.
On 72 minutes West Ham had a great chance to double their lead and halt the Tyneside tide but when Nolan patiently waited to play in strike-partner Carroll the England striker could only look on in horror as the outstretched legs of Krul somehow denied him a first Hammers goal.
In a last throw of the dice, Pardew brought on Gabriel Obertan for Danny Simpson and although the visitors endured a few more scares on their way to the final whistle, Nolan’s strike had, thankfully, already done the damage.
MAGPIES: Krul, Simpson (Obertan 79), Williamson, Taylor, Santon, Ferguson, Cabaye, Ben Arfa, Gutierrez (Anita 24), Cisse (Shaola Ameobi h/t), Ba. Unused subs: Elliott, Amalfitano, Bigirimana, Marveaux.
HAMMERS: Jaaskelainen, O’Brien, Reid, Tomkins, McCartney (Demel 67), Noble, Diame, Nolan, Benayoun (O’Neil 52), Jarvis (Maiga 34), Carroll. Unused subs: Spiegel, Collins, Hall, Cole.
Booked: Noble (45), Diame (60), Ben Arfa
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral)