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Football: Nolan brace lifts Hammers out of drop zone

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

West Ham climbed out of the Premier League relegation zone as Kevin Nolan's quick-fire double earned a 2-0 win at Aston Villa on Saturday.

Nolan struck twice in the space of two minutes just after half-time and that was enough to lift Sam Allardyce's side into 14th place.

The Hammers' second consecutive victory was the perfect end to a turbulent week which was marred by the club's two unsuccessful attempts to overturn Andy Carroll's three-match ban following his red card in last weekend's win over Swansea.

Carlton Cole came in for Carroll and West Ham started brightly, with former Villa winger Stewart Downing fizzing a shot wide of Brad Guzan's goal.

Downing then missed a golden opportunity to break the deadlock midway through the first half.

Matt Jarvis sent over a low cross from the left and Downing appeared certain to score from close-range, but somehow contrived to miss his kick and let the ball run between his legs.

Moments later, the Hammers created another glorious chance when Jarvis sprang the Villa offside trap, only to drag his shot wide under pressure from Nathan Baker.

Villa were back on the attack just before the break and Ashley Westwood slammed his right-foot volley just wide of Adrian's far post from the edge of the area.

Allardyce sent on Italy forward Marco Borriello, on loan from Roma, for Cole at half-time, but it was Nolan who changed the course of the match in a stunning spell just after the restart.

In the 46th minute, Downing surged away from Ryan Bertrand and drove in a low cross towards Nolan, who turned it home with an improvised backheel.

Just two minutes later Nolan, who also scored twice in the win against Swansea last weekend, struck again to put the visitors in complete control.

This time the Hammers midfielder pounced when Fabian Delph carelessly dwelt on the ball on the edge of the area, allowing Nolan to seize possession and fire past Guzan for his sixth goal of the season.

Villa substitute Marc Albrighton floated a cross for Christian Benteke but the striker poked wide as the hosts tried to respond.

Albrighton added more thrust to Villa's attack and Benteke flicked an effort against the crossbar from the winger's teasing cross.

Although Benteke went close again in the closing moments, West Ham held firm to secure their third successive clean-sheet.

smg/pi

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140208/football-nolan-brace-lifts-hammers-out-drop-zone