West Ham win settles nerves

By Giles Broadbent on August 21, 2012 11:18 AM |

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West Ham make their first ever trip to Swansea's Liberty Stadium with their first three points on the board and the cobwebs swept away after an workmanlike - rather than dazzling - win over a rejuvenated Aston Villa at the weekend.

In front of 34,000 in full voice and on a boiling day, the team were initially overawed and let Aston Villa dictate the game. But slowly the home team asserted themselves and Kevin Nolan's disputed goal five minutes before half time settled nerves.

"It's so important to get the season off to a good start," said Sam Allardyce. "It takes the pressure off the players."

It was Nolan and new signing (and likely fans' favourite) Mohamed Diame who were the creative forces beyond the half way line but returnee James Collins gave a formidable display in defence, determined not to see his old clubmates get anything past him.

The Welsh international made a number of important stops, linking up with Winston Reid to keep out a lively Charles N'Zogbia and Darren Bent.

The man of the match said: "Saturday was really good. It was always going to be a strange one for me making my second West Ham debut against a club I only left two weeks ago but as soon as I got out onto the pitch and heard the roar of the crowd it all became a lot easier."

Against the chanting home crowd, the Villa faithful had their own response: "We're passing the ball," they sang in recognition of new boss Paul Lambert's switch away from Alex McLeish's dour tactics.

But the Midlanders initial vigour was unsustainable and only a lack of final punch by the Irons prevented a more convincing scoreline.

Collins is now looking beyond mere survival. He said: "Looking at the way we played on Saturday we have to be aiming for the top 10 or as near to the top of the table as possible. We have a good squad and we looked fitter than Aston Villa. We have had a great pre-season, have some powerful midfielders and have a lot of pace going forward."

Meanwhile their rivals on Saturday put five past QPR under their new boss Michael Laudrup and will present a rigorous workout for Collins and co.