West Ham’s midfield linchpin Mark Noble was all smiles after the 1-0 win against Burnley at Upton Park – declaring now that 50 points “is a must”.
The Canning Town Hammer scored the only goal of the game with a penalty – his first league spot kick since the opening day miss against Tottenham Hotspur.
The east Londoners could have had one in the second half – but referee Jonathan Moss deemed Stewart Downing dived after an attempted challenge from Burnley left back Ben Mee.
Noble said that the penalty had been a long time coming.
He said: “We were only saying in training the other that we’ve only had one penalty in the league. I was a little shocked with the red card – we’ve got a little bit of luck that’s gone our way and it was nice to score and settle the nerves.
“Where I was, I thought [the Downing incident] was a penalty. I thought the ref was going to point to the spot – but the linesman saw it differently. Stewart Downing is an honest player. Nine times out of 10 it is a penalty. I was gutted it wasn’t, but it’s another win and another clean sheet which is good news.”
Despite a brilliant start to the season – the Boleyn Ground outfit were fourth at Christmas – a poor run in 2015 has seen the east Londoners chances of playing European football next season dashed.
Nevertheless Noble said that if he knew West Ham would possibly finish on 50 points and in the top half of the table he would have “snapped you’re hands off”.
He said: “The league has panned out how we thought it would – the top six or seven teams are going to be there again and then it’s a fight everywhere else. It’s just nice to get that win and put us on 47 points. Now have three games to make the 50 mark which was our aim and hopefully we can do that on Saturday.
“In the last three months we’ve had games were we’ve played really well and haven’t won and visa versa. It’s been a bit hit and miss. We’ve got two clean sheets in a row against two teams fighting for their lives and four points which we badly needed.”
Manager Sam Allardyce once again bemoaned his side’s lack of firepower in front of goal. He said: “Our only weakness was not converting more chances considering the amount of chances we created.”
He said that beating 10 men was always a tough task “but we set ourselves up in the second half very well by attacking and continuing to attack. Because we didn’t get that second goal you get a little nervous based on what’s happened to us recently but we did everything right".
Big Sam said the result would breed confidence for his players ahead of that 50 point target.
“Wins are the most important thing for building confidence,” said Allardyce. “You can rely on performances for a while – but if the performances don’t end in victories then confidence drifts away. I saw a nervous edge to the players in the first half but as the second half progressed we got better and better.”
The Irons still have a part to play in the relegation scrap – as they travel to Villa Park where they take on Tim Sherwood’s Aston Villa before returning to home soil where they take on a resurgent Everton side for the last home game of the season.