independent

Thursday 24 April 2014

Nolan pleased to make amends

Kevin Nolan has scored four goals in his last two games

Kevin Nolan feels he has finally started to make amends to West Ham following his recent red-card shame.

After Nolan was sent off for the second time in four matches for recklessly lashing out at Fulham's Fernando Amorebieta in a 2-1 defeat on New Year's Day, furious boss Sam Allardyce threatened to strip the 30-year-old of the captaincy.

As well as serving a four-match ban, in addition to the three that followed his dismissal for a lunge at Jordan Henderson in a 4-1 humbling against Liverpool at Anfield on December 7, it is understood Allardyce fined the midfielder a fortnight's wages, understood to be £100,000.

Whatever words were exchanged between Nolan and Allardyce after the game at Craven Cottage, the latter must have been suitably placated as he has continued as skipper, reverting from hot head to captain fantastic again.

After his match-winning brace defeated Swansea last weekend, Nolan repeated the feat in a 2-0 win at Aston Villa on Saturday, bagging his double in the first three minutes of the second half, to banish lingering memories of his two moments of madness.

"I've worked with the gaffer since I was 17 years old and I can't thank him enough for everything he's done for me, especially over the last month when it's been really tough," Nolan told the club's official website.

"I really knew when that happened on New Year's Day that the lads and the gaffer had my back, and I was overwhelmed by it.

"The last couple of weeks, with the goals, that's my little way of trying to give a bit back for the support they've given me.

"If I can keep chipping away and get a few more goals then hopefully that'll be a little way of paying back the stupidity that I suffered over the last month."

Back-to-back wins have enabled the Hammers to climb out of the bottom three of the Barclays Premier League ahead of another crunch relegation clash at home to Norwich on Tuesday.

Appreciating the importance of the latest success as West Ham fight for top-flight survival, Nolan added: "The most important goals for me are the ones that win you games.

"I'm just delighted I've been able to get a couple which have got us on the road to three points with another fantastic clean sheet.

"I have had chances over the season, but it just hasn't been falling right for me but now I feel confident and I'm really looking forward to games.

"The camaraderie that's been shown over the season to be able to stay in there has been brilliant. On Saturday again you've seen the togetherness and everything we're about.

"It's not over yet, we know it's going to be a big battle to the end of the season, but it's one we're all looking forward to."

There was a minor scare when Nolan limped off with a groin problem in the 68th minute, but he has insisted he will be "fine" to tackle the Canaries.

With Nolan back in form, his presence is vital as West Ham attempt to further prove they can live without striker Andy Carroll.

The England forward will serve the second of a three-match ban after the Hammers twice failed to overturn the red card he received in the game with Swansea.

As Allardyce noted, the brace from Nolan "showed we don't have to have an Andy Carroll to score goals".

With a platform beneath them courtesy of the wins, Allardyce knows now is the time to continue building.

"It's back-to-back wins for us, which at this stage of the season has taken a lot of pressure off us," said Allardyce.

"We got another clean sheet - 12 now for the season - and things are looking a lot better with 10 points from the last five games.

"Now we have to try and improve, to make sure we finish with more points than games played.

"We've played 25 games with 25 points, so let's try and better that total on Tuesday when we play Norwich."

For Villa, it was their eighth home league defeat of the campaign, and although they twice struck the woodwork, those chances only came once they started playing after falling two goals adrift.

With a crucial trip to second-bottom Cardiff looming on Tuesday, boss Paul Lambert has warned his players there can be no repeat of the basic errors that proved their undoing against West Ham.

"The two goals were unacceptable," said Lambert.

"At this level you cannot defend the way we did."

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