Green's hand in securing vital point thrills Zola

John Curtis

Gianfranco Zola felt West Ham keeper Robert Green was back to his best in helping his side earn a valuable point from a goalless draw at high- riding Aston Villa.

The England player pulled off several fine saves and survived his only error when he lost possession under pressure from Villa striker John Carew.

A share of the spoils moved the Hammers above Wolves and Hull and out of the bottom three.

Zola quipped: "Robert Green was outstanding apart from one moment when my heart stopped for a few seconds, fortunately not long enough to damage my brain.

"That is already damaged. But, in all seriousness, Robert's performance was really excellent and he was back to his normal sort of standard."

Zola also praised Villa skipper Stiliyan Petrov for helping to ensure Hammers midfielder Radoslav Kovac escaped a red card after a reckless challenge on the Bulgarian international.

Kovac had already been booked but Petrov leapt quickly to his feet rather than make the most of the situation.

It led to Kovac being given a final warning by referee Mick Jones via Hammers skipper Matthew Upson and the Czech international was substituted shortly afterwards.

Zola said: "I have to congratulate Petrov for his part because he is a fair person and a fair player.

"To be out of the bottom three is massive but also picking up a point at Villa Park is not an easy task, so that will give the players a big, big boost of confidence."

Villa boss Martin O'Neill played down the significance of a verbal exchange with fans situated behind the dugout during the latter stages of the game. O'Neill and Villa's goalkeeping coach Seamus McDonagh appeared to have words with several spectators as the match reached its climax.

The game ended with around half a dozen stewards in position alongside and at the back of the home dugout, but O'Neill was adamant what occurred was "not a big issue".

The former Celtic boss said: "The issue today was we were unable to score a goal but it was a big effort by my players considering we played in the Carling Cup semi-final only on Thursday."

O'Neill also confirmed Birmingham have made a bid for midfielder Craig Gardner but insists they will have to make an improved offer to land him.