Nolan returns to Newcastle and makes the difference for West Ham
Newcastle Utd 0 West Ham Utd 0:If his sacking as Newcastle manager still counts as the blackest stain on his CV, then Sam Allardyce has taken a substantial measure of well-chilled revenge. “Not really,” Allardyce replied when asked if this win gave him special satisfaction, although it was an answer you struggled to believe. Had his time there gone differently, he might have been England manager by now.
West Ham are a pretty big club and, after their first win at St James’s Park since 1998, they find themselves sixth in the table.
“Eighteen points from 11 games is an outstanding performance from a newly promoted side,” he said. “But we are laden with players with experience of the Premier League and I have plenty of experience in this league myself.”
There were so many men facing their former clubs in this match that it would have been a surprise had one of them not made a decisive impact. Here, the man was Kevin Nolan.
His goal had a slightly fortuitous quality to it, although he reacted well to turn it in at the far post for his fifth of the season. A long ball into the Newcastle box was played out poorly by Davide Santon and, as it broke, Joey O’Brien met it first. He attempted a shot that was speeding wide before Nolan turned it home, although Newcastle’s one-time captain chose not to celebrate.
“I had an absolutely fantastic time here. I love everything about Newcastle and I would never, ever celebrate scoring against them,” said Nolan.
Shortly afterwards, Nolan almost had a second goal not to celebrate as he, played through by the afternoon’s outstanding figure, Mohamed Diamé, drove between Santon and Steven Taylor and shot just wide of the post.
Nolan is a naturally aggressive midfielder but here Allardyce employed him as an authentic striker alongside Andy Carroll. However good their understanding, Carroll has not found the net since his soaring header against Sweden in the European Championship. In the second half, however, it came close to producing the second goal that would have put the match beyond Newcastle. Nolan sent through Carroll who was denied by some fine goalkeeping from Tim Krul.
Newcastle laid a long siege to the Gallowgate End without suggesting that they would break through. The Newcastle manager, Alan Pardew, said: “the pressure did not produce a special moment”.
The man who managed West Ham to an FA Cup final and Newcastle into Europe was perhaps being unfair on his own team. However, Pardew bemoaned a lack of rhythm and his players did not make a conclusive case for one point, let alone three.