Noble efforts lift Hammers to top spot

West Ham United 2 Nottingham Forest 1

Upton Park

West Ham reached the top of the Championship last night despite a performance which was conspicuously average. They beat Nottingham Forest2-1 thanks to two Mark Noble penalties, the first of which was a mystifying award at the end of an underwhelming first half.

The first 45 minutes were a perfect example of why, despite their top spot, the West Ham United fans are not yet fully enthused about the season. "It wasn't our best of days," said their manager, Sam Allardyce, "but when you can dig one out when you're not on your best form it shows the players' resilience and commitment."

West Ham's approach largely consisted of long diagonal balls to Kevin Nolan and Carlton Cole. Nolan nearly forced in George McCartney's near-post cross after 12 minutes, but there was lack of imagination about West Ham's attacking play. In his programme notes Allardyce bemoaned the fact that West Ham had scored just six goals in their previous eight games, and it was not difficult to see why.

Forest had their own goalscoring woes – they had failed to score in 10 of their previous 11 games – but their attacking play in the first half was surprisingly skilful. Finishing, not creating, was their problem. Marcus Tudgay missed his first chance after 10 minutes, shooting over from a corner. Three minutes later Lewis McGugan arrived on to Chris Gunter's cross but shot over. Soon after, Tudgay had a shot from a similar position deflected over. "We could have been 2-0 or 3-0 up," their manager, Steve Cotterill, claimed.

With so many chances missed it seemed unlikely to be Forest's day, an impression reinforced in first-half stoppage time. Guy Moussi blocked Jack Collison's right-wing cross from close range, and, to the surprise of the whole stadium, a penalty kick was awarded.

"It's blatantly not a penalty," Cotterill said afterwards. Even Allardyce described it as "quite fortunate". Mark Noble, characteristically reliable, gave West Ham a lead their play had not deserved.

Forest's confidence was as fragile as could be expected: once behind, they offered little in the second half. West Ham, who announced that James Tomkins has signed a new long-term contract, started to improve: Jack Collison could not reward a delightful run with a finish to match, and Henri Lansbury forced a springing save from Lee Camp.

Two minutes later another ball into Forest's box bemused Gunter, who could only stop it with a hand. This time the award was in keeping with the run of play, and Noble's conversion was again precise.

With a two-goal lead, there was little question of West Ham failing to complete the victory which would send them top, even after Forest scored a late consolation. Having missed easier chances when it mattered, McGugan contrived a brilliant but meaningless goal, hammering the ball in left-footed from 25 yards in stoppage time.

West Ham United (4-3-1-2) Green; Faubert, Tomkins, Reid, McCartney; Noble, Bouba Diop (Lansbury, h-t), Collison; Nolan; Baldock (Hall, 78), Cole (Piquionne, 85).

Nottingham Forest (4-3-1-2) Camp; Gunter, Morgan, Lynch, Cunningham (Anderson, 23); Moussi, McGugan, Greening (Blackstock, 56); McCleary; Harewood (Miller, 73), Tudgay.

Referee: Anthony Bates

Man of the match: Tomkins (West Ham)

Match rating: 3/10

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind"

News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
football

News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album