Sam Allardyce was pleased to see his West Ham United go to the top of the Championship on Saturday, although the performance provided little grounds for triumphalism. West Ham needed two generous penalty decisions, after both of which Mark Noble scored, to overcome Nottingham Forest 2-1 at a rather unimpressed Boleyn Ground.
"I think the players looked a bit nervous, personally," Allardyce said afterwards. "The fans get anxious and then we get a little bit more anxious and then passes went astray. It wasn't our usual fluent performance that we've shown at home."
Before the first penalty decision, which came in first-half stoppage time, West Ham had barely threatened Lee Camp's goal. Forest had been playing the better football, and Lewis McGugan, who scored a late consolation goal, and Marcus Tudgay had missed chances better than anything West Ham created.
"That has been typical of us," said Forest's manager, Steve Cotterill. "We haven't had a lot of luck, we haven't taken a chance. But our performances haven't warranted where we are in the league."
Allardyce was in no mood for crowing, knowing that Southampton can overtake them at the top when they play Leicester City this evening. "It's one of those days when we've overcome the nerves and we've got the victory," he said. "We're top of the league for the first time, after 27 games. We might not stay there that long, but we've shown we can get there."
Indeed, only a win for Southampton over Leicester tonight will return them to the top, with their manager, Nigel Adkins, "relishing" the battle for promotion. "As you get closer to the winning line the expectation levels grow," he said. "I have high confidence about ourselves because our focus, desire is to win this division."
Both Southampton and Leicester look set to hand debuts to their January signings, with loanee Yago Falque set to start for the Saints and Danny Drinkwater making a permanent switch to Leicester from Manchester United.
Leicester have won just once in the league since November, but will be buoyed by Southampton's top scorer Rickie Lambert serving the final game of his three-match ban.
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