If Andy Carroll has had time to think about football in a week that has been memorable for all the wrong reasons, then scoring the winning goal in yesterday evening's match would probably have been high on his wish-list. Having a hand in his team's equaliser would also have been near the top.
Carroll experienced a night in the cells, a court appearance on a charge of assaulting an ex-girlfriend, and an order to lodge at the house of Kevin Nolan, the club captain – where his car was torched. And he is in court tomorrow on an unrelated charge.
All of which was probably not in the forefront of the England Under-21 forward's mind as he flung himself at Joey Barton's cross in the 69th minute at Upton Park to give Newcastle the three points. In fact, conversation at the breakfast table chez Nolan this morning should be more light-hearted than for some days, with Carroll's interim landlord having scored Newcastle's first goal – with a little help from the lodger.
The League table will make pleasant reading too. A first win in four matches and a second on the road – against only one at St James' Park – has elevated Chris Hughton's erratic performers to ninth place in the Premier League.
Hughton had had a difficult week himself, losing his assistant, Colin Calderwood, to Hibernian and having to read reports that his job might be in jeopardy. But yesterday he preferred to concentrate on his team's performance, in which Shola Ameobimatched Carroll in workrate, and Barton delivered high-quality crossesthat created both goals. Carroll's strike after a week of strife, though, guaranteed him this morning's headlines.
"Andy's a tough individual," Hughton said. "He knows that the best place for him is the football pitch, being with a spirited group of players that are fond of him and a staff that are supportive of him."
West Ham United, who were the better side in the opening stages and took an early lead through Carlton Cole, remain at the bottom of the table, and lost Matthew Upson, the England defender, who limped off with a knee injury.
Although Avram Grant, the manager, pointed out that it was West Ham's first defeat in six matches, they have only one League win to their name this season, and have failed to score more than once in anyLeague game.
Grant has always been adamant that the team will survive in his first season in charge, but last night he admitted: "I think it's harder now. But there are almost 30 games to go and there are games in the next months that we can win. I haven't spoken to the owners but they told me that they are patient and they understood that this season would be tough."
Grant fielded three forwards, and it seemed he would be rewarded as West Ham did all the early attacking. They could have scored two or three before Cole repaid Grant's decision to recall him with the opening goal after only 11 minutes. It was created by the vision of Mark Noble, who picked out the run of Frédéric Piquionne into the left channel, and Cole slid the Frenchman's low cross home from close range.
The shock of going behind woke Newcastle up, and they began to mount some serious attacks on the goal behind which their supporters were massed. After 23 minutes, Barton crossed from the right, Carroll and Manuel da Costa battled for the ball at the far post, and it dropped for Nolan to half-volley into the bottom corner with his left foot – one to talk about over the croissants and coffee.
Having realised that there was profit to be had in attacking West Ham, Newcastle continued to drive forward, which made for a good, open game. Neither team, though, was able to produce the right final pass until the 69th minute. Then it all came together for Newcastle, and again the creator was Barton. First he threadedthe ball up the right wing to Ameobi and when it was returned to him, he produced an inviting first-time cross that Carroll headed powerfully past Robert Green from five yards as Da Costa, his marker, failed to react.
Referee: Chris Foy
Man of the match: Barton
Match rating: 7/10