Noble gives West Ham clear sight of survival

West Ham United 3 Stoke City 0: Grant's new-look side cut Stoke down to size to escape relegation zone

Whether through daring team selection, the feebleness of the opposition or even a new lucky scarf to replace the one he threw into the crowd in January, West Ham's manager, Avram Grant, can enjoy a week above the Barclays Premier League relegation zone for the first time since his team beat Wolverhampton Wanderers on New Year's Day.

Grant broke the manager's rule of never to change a winning team, adding height to his side in order to counter Stoke's physical threat, and was rewarded with goals from Demba Ba, Manuel Da Costa and Thomas Hitzlsperger.

Back-to-back wins, and 14 goals scored in four matches in all competitions, suggest that West Ham have turned a corner since abandoning their pursuit of a possible replacement for Grant in January. The signing of four players, including Ba, and the return of Hitzl-sperger from injury have also helped.

"It was a good week," Grant said afterwards. "We are getting better from game to game. All the new signings are doing well and we have momentum. I followed Ba for a long time, and Thomas [Hitzlsperger] is like a fifth January signing."

Ba was the pick of the forwards, profiting from a goalkeeping error by Asmir Begovic to score his fourth goal in as many matches since joining from Hoffenheim. But Mark Noble was arguably their most influential player.

Stoke are seldom thought of as a soft touch, but this defeat set a club record of six successive Premier League away defeats. Tony Pulis's side are also without a goal on their travels for 500 minutes. They are especially uncomfortable in the capital, where they have lost five times this season, and relegation remains a possibility, if a remote one.

"We need one to go in off someone's backside," the Stoke managersaid. "We will be all right, but it's a tough old league. We need to get to 40 points as soon as possible and then look around."

West Ham might have appeared the ideal antidote, but although their 4-3-3 seemed at first to leave them short on the wings, when they took the lead after 21 minutes it was straightforward ball down the middle that unlocked the defence.

Noble's pass sent Ba racing towards the penalty area with Marc Wilson, the right-back, at his shoulder. Begovic, rushing from his goalline, was still favourite to reach the ball first, but the goalkeeper kicked only air and Ba reached the ball before Wilson to score.

Pulis was reminded that Stoke had almost signed the Senegal forward in January only to pull out on medical advice. "We did what we did in good faith and you'd never criticise [the medical staff] for that," he said.

Eight minutes later it was 2-0 as West Ham beat Stoke at their own game from a set-play. Hitzlsperger flighted a free-kick on the left to the far post, where Da Costa outjumped Jonathan Walters to head powerfullypast Begovic.

Begovic touched Hitzlsperger's goal-bound drive over the bar and James Tomkins headed against the post, but Stoke did not surrender without a fight, and Rory Delap put Robert Green under pressure with a 20-yard shot as well as a series of throw-ins.

But West Ham settled the match with nine minutes to go. Noble's pass found Scott Parker, who went past Danny Pugh and cut the ball back to Frédéric Piquionne. The Frenchman's first-time effort was blocked by Ryan Shawcross but the ball bounced into the path of Hitzlsperger, who hit his first League goal for the club with a shot that nearly burst the net.

It is hard to see Stoke being as compliant next weekend, when the two teams meet again at the Britannia Stadium in the FA Cup sixth round. "I was disappointed with the first two goals," Pulis said. "Until the first we were in control of the game, and then they scored from a set-play, which was disappointing. After that it was all West Ham. Good luck to them."

Attendance: 33,066

Referee: Andre Marriner

Man of the match: Noble

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
tech
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
News
newsAstonishing moment a kangaroo takes down a drone
Life and Style
Duchess of Cambridge standswith officials outside of the former wartime spy centre in Bletchley Park
tech
News
people
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.

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'