Last Updated: 08/02/14 5:23pm
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Kevin Nolan dragged West Ham out of the Premier League relegation zone with a brace in a 2-0 victory at Aston Villa. The midfielder scored 18 seconds at the start of the second period before seizing on a mistake from Fabian Delph to score his fourth goal in two Premier League appearances.
Villa have kept just one clean sheet in their last 12 Premier League games while West Ham are on course for a third clean sheet in a row.
ALMOST A THIRD! Antonio Nocerino drives in his cross and although Brad Guzan gets a hand to the ball Matt Taylor's goalbound effort is brilliantly blocked by Leandro Bacuna.
RowdyRaven1 Tweets: 'Possession wise villa have dominated but they lacked to create clear cut chances. We needed a creative midfielder. Come on villa!'
The Hammers have kept only one clean sheet in their last 10 trips to Villa Park in the league, that being a scoreless draw in January 2010. They're in dreamland this afternoon!
West Ham have gone to five at the back in a flat line. Expect a Villa onslaught in this final quarter!
Joe Bennett replaces Ryan Bertrand for Villa while defender Winston Reid comes on for Matt Jarvis in a West Ham change.
OFF THE WOODWORK! Marc Albrighton's delicious left-foot cross is met by Christian Benteke, but the ball loops up and against the crossbar with Adrian beaten.
There will be no hat-trick for Kevin Nolan because he has picked up a groin injury and is replaced by Antonio Nocerino, who is on loan from AC Milan.
SO UNLUCKY! Marc Albrighton's howitzer from 30 yards thumps against the post before bouncing off Adrian's studs and flying out for a corner.
The Villa response to the two early Kevin Nolan goals has been good but West Ham have been resilient.
Nathan Baker's header looks to be heading in the far corner but Adrian plucks the ball out of the air at the last minute.
Villa are playing in front of the Hammers backline but are unable to get a decent delivery in the box.
Marc Albrighton is having a go at defenders as West Ham decide to sit back and allow Villa to keep possession of the ball.
Christian Benteke misses an opportunity at the near post but the goos news for Villa fans is that they are now playing with some width.
Villa came back from two goals down against West Brom and they'll have to do the same this afternoon. As things stand, the Hammers will close the gap to just two points behind their opponents.
HE'S AT IT AGAIN! Kevin Nolan nips in to steal the ball off Fabian Delph before slotting his right-footer beyond Brad Guzan in the far corner. That's his fourth goal in two games and his seventh career goal against Villa.
Marco Borriello is on for his West Ham debut. The man on loan from Serie A club Roma has replaced Carlton Cole.
WHAT A START! Stewart Downing turns Ryan Bertrand inside out before his low cross is superbly turned home thanks to some brilliant improvisation by Kevin Nolan. He now has six career goals against Villa.
If you'd like to send me your views during the second-half, email Raz...that's me! at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet me: @RazMirza and I'll publish as many as I can.
Aston Villa are now 6/4 to claim victory with our friends @Skybet, who make West Ham 11/4 and the draw 5/4. Christian Benteke, who has three goals and two assists in his last four appearances, is 5/1 to score first. Kevin Nolan seems to enjoy facing Villa with five goals against them, more than he has managed against any other side, meaning he offers fine value at 10/1 to net first. I went for Villa to win 2-1 this afternoon and that scoreline was priced at 15/2. It is now a 12/1 shot. Head now to SKYBET to place your bets on this match.
Relegation-threatened West Ham have had the better of the opening 45 minutes against a disappointing Aston Villa. The best chances of the half both fell to the Hammers. Stewart Downing missed his kick right in front of goal before Matt Jarvis drove his sliding right-footer wide of Brad Guzan's near post. Ashley Westwood's volley was the hosts best chance of a game lacking any real quality.
Fabian Delph fails the keep the ball in play on the far byline. Meanwhile, the visitors earn a free-kick deep in their own half.
CLOSE! Ashley Westwood slams his right-foot volley from the edge of the area just wide of Adrian's far post.
West Ham have kept the joint-most clean sheets in the Premier League with 11 while Villa have scored 12 home goals all season.
Christian Benteke shows an angry reaction to referee Mike Dean after feeking he was felled on halfway.
Matt Jarvis puts the ball out of play after Carlton Cole went down. But he was quickly back up so Villa decide to keep the ball from the throw.
West Ham has lost just one of their last four Premier League matches, winning twice and drawing once. They're looking for their first back-to-back top flight wins this season.
Carlton Cole has done a great job holding the ball up for the Hammers. Meanwhile, Villa's Christian Benteke has hardly had a touch!
Fabian Delph is urged to have a go from distance and he does but it was always moving away from Adrian's goal.
Kevin Nolan tries to find Carlton Cole in the box but Villa clear their lines. The visitors from east London are on top in this game and Paul Lambert looks a worried man on the touchline.
GREAT CHANCE! Matt Jarvis breaks the offside trap but drives his sliding right-footer wide of Brad Guzan's near post with Nathan Baker's last-ditch challenge putting him off.
Matt Taylor's awkward clearance flies away for Villa's third corner of the game, but it's cleared and West Ham break.
Ciaran Clark gets back to make a superb tackle to on Matt Jarvis who looked to be clean through on goal for a second.
Ryan Bertrand went sliding in along with Downing and collided with the post. He's quickly back to his feet though.
WHAT A MISS! Stewart Downing misses his kick right in front of goal from Matt Jarvis' low left-footed cross. That was a golden opportunity for the former Villa man!
Sam Allardyce is looking for his 50th win as West Ham manager today. It's been scrappy with both teams looking to play the counter-attacking game.
Villa counter and Andreas Weimann's wonderful pass finds Gabby Agbonlahor at the back stick but the Villa striker is unable to control the ball.
Villa are a shade fortunate after Stewart Downing seemed to be level from an attempted through ball.
Fabian Delph slices the ball behind for a West Ham corner. Stewart Downing's cross is headed away but the visitors are starting to grow in confidence.
Stewart Downing's left-foot shot fizzes way wide of Brad Guzan's goal. His last goal came 11 months ago but he'll be desperate to impress against his former club today.
Nathan Baker makes a crunching tackle on Carlton Cole after the striker showed him a clean pair of heels on the far side.
Paul Lambert's men are dominating possession, which is quite unusal to see at Villa Park. The opposition usually do all the running.
Villa work the ball well until Gabby Agbonlahor's attempted pass out wide takes a defelction for a throw.
Matt Taylor fires an angled pass trying to find Matt Jarvis, but the winds catches the ball and takes it behind for another goal kick.
Guy Demel is forced to head the ball behind for a Villa corner but once again Demel clears for another corner. Referee Mike Dean blows his whistle for an infringement in the box.
Leandro Bacuna's rather ambitious effort is blocked but Villa have the ball and are looking to attack from the start.
The conditions are rather blustery in the West Midlands as the Hammers win an early corner. Matt Jarvis' corner is well headed wide by James Tomkins though.
A win for the Hammers today would close the gap to just two points with Villa while the hosts are looking to claim back-to-back home wins in the top flight for the first time in three and a half years quite amazingly.
In the battle of the claret and blues, which one of these club's will come out on top? Referee Mike Dean gets the game underway.
Is it true that prices for this match were as low as £12.50 for the lower Holte End? Does anybody know if this is really true. It certainly looks like a sell-out today!
With the teams in the tunnel, here's a couple of stats before kick-off: Last season: Aston Villa 2 West Ham 1, West Ham 1 Aston Villa 0. Last five league matches: Aston Villa W L D W L; West Ham L W L D W. Top scorers (all competitions): Christian Benteke (Aston Villa) 8; Ravel Morrison (West Ham) 5.
Steve Owen can't forget about the Andy Carroll incident, saying: 'Dear Raz. Its alright saying forget about the Carroll episode. I have just watched the Liverpool-Arsenal game and arms were used alot and it seems to be a joke against the big side's that someone's just getting equal after what they feel is going in hard on them. No we wont forget about this.'
Paul Lambert's Villa currently boast 27 points, leaving them in mid-table, but victory will not see them move any higher, with Southampton eight points ahead in ninth. The reality is, however, given the tight-knit nature of the lower half of the table they are only five points off the relegation zone. Exactly a year ago Villa beat the Hammers 2-1 on home soil, a result that helped the club kick on for survival. Paul Lambert said in his pre-match interview: 'We're hoping to push on again. If we go into the game with the same form we've been in of late then we will certainly be right in it, that's for sure. The main thing for me is we're playing well enough at this moment in time to win games.' Let me know your predictions Villa fans. Email Raz...that's me! at email@example.com or Tweet me: @RazMirza and I'll publish as many as I can.
Andy Carroll's suspension has dominated the build-up to this game and with West Ham still entrenched in the bottom three this represents the start of a three-game sequence that could prove pivotal to Sam Allardyce's mission with Norwich next Tuesday night, then the trip to Southampton on February 22 and Everton away on March 1. What are your thought's ahead of kick-off Hammers fans? Email Raz...that's me! at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet me: @RazMirza and I'll publish the best.
@PaulMadin Tweets: 'Yet again Lambert has gone for an aggressive formation looking to capitalise on West Hams poor form.'
@SquireLowOutput is another unhappy Hammer and Tweets: 'Disappointing not to see Boriello or Nocerino starting, but BFS knows best...'
And Ben Marshall has his say on Big Sam's starting line-up: 'Hi Raz! Avid West Ham supporter, but getting sick of Sam not playing the new guys. What we're doing clearly isn't working, get Nocerino in for Nolan and give Borriello a run up front, atleast until the hour mark, then if we need it, bring on Cole. Sam needs a big rethink.'
Ray Strach in Leicester says: 'Hi Raz! Looking for another home win today for Villa, we'll miss Ron Vlaar but they'll miss Andy Carroll!'
Paul Giles emails in to say: 'All Sam's eggs are in the Andy Carroll basket, Carlton Cole up front doesn't work for us, Sam is paid a lot of money he needs to come up with a new idea or we've got a problem.' He does have Marco Borriello (on loan from Roma) and Antonio Nocerino (on loan from AC Milan) on the bench today though Paul. If things are not going your way, he may well throw them on!
Aston Villa are 11/10 to claim victory with our friends @Skybet, who make West Ham 5/2 and the draw 23/10. Villa to win and both teams to score is a 3/1 shout while Christian Benteke, who has three goals and two assists in his last four appearances, is 4/1 to score first today. The Hammers, who are 9/4 for the drop, are outsiders as they head west in the bottom three with just two away wins this season. Kevin Nolan seems to enjoy facing Villa with five goals against them, more than he has managed against any other side, meaning he offers fine value at 7/2 to net anytime. I'm going for Villa to win 2-1 this afternoon and that scoreline is priced at a healthy 15/2. Head now to SKYBET to place your bets on this match.
ASTON VILLA TEAM NEWS: Gabby Agbonlahor returns to the Aston Villa side this afternoon. The striker has missed the last two games with a foot injury suffered after tumbling over an advertising hoarding in last month's draw at Liverpool. Manager Paul Lambert is without Ron Vlaar though after he picked up a hamstring problem in the closing stages of last week's 2-1 loss at Everton so Matt Lowton comes in for the big Dutchman while Ciaran Clark partners Nathan Baker in central defence.
WEST HAM TEAM NEWS: West Ham are without suspended striker Andy Carroll so Carlton Cole starts up front. Sam Allardyce feels Carroll is best 'left well alone' to deal with his ban, which was upheld by an independent tribunal on Friday afternoon. The Irons are unhappy that the England striker's ban - a consequence of being sent off against Swansea last week after an altercation with defender Chico Flores - was not overturned by the FA, and took the case to tribunal in the pursuit of what Allardyce claimed was 'justice'. The striker now also miss the visit of Norwich next Tuesday night and then the trip to Southampton on February 22. However, the independent panel, at which the FA was also represented, found 'there was no serious issue to be tried' and as such rejected West Ham's submissions, meaning Carroll must serve out his punishment. Italian duo Antonio Nocerino and Marco Borriello are on the bench following their loan moves.
ASTON VILLA TEAM (4-3-1-2): Guzan, Lowton, Clark, Baker, Bertrand, Bacuna, Westwood, Delph, Weimann, Benteke, Agbonlahor (c).
WEST HAM TEAM (4-2-3-1): Adrian, Demel, Tomkins, Collins, McCartney, Nolan (c), Noble, Taylor, Jarvis, C Cole, Downing.
If you'd like to send me your views before or during the match at Villa Park, email Raz...that's me! at email@example.com or Tweet me: @RazMirza and I'll publish as many as I can.