Andy Carroll scored only his second goal for West Ham United as the Hammers defeated Swansea City 1-0.
Carroll led the line superbly all afternoon in his first start since November and headed the only goal of the game after 77 minutes.
The striker, on loan from Liverpool, had been sidelined by a knee injury but returned to Premier League action off the bench in the midweek defeat to Fulham. He started this game, with Ricardo Vaz Te and Matt Taylor also coming in to Sam Allardyce’s starting XI.
Swansea made three changes to the side that drew 0-0 with Sunderland on Tuesday, with Angel Rangel, Ki Sung-Yueng and Wayne Routledge coming in for Dwight Tiendalli, Itay Shechter and Nathan Dyer.
The first-half was a sterile affair, at least for the first 30 minutes, where Gerhard Tremmel’s fine near post save from Kevin Nolan was the only real action to speak of.
Swansea dominated possession early on, and looked the more cohesive unit but failed to seriously test West Ham goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Carroll was leading the line well for the Hammers and it was from his knock down that Nolan seized upon the ball and drilled a low left-footed shot goalwards that was again superbly kept out by Tremmel.
Vaz Te let fly with a fierce effort that Tremmel had to push behind for a corner kick, as the teams went in goalless at the break.
Carroll was continuing to influence the game, leading the line with aplomb, proving a good foil for West Ham’s midfielders and also a direct threat to goal.
He passed up a good opportunity on 52 minutes when he blasted a Matt Jarvis cut-back over the bar when well placed in the area.
Swansea had to wait until the 63rd minute for their first genuine chance of the game as Michu headed over a cross from the impressive Pablo Hernandez.
Tremmel was by some distance Swansea’s best player and he made a fourth crucial save of the game. Winston Reid flicked the ball into the area for Carroll whose low shot was bound for the bottom corner until the German goalkeeper produced a marvellous save with his feet.
However, the Swansea custodian could do nothing about West Ham’s winner as Carroll got his just rewards for a fine afternoon as he rose above Ashley Williams to head in a 77th minute corner from Mark Noble.
Swansea stepped up a gear in the last 10 minutes and the tension could be felt around Upton Park, with the home supporters aware that a run of just one win in nine games was dragging West Ham into a potential relegation battle.
Ki’s bobbling low shot was pushed out by Jaaskelainen, who then saved the rebound from Ben Davies.
Carroll, showing his worth at the other end of the pitch, blocked a fierce shot from substitute Nathan Dyer and then again from Davies as West Ham held on for a precious three points.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Andy Carroll (West Ham) – The striker finally got the better of Tremmel to cap a fine individual display which suggested he has recovered quickly from a lengthy injury lay-off.
WEST HAM UNITED: Jaaskelainen 6, O'Brien 7, Tomkins 6, Reid 6, Taylor 5, Noble 7, Nolan 7, Diame 7, Vaz Te 6, Jarvis 5, Carroll 8. Subs: Pogatetz N/A, O'Neil N/A, J.Cole 6.
SWANSEA CITY: Tremmel 8, Rangel 6, Chico 6, Williams 7, Davies 7, Britton 6, de Guzman 6, Ki 6, Routledge 6, Hernandez 7, Michu 6. Subs: Dyer 6, Moore 6.