Kevin Nolan’s first-half goal gave West Ham United a scrappy 1-0 win at Newcastle United as former players and manager returned to haunt the Magpies.
Skipper Nolan, who has now scored in each of the three Newcastle-Hammers matches he has played, fired home from close range seven minutes before half-time.
Newcastle disappointed in their attempts to equalise as a combination of poor crossing and lacklustre forward play left the home fans frustrated, as Sam Allardyce’s side moved into the top six.
Allardyce has now won his last three matches against Newcastle, who fired him midway through the 2007-08 season while the club sat in mid-table. They were relegated soon aftewards.
It was a dour and dreary affair, marked by poor play from both sides and a series of niggly fouls that made it impossible to string more than three passes together.
Newcastle were particularly frustrating as they mostly looked long and, while it was difficult to say that West Ham deserved the lead, the visitors went ahead by default when Nolan landed a poacher’s finish after a mis-hit shot by Joey O’Brien.
Nolan was the half’s biggest threat, seeing a bicycle kick blocked by Steven Taylor and firing a rising finish wide after good work from Mohamed Diame, but it was not saying much, although Newcastle did rally at the end of an otherwise dreary 45 minutes.
Shane Ferguson, Toon’s biggest threat from the left, saw a goal-bound effort blocked by the back of O’Brien, while Hatem Ben Arfa saw an effort deflected into the side netting by Winston Reid, who was fortunate not to give away a penalty after pushing Taylor at the subsequent corner.
The hosts made a surprising change at half-time as Shola Ameobi replaced Papiss Cisse, but they did not modify their direct approach as the aerial ball was employed once more.
It was used to better effect though as ex-Hammer Demba Ba saw a header clawed off the line by Jussi Jaaskelainen, while Mike Williamson put wide from the resultant corner.
There was little guile about their work though, and West Ham should have extended their lead when good crosses from Nolan and George McCartney were wasted by Gary O’Neil and the subdued former Toon hero Andy Carroll.
Toon’s best chances were coming from high balls and set plays, one of which from Yohan Cabaye saw a flying Williamson header blocked, while Ben Arfa almost swung a corner straight in but for a smart readjustment from Jaaskelainen.
Ameobi then put a free header wide, again from a corner, and it was looking increasingly like Newcastle were not having one of their best days.
With around 20 minutes left there was a sudden sea-change though as Newcastle’s increasing desperation opened the match up at both ends.
Moments after a Ben Arfa effort was well stopped by Jaaskelainen, Carroll harassed Williamson into an error before latching on to Nolan’s pass, but his one-on-one finish was kept out brilliantly by a spreadeagled Tim Krul.
The latter stages saw a sustained Newcastle assault marred by a lack of quality with the final ball, Ben Arfa and substitute Gabriel Obertan guilty of wasteful crossing after positive runs.
There was a brief panic as Krul came up for an injury-time corner, but again the delivery missed his leap and the East Londoners held on for a win that puts them ahead of Tottenham in sixth.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Jussi Jaaskelainen, West Ham: A stand-out in a poor game thanks to his saves from Demba Ba and Hatem Ben Arfa.
NEWCASTLE: Krul 7, Simpson 6, Taylor 6, Williamson 5, Santon 6, Ben Arfa 5, Cabaye 5, Gutierrez 6, Ferguson 6, Cisse 5, Ba; Subs: Anita 5, Ameobi 5, Obertan
WEST HAM: Jaaskelainen 7, O'Brien 6, Reid 7, Tomkins 6, McCartney 6, Benayoun 6, Diame 6, Noble 6, Jarvis 5, Nolan 7, Carroll 5; Subs: Maiga 6, Demel 6, O'Neil 6