The West Ham captain earned his side the three points after less than five minutes of the second half, first expertly turning in Stewart Downing’s cross before capitalising on a defensive error to double the Hammers’ lead.
Villa controlled much of the play in a dismal first half but lacked any creativity to break down the regimented and resolute West Ham defence.
Time and time again the hosts found it easy to retain possession, but a very narrow trio of Christian Benteke, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann hindered any chance of Villa getting in behind the Hammers back four.
Paul Lambert’s side were devoid of any creativity going forward, and it was a former Villa man that should have opened the scoring for West Ham.
Matt Jarvis’s delightful cross from the wide left fizzed across the face of the Villa goal and towards the back post where an unmarked Stewart Downing was waiting to prod home. However, the winger, who is still waiting to score his first goal in the claret and blue of West Ham, took his eye off the ball, instead taking an air shot.
The hosts finally mustered their first effort at goal as the opening half drew to a close. James Tomkins failed to deal with Ryan Bertrand’s cross, tamely playing it into the path of Ashley Westwood, who was unfortunate to see his fizzing volley flash past the left-hand post.
In a complete contrast to the dire first 45 minutes, the fans – particularly the travelling support - were treated to a little excitement early in the second period as the visitors opened the scoring.
Downing tortured Bertrand wide on the right, turning the on-loan full-back inside to slip in Nolan. The West Ham captain expertly backheeled the ball into the back of the net, courtesy of a deflection off Clark.
And before the hosts had time to regroup, the game was beyond them as captain marvel Nolan stripped Delph of the ball on the edge of Villa’s 18-yard box and prodded home past the onrushing Guzan.
Villa did show some promise in the closing stages, exerting pressure on the West Ham backline, but the visitors stayed strong to hold out for a vital three points.
24' - DOWNING MUST SCORE: The former Villa man is found unmarked at the far post by Jarvis’ fizzed ball across the face of the goal. Downing completely misses the ball from six yards and the ball runs out of play.
43' - WESTWOOD FIRES WIDE: Villa’s first real opportunity of the match comes just minutes before the half-time whistle. Bertrand flies down the wing and hangs a cross up towards Benteke. Tomkins beats the Belgian to the ball but only clears as far as Westwood on the edge of the penalty area. Unmarked, the Villa man volleys at goal – catching it well but sending it narrowly wide of the left-hand post.
46' – GOAL: West Ham take the lead. Stewart Downing turns Bertrand inside out before finding Nolan six yards from goal. The midfielder does tremendously well to backheel the ball into the net courtesy of a slight deflection from Clark.
48' – GOAL: West Ham score their second. This game is all but over. Delph fails to get rid of the ball on the edge of his penalty area, and is dispossessed by Nolan, who takes one touch before sliding the ball past Guzan and into the bottom corner.
67' – POST: What an effort from Albright who gathers the ball 30 yards from goal and takes a touch to set himself. The substitute rifles a wicked effort onto the far post which then deflects off the leg of the diving Adrian and out to safety.
79' – CLOSE: Villa almost half the deficit as Albrighton’s set-piece is whipped towards the far post. It takes a slight deflection off Tomkins and brushes the upright on the way out for a corner.
80' – SPECTACULAR EFFORT FROM BENTEKE: Albrighton’s corner finds the head of Clark who flicks the ball towards the far post. Collins has lost the Belgian striker, allowing him to acrobatically volley over from eight yards.
82' – BENTEKE AGAIN: It’s relentless pressure from the hosts, and Benteke must do better. Albrighton’s corner is whipped onto the edge of the six yard box and finds Benteke, but he heads wide.
Nolan has scored more goals past villa than any other team
Third consecutive clean sheet for Adrian
TALKING POINT: Why can't Villa play at home? Villa have enjoyed more success on the road this season, claiming16 of their 27 points when away from Villa Park. Lambert's men are more effective when playing on the counter attack, of which they rarely get to do at home, when you have the likes of West Ham sitting behind the ball. The Villa boss desperately needs to find a new way of setting up his teams at home if they're to avoid being dragged further into the relegation battle.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Kevin Nolan, West Ham - In a game that lacked real quality, it is impossible to give the man of the match award to anybody other than the game winner - especially as he scored two goals. His second was a gift from Delph, but the first was of the highest quality.
Villa: Guzan 6, Lowton 5, Clark 6, Baker 5, Bertrand 6, Bacuna 6, Westwood 6, Delph 6, Weimann 5, Benteke 6, Agbonlahor 6: Subs: Albrighton 7, Holt 5, Bennett 5
West Ham United: Adrian 6, Demel 6, Tomkins 6, Collins 6, McCartney 6, Nolan 7, Noble 5, Taylor 6, Jarvis 6, C.Cole 5, Downing 6 Subs: Reid 5, Borriello 6, Nocerino 6
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- Kevin Nolan
- Aston Villa
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