Gianfranco Zola paid tribute to his potent strike-force after they helped his team to a sixth match unbeaten away in the Premier League.

Craig Bellamy and Carlton Cole were on target in the 2-2 draw at Newcastle United to give West Ham United the perfect platform for two successive home games to come against Fulham and Hull City - either side of an FA Cup trip to Hartlepool United. For Bellamy, it was a superb strike on his return to Newcastle while Cole scored for the fourth game running to show the benefits of his hard work in training.

Bellamy had equalised Michael Owen's opener with his fine take on the half-hour. Zola said his performance underlined the commitment to the cause every time he walks on to the pitch. "If you see the way he plays all over the pitch, it is fantastic. It is an example of professionalism and he is performing very well - as is everybody." The manager added his substitution was a precaution because his hamstring 'felt a little bit tight'.

It was Cole who looked like he might have given the Hammers all three points with his clinical finish on 55 minutes. "Carlton Cole is on fire," the manager added. "His confidence is back. He has always been playing very well since I have been here but now he is focused and dangerous [in front of goal]. It is a great thing for him. He has many qualities and they are coming out."

As it was Andy Carroll's late goal for Newcastle ensured a share of the spoils, but Zola felt his team were deserving of more overall. "Considering the way we played I am a little bit disappointed we didn't win the game but we were playing against a very good team. Although they were suffering a lot against us they tried until the end. They got the final goal and it gave them a point.

"We played a very good match - especially in the first 15 minutes of the second half. We were absolutely outstanding." That spell produced several chances and scintillating football, with the midfield particularly impressing despite an average age of 23 with only Scott Parker having any major Premier League experience and Mark Noble only just denied by Shay Given when through on goal.

Although unbeaten in four in all competitions, Zola is only thinking of moving onwards and upwards from the current tenth position. "I am confident because the club is determined to improve. It is not true that we want to sell our best players. We want to improve so we are hopeful we can do this. This team deserves this for the way it is playing and training."

A key man in that push could be Kieron Dyer with the midfielder missing out on Saturday only because of the competition for places. The manager is fully aware he will make a "big difference" and is "looking forward to having him back". In summary, he was clear that his team were fully focused and in no way affected by the speculation or gossip that follows all clubs at this time of year.

"It is a credit to their professionalism. They are fantastic. Being a footballer I know it is not easy when you have so many rumours around to concentrate and perform but they are outstanding. Their performance has actually gone higher and they have improved in this period. I have a lot of respect for them so I am very pleased."