Sam Allardyce heaped praise on matchwinner Jack Collison and the diligent medical team that work with him on a daily basis, following Saturday's superb 1-0 win away at Stoke City.

Big Sam was understandably delighted with Collison after his strike just before half-time inflicted only the second home defeat of Stoke's season and pushed West Ham up to level points with them in tenth place in the Barclays Premier League. The high-profile nature of the Wales international's winner is in stark contrast to the careful and often unpublicised work that he has to go through to manage an ongoing knee issue, which has affected the 24-year-old's participation in first-team affairs over the past few years.

"It's an unfortunate injury that he has to live with and he manages it extremely well as a young professional," Allardyce explained. "It's a great shame when such a young man has to be burdened with that and he knows the knee is never going to be 100% so the management of that knee is great credit to him and the medical staff.

"He does a lot of his own training and rarely trains with us. He has to get himself ready and prepared for a game and then after that he has to have that bit longer to rest and recover than everybody else.

"He can live with it. It is going to restrict him somewhat but he is a very talented young man. Because of his professionalism and the fact the medical staff have told him exactly what he has to do week in, week out he will be able to play the game he loves for as long as he can even with that restriction."

Big Sam feels that Collison's determination and dedication to the micro-management of his right knee both before and after the game are the reason that he is able to still make such meaningful impacts at the highest level. Last season was a case in point, as the West Ham No10 hit form at just the right time to play a decisive role in the Hammers' run-in, not least his two crucial goals in the Play-Off semi-final away leg at Cardiff City before the promotion-earning Wembley win against Blackpool.

Allardyce added: "He's lived with the situation since I've been here and he made a massive contribution last year. This season he had a small clean out and we had to wait for the recovery but he is back now with a bang.

"The professional and highly-qualified medical staff make sure they get the right prevention and do not let the knee get any worse so it is kept it in a stable condition. That's a big dedication from him as he has to be relatively bored most of the time in the week when everybody is training.

"It's important he does his rehab and prehab work and making sure his muscles are strong enough around the area to help with the condition of the knee. He has to continue to do that and it's a credit to him that he's able to."

Collison only entered the fray at the Britannia Stadium as an eleventh-minte substitute for the injured Matt Taylor and he was set up by fellow early substitute Ricardo Vaz Te, who came on for the injured Joe Cole, to roll the ball into the bottom corner on the stroke of half-time. Big Sam revelled in a rare away win at the Potters and joked about how his inspired substitutions had made the difference.

"The contribution off the bench was the difference for us. It would be a bit much to claim it was tactical when we had two players who went off injured - I would claim it was a tactical masterstroke but it was only about ten minutes in!

"I haven't had too many results there, so when you get one that's as good as this one we should really appreciate it as it's the timing that is so good. It was a big, big game for us as we try to deliver results as well as performances. We delivered a really great performance against Tottenham last Monday night but didn't get a point and that put extra pressure on us.

"We've relied on our home form a huge amount this year and when you get beaten by a wonder goal as we were in our last game you've got to come and try to pick up some points and get yourself back on track. To do it at Stoke City is a challenge in itself and we mastered that challenge very well and deserved to get that 1-0 win."

The result will leave the Hammers looking up the table rather than down and Big Sam feels that just seven more points will mean the Hammers can confidently start planning for life in the Barclays Premier League next season. With the Manchester United game that was set for next weekend now postponed, the West Ham United manager will use the break to ensure his injured players are restored to full match fitness ahead of a trip to Chelsea on Sunday 17 March.

"It was a great result for us and put us back in the middle of the pack on 33 points and ever closer to that big 40 that we all look for. We've now got a couple of weeks to get everybody ready for a big day at Chelsea. Our defensive quality needed to be in really good order on Saturday and it was.

"We only play twice more in March. It's frustrating but having said that we went into the game last week with almost a full squad and then after this one I've now got five injured so the extra week gives them enough time to recover for a big away game at Chelsea."

West Bromwich Albion