Footage of West Ham United leaving the pitch after Saturday's 3-1 Barclays Premier League win over West Bromwich Albion showed Gary O'Neil with a wide grin on his face.

O'Neil had good reason to be cheerful. The No32 scored his maiden Boleyn Ground goal for the Hammers as Sam Allardyce's side took another step towards safety.

The midfielder's goal was also his first since netting in the Championship victory at Peterborough United a year ago and came two years after he suffered a career-threatening injury in a home defeat by Aston Villa.

O'Neil's 28th-minute strike put West Ham 2-0 up against the Baggies and came courtesy of a technically superb first-time right-foot curler into Ben Foster's top left-hand corner.

"It was similar to one I had up at their place this year that just missed the far post," the 29-year-old recalled to West Ham TV. "I can't kick it as hard as some of the younger lads so I have to go for placement!

"It was nice to see one go in. It's about two years to the week since I got my injury in the game against Aston Villa here, so it's nice to get a Premier League goal. Obviously I got a couple in the Championship last year, but it's nice to get back on the scoresheet in the Premier League."

Gary O'Neil

Gary O'Neil curls in his first home West Ham United goal

Prior to his goal, O'Neil had also played a part in the Hammers' opener on 16 minutes, providing the inch-perfect corner for Andy Carroll to power into the net with a trademark header.

"Corners are something we work on because we've obviously got a big side. If you get the delivery right, as I managed to on the first one, Andy is going to be favourite. He was also unlucky with the one in the second half that he got on the end of as well.

"It's all about the delivery because, if you can get it right, they are difficult to defend."

O'Neil's fine defensive display helped West Ham to achieve an important victory - one he hopes will propel the Hammers to a top-ten Barclays Premier League finish. The No32 also revealed that the hosts' gameplan had worked almost perfectly during a dominant performance.

"We said before the game that it was a big game for us - not for safety reasons but for the targets we have set ourselves. We want be looking upwards and pushing into the top half if we can.

"It was a big game because West Brom have achieved that this year. They have had a fantastic season and are on 44 points - a fantastic tally - so to beat them so convincingly apart from the last 15 minutes when it got a bit chaotic with injuries [to George McCartney] and the sending-off [of Youssouf Mulumbu] and stuff, it was fairly comfortable.

"It was a good performance, especially the first half. We took our chances well and did everything we had worked on. We knew they were going to sit off a bit so we tried to drop balls into Andy and get balls wide to Jarvo and I thought it worked quite well.

"I've enjoyed it since I've been in there in that slightly deeper role. I used to play there in the youth team so I knew I could play in there.

"It was probably a bit easier in the first half because they only had two in the middle of the park, so we had the extra man which gave me a little bit of space. The second half was a bit tougher and we were defending a little bit more, but I've enjoyed my little role there so far."

After a difficult opening half to the season in terms of playing time, O'Neil has taken advantage of an injury to the unfortunate Mark Noble to impress in a defensive midfield role.

"I just have to be slightly more aware of the defensive side of things. Whereas when you are playing in one of the two more advanced positions like Nobby [Kevin Nolan] and Mo [Diame], you can get a bit carried away and make forward runs and follow the ball, which is my tendency sometimes, I have to make myself aware of my new responsibilities.

"The lads behind me have been great. Winston [Reid] and Ginge [James Collins] have been shouting at me non-stop 'left shoulder' or 'right shoulder' - there's always someone on one of my shoulders!

"It's been good and we've had some decent performances, barring Chelsea when I didn't think we were too good. The other three games I have played in I have really enjoyed."

Finally, one moment in Saturday's success that O'Neil did not enjoy quite so much was the ball being booted into his backside by Baggies midfielder Mulumbu. The incident saw the Congolese player dismissed by referee Andre Marriner.

"I caught his boot when I was chasing him. It was nothing intentional, just one of those things, and he had probably trodden over me all afternoon as well.

"It was just one of those things that happens in midfield and he just decided that he had had enough so he picked the ball up and booted it at me. It was a strange little episode but at least we got the three points."

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