Sam Allardyce hailed match-winner Kevin Nolan after West Ham United continued their fine run with a 2-0 win at Aston Villa.

After dominating a goalless opening half, Nolan scored twice in the space of four minute at the start of the second period to fire the Hammers to their first back-to-back wins since their return to the Barclays Premier League.

With the team defending superbly throughout, the manager was also able to celebrate a record-setting 12th clean sheet in 25 league games, and seventh in 13 on the road.

The victory lifted West Ham out of the relegation zone and, with Norwich City to visit the Boleyn Ground on Tuesday evening, Big Sam is now targeting three in a row.

"It was absolutely brilliant from the players," he confirmed. "Our first-half performance gave us a huge amount of encouragement with the way that we started the game and the way we continued to break down Aston Villa's defence.

"The disappointing thing, which I said to the players at half-time, was 'You can't keep going like this without scoring, otherwise you might pay a heavy penalty. For all the good work you have done, you haven't put the ball in the back of the net so make sure, if you do get a chance, put it in the back of the net'.

"On their first-half performance, I think Villa were there for the taking and Kevin Nolan put it away in the first few minutes of the second half with two superbly-taken goals.

"I think the arrival of the two Italians helped. If you get the right service to Marco Borriello, I think we've got a talented player on our hands. Carlton Cole did a really good job and was constantly fouled by Aston Villa's centre-halves, but didn't get a lot of protection from the referee. He caused lots of problems.

"Our wide men got in behind Villa's defence on a consistent basis and it was just the goals that were missing, then Kevin came up with the goods. That's four goals in two games and that's pretty sweet for him and us all.

"We got another clean sheet, which was great for the defensive back line that coped with all the long balls Villa pumped down the middle in the second half. We defended superbly well."

The manager said Nolan yet again illustrated his talent for coolly finishing chances when other players might panic and miss.

The captain's first goal was a neat flick from Stewart Downing's low cross just 18 seconds after the break. The second, three minutes later, saw Nolan rob Fabian Delph before rolling the ball past goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

"He passes the ball into the net. He is composed and is not up tight. I thought Matt Taylor was going to get a third too, but his shot was cleared off the line at the far post.

"Kevin's ultimate strength has always been in the opposition penalty area. He is a top-class Premier League player, always has been, and he has proved that again."

While Nolan will take the headlines, West Ham as a whole showed they could win without the suspended Andy Carroll.

The striker started a three-match ban following his controversial sending-off against Swansea City, but his absence was not felt thanks to the form of Cole and strong debutant Borriello in attack.

"Kevin has scored without Andy, as well!" enthused the manager. "I think we put in eleven or 12 crosses and on at least three occasions, we had a player running at their goal to try and score. Even without Andy we were a threat.

"When Villa came on strong in the second half and threw caution to the wind, we went five at the back. They put Grant Holt on and we put Winston Reid on so we could handle all their big aerial power, and we defended the last 20 or 25 minutes or so of all their long balls pumped into the penalty area.

"It was a thoroughly professional performance in the last 25 minutes and a very good performance in the first 50."

For the manager, a run of ten points out of 15, three straight clean sheets on the road and back to back league victories were all rewards for the patience he has shown during an injury-ravaged season.

"People kept saying we weren't doing this and that and I kept telling them why and now I have proved that I was right - that once the team came back from injuries, they would get better in terms of performances and results.

"Ten points out of the last five games is a pretty good spell at the moment and Tuesday is on its way against Norwich at home, and can we continue it as long as we can?

"While we are out of the bottom three, we are not satisfied because we have only got 25 points from 25 games and we need more points than games on the board as quick as we can."

Finally, when asked for his highlight of a memorable day at a stormy Villa Park, the manager pinpointed the performance of his in-form skipper.

"Kevin has scored two critical goals at a period of time when we had similar chances in the first half but missed them all. When we needed him most, he's put the game to bed for us and that tops the lot for me.

"The rest of the lads did well and he did the hardest bit, the bit he is paid for, and he's done his captain's bit too, to get us a very precious three points."