Noble on the spot at Birmingham

Mark Noble brought a shining ray of sunshine to showery St Andrew's with a coolly-taken second-half penalty that gave West Ham United their first victory of the season.

The busy England U-21 international fired home the winner with 20 minutes remaining to cap a wonderful display and ensure that West Ham collected three richly-deserved points. Earlier, Alan Curbishley had handed a debut to midweek signing, Keiron Dyer, as he made three changes from the side that kicked-off with an unwelcome defeat against Manchester City.

Just 24 hours after his call-up for England's friendly against Germany on Wednesday, the £7 million-rated midfielder replaced former Newcastle United team-mate Lee Bowyer, while Matthew Etherington was preferred to Luis Boa Morte and Hayden Mullins came in for injured skipper, Freddie Ljungberg.

That meant that Matthew Upson was handed the captain's armband and he duly received a heated reception from the locals upon his return to rainswept Birmingham and, more painfully, a crunching early challenge from Mehdi Nafti, who curiously escaped a yellow card.

But with just five minutes on the clock, referee Mark Halsey was less forgiving when Mullins was cautioned for felling Sebastian Larsson in a feisty opening, that also saw debutant Dyer cut in from the right flank and tumble in the slippery St. Andrew's penalty area, under the challenge of the unpunished Stephen Kelly.

Following their midweek draw against Sunderland, which came four days after an opening day defeat at Chelsea, Steve Bruce made two changes as Radhi Jaidi came in for the injured Johan Djourou and Garry O'Connor replaced Gary McSheffrey in attack.

And as the quarter-hour mark approached, O'Connor finally unleashed the first goal attempt of the afternoon but his low, 18-yarder skidded wide of the untroubled Robert Green amid the cheers of the Hammers fans shoe-horned into the seating behind his goal.

Indeed, the opening proceedings had been littered with a string of untidy free-kicks and equally unwelcome offside flags but on 25 minutes, Noble sent a low, 25-yarder aqua-planing through the Blues' wall and onto the beaten Colin Doyle's right-hand post, after Jaidi hand-balled under pressure from Bobby Zamora.

In reply, the breaking Mikael Forsell sliced wide, but it was West Ham who were gaining the initiative as Noble's corner was scooped over by Anton Ferdinand, before the overlapping Jonathan Spector latched onto Mullins' miscue and sent a low angled 12-yard shot crashing into Doyle's ribcage.

In first-half stoppage time, Green was finally called into action, when he turned aside Jaidi's 15-yarder as the ball flew through a pack of bodies, but to the frustration of the damp 24,961 crowd, Referee Halsey - who also booked Stuart Parnaby and Spector for fouls on George McCartney and Larsson - had been the busiest man of the opening 45 minutes.

Just after the break, Zamora blazed over the angle and then the prodding and probing Noble impressively carried on from where he had left off before the interval, with a barnstorming run and cutback that climaxed with Dyer inadvertently blocking Craig Bellamy's goal-bound eight-yarder.

After Nafti was finally booked for one foul too many, Larsson then volleyed back across goal but West Ham still held the upper hand and having spent the opening hour sat in the stand, Alan Curbishley headed to the dug-out in an effort to spur on the visitors, yet further.

And the manager's pitch-side arrival was soon greeted by the sight of Zamora sending Spector's probing cross over the top and another angled effort wide of the far post.

Midway through the half, however, the east enders deservedly broke the deadlock when the exposed, diving Doyle upended Bellamy as the Welshman raced onto Dyer's well-weighted through-ball into the danger zone.

And after the heated home protests had died down, Noble remained the coolest man on the pitch, to stroke the resultant spot-kick into the bottom right-hand corner as the furious 'keeper dived in the opposite direction.

In the dying moments, both the breaking Dyer and surging Bellamy had great chances to double the advantage, only for the solitary figure of Doyle to thwart their efforts, but in the end Noble's strike still proved enough to give Hammers that welcome first win of the campaign.