Zola thrilled with victory

Gianfranco Zola has hailed the last-gasp 2-1 win against Stoke City as a "big turning point" for West Ham United with the club looking upwards from tenth position.

Two victories in three days has moved the club up from 17th to the halfway point in the Barclays Premier League - five points away from the relegation zone and just three points off seventh spot. Zola was particularly delighted that his men came from behind after conceding to Abdoulaye Faye's fourth-minute header - as they did in the 4-1 triumph at Portsmouth on Boxing Day.

"It tells you a lot about the attitude of the players and the willingness to succeed," he said. "It is very important. It is a well-deserved victory." The manager spoke before the game in his programme notes about the need to start picking up points at home to match the five games unbeaten on the road, so was delighted to see that happen.

"It has been difficult. Confidence here at home was low and we fell behind after a few minutes against a team that especially when they are winning are very difficult to break down. [To come back and win] is a big, big turning point for us. I am pleased for the players, for everybody. We are very committed to the cause of West Ham."

Without the injured Lucas Neill - who should be fit to face Barnsley if selected on Saturday - the ill Mark Noble and the suspended Craig Bellamy, Zola had to look to his squad but was not let down. Julien Faubert was industrious at right-back, Luis Boa Morte had perhaps his best game in a claret and blue shirt and David Di Michele was a menace - not least with his part in Diego Tristan's late winner.

Zola said his team had done well to cope with the pressure imposed by a run of six games without a win at home. "Even if you are a strong player when a situation like this happens, it affects everybody. So I know that the crowd was a little bit nervous and the players wanted to change that.

"After the goal, they reacted perfectly. We had at least seven chances to score in the first half and I said to the players if we carry on playing like this we are going to win. That is how it has been and no one can take that away from us."

Carlton Cole hauled the Hammers level in the 51st minute and the odds swung firmly in the home side's favour as Stoke's Ricardo Fuller was then sent off for violent conduct after an altercation with his captain Andy Griffin. Zola said his team knew that they still had to work hard to finally take the points, which they managed when Tristan converted from Cole's chance late on.

"It is difficult to play against ten men sometimes - it is more difficult because it makes the other team more defensively aware. And so it has been. Fair to them they defended very well. Today, I had the feeling that we were going to win this game."

Of Cole's run of two goals in two games, to make it six for the season from 18 games, Zola refused to take the credit for the extra coaching at Chadwell Heath. "This is not down to me. He has done well. I am not presumptious to say it is down to me or anyone. It is down to him. He kept working. He kept having faith in himself and is getting the rewards that he deserves.

"I hadn't thought about leaving him out. He is a player that I know even if he doesn't score he gives something to the team. He has always been like that. I just wanted him to keep working and scoring. I am pleased for him."

The manager was also pleased for Tristan, who got the 88th-minute winner eleven minutes after coming on for his fourth substitute's appearance. "I wouldn't say he is 100 per cent fit but he is better. Obviously we are going to try and give him a little bit more time on the pitch to make him sharper. He has got goals in his bag. Today he has produced one and hopefully he is going to keep on producing them."