Zola hails his squad

Gianfranco Zola hailed his team's fighting spirit after they returned from Villa Park with a superb point to go with the ones already achieved at Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea this season.

Although fifth-placed Aston Villa took a deserved early lead through Emile Heskey's eleventh-minute strike, Zola knew his depleted squad would keep going to get the equaliser. It came through an instinctive 85th-minute header from Diego Tristan and, in the end, the lively Hammers ended up coming close to a famous away win that would have really consolidated their hold on seventh place.

As it was, it finished 1-1 and all agreed the match was a thrilling contest that perhaps only lacked some better finishing from both sides. "It was a pity [there were not more goals] because everything else was on the pitch," Zola said. "It was a very good display of football. It was very enjoyable and the only thing missing was a few more goals. It was an exciting game.

"Everybody can be satisfied with the game, especially us. We can say that we totally deserved a point and if we had won the game no one could have said anything about that either. It was a hell of a game. Both teams tried to win the game so this result is fine."

Despite the absence of potentially a first-choice midfield of Radoslav Kovac, Scott Parker, Valon Behrami and Jack Collison and strike duo of Carlton Cole and Dean Ashton, those that played showed again just why West Ham are riding high with five games to play. Senior figures like Robert Green, Matthew Upson and Luis Boa Morte, combined superbly with the lively James Tomkins and Junior Stanislas to more than match a strong Villa side.

"My team dug in under pressure. It keeps happening. We had to take out James Collins [in the first half] because of a problem with his calf but it has been like this since the beginning," the manager added, before saying he actually saw such situations as positives rather than negatives."I like this because the team never lets itself down. They always fight against everything that comes against them. I am delighted about their attitude. "

With Chelsea next up at the Boleyn Ground on Saturday, the manager also sees no reason why the team cannot produce another positive display. "We fight to the end. They just need to play and keep the same attitude no matter what comes in front of us. We always have to give 100 per cent and that has been the spirit, the trademark of this team."

Zola also reiterated his commitment to West Ham United and confirmed a deal to extend his and his backroom staff's tenure in east London was close - a clear sign that he is more than positive about the club's long-term future. "The club is looking after us. We are talking about [a contract] and it is looking good so maybe in the next few weeks it will happen.

"It is good, the club has been very good to us and we appreciate that. I believe the club is going to improve and there will be stability. The situation will be better, but we have been through everything this year so we are not scared of anything."