Zola on a high

Gianfranco Zola was full of praise once again for his West Ham United players after they earned a deserved 2-0 home win against Portsmouth and moved out of the bottom three.

The Boxing Day triumph was secured by Alessandro Diamanti's first-half penalty, his third goal in three games, and a powerful Radoslav Kovac header in the closing stages. It was no more than the Hammers deserved, and was in no small part due to the influence of Scott Parker who was once again a shining light in midfield.

"The importance of Scott Parker I cannot even measure. For enthusiasm and the way he leads by example," said Zola, before also singling out Kovac for his defensive play that has been a major influence on freeing up Parker to roam forward in recent weeks. This was especially the case in the 1-1 draw against Chelsea last week before Saturday's triumph over Portsmouth.

"I must mention Kovac, who was outstanding," he added. "The last two games he has been incredible. I was more delighted than him, trust me. The goal was the final touch but the whole game was massive. He was digging in.

"It was a fantastic win. Massive I tell you, I rated this as a six-point game. Because it was so important for the table, for the morale, to give a bit of consistency and for the crowd. I'm pleased the boys won it with a lot of character and it will be a big boost for everybody.

"I enjoyed it very much. A victory is a victory and when you are involved like I am you enjoy it very much. We are all emotionally involved and I am the first one. We are building something here that will give us belief of what we are doing. It was massive."

It is clear from words and actions that the manager has the full support of his men, although he played down his influence when asked. "It is a sign that they are playing that they want to do good things. Whether they are playing for me I don't know.

"I hope they are playing for everybody and I include myself in everybody because I am part of the group as we are all together in this. It is this that has produced these results. You can see the enthusiasm and the crowd is very much involved with us and that is what is producing good results."

Zola was mindful that Portsmouth have also impressed of late, not least with a 2-0 defeat of Liverpool, and said that explained the tentative opening to the match as both sides looked to gain the all-important first goal.

"I was expecting them to come back. They are a side that is playing very well. You saw it. They passed the ball around the pitch very well and made it very difficult for us. We held the ball very well and they had a couple of chances but not very big ones. It was a solid performance and they did exactly what they expected us to do."

As last year's Boxing Day triumph against Portsmouth kick-started a move up the table, the manager is hoping his team build on this season's success and take it into Monday's derby trip to Tottenham Hotspur. "Hopefully it will be the same. Now we have got other games coming up but we are going to face them with more security. The boys are there and they are there and they are showing it."

The manager will be without Mark Noble on Monday after he felt his hamstring early in the first half but the early signs are that "it is nothing major". He also had confidence that Guille Franco would be OK to go again against Spurs after another battling performance leading the line.

Luis Jimenez profited from Noble's 16th-minute departure to have a hand in both goals. He won the 22nd-minute penalty after being brought down by Michael Brown before whipping in a delightful free-kick for Kovac to convert for his first goal at the Boleyn Ground.

"He did very well," said Zola about his Chile playmaker. "Everyone is coming in and doing their job. Jimenez was good. It hasn't been easy for him but this is an opportunity for him to regain the terrain he lost in the early part of the season."

So to Monday at White Hart Lane and Zola's parting words were a reminder that he is well aware of what the match means to the loyal band of travelling Hammers supporters. "I know the importance to the fans and we will play with our best and with this spirit we could do something important."