Zola proud of his players

Gianfranco Zola was on a high on Saturday night after seeing his team grind out a deserved 1-0 home victory against Sunderland.

The manager had seen his players perform terrifically against a visiting side that had moved into mid-table safety on the back of a fine home win against Tottenham Hotspur. The Hammers also headed into this contest on the up after earning a 2-2 draw at Everton last time and the manager said that had proved the catalyst for success.

"The result that got we last week gave everybody a big boost and we found a way where everybody is working very hard for the team, keeping the shape and keeping the team short. That has paid off. When you find things are working you rely on them more and you get better and better. That is the case.

"Things are better but it is still too early to celebrate. We are very happy for today. It was such a tough game. Not only because of the team we were up against but also the amount of pressure that was on our game.

"I am pleased because the players gave everything and they got three points that they deserved. I am absolutely delighted for that and for the boys. I know what they have been through all of this time.

"If we keep working hard and getting points then the confidence level will go higher. Then you can afford to play even more than we are doing right now."

The match-winner was Ilan, who earned a starting berth after his late goal heroics last time out at Goodison Park. Zola said the Brazilian has still plenty more to show, however. "Ilan has done very well in the last week. He came on and scored a very important goal and he has made his way through to the team.

"The goal he scored today was unbelievable. I am delighted. He is becoming very effective for us and is making a big difference. I am pleased for him and for us. He is a payer who has got certain qualities. He can do the job that David Di Michele did for us last year.

"He is very similar to him. Maybe he is more effective scoring goals than Di Michele was. He is doing very well. I don't think we have seen the best of him because he is still adapting to this football. He can do even better.

"Also the understanding with Carlton Cole was very good. The goal came from a combination from the two which was something that they have been trying to do all the game."

The manager was also full of praise for his midfield runners, with the "brilliant" Mark Noble and man of the match Valon Behrami earning particular praise for coping with Sunderland pressure. "Every time we had the opportunity we tried to play but Lee Cattermole and David Meyer were pressing Noble and Kovac.

"So we needed to bypass that. Plus we needed to find Cole and Ilan as soon as possible. That was the plan to avoid the first pressing, that worked quite well.

"We have been working a lot on the organisation of the team, on the defensive side of things and helping them with the midfield - keeping the team close to each other. That created a kind of strength in the team and the point against Everton did the rest.

"Everybody knew how Scott Parker is influential for us. But I said if everybody does a little bit more we can somehow make up for it. What Noble and Behrami did today was unbelievable. They were a big help for our midfield."

Although Zola conceded one more win could be enough for survival, he said the unpredictability of the league meant his team would go for as many as possible. He lamented a possible penalty on Carlton Cole from visiting keeper Craig Gordon and questioned why Guille Franco's late 'goal' was disallowed.

Overall, though he was keen to focus on the positives and staying true to his principles - whatever pressures are exerted outside the club. "You have to motivate and you have to get the best out of players. Some people do it in some ways and others go another way. Simple as that. What I can say is judge me at the end of the season when I finish my job."