Zola points way forward

Gianfranco Zola has spoken of his delight at the way West Ham United performed in the goalless draw at Aston Villa ahead of a key run of fixtures for the club.

The West Ham manager saw some resolute defending and some superb goalkeeping from Robert Green keep the high-flying Villans at bay. Green made several outstanding saves including a vital injury stop at the feet of Gabriel Agbonlahor, but also benefitted from the protection of the excellent James Tomkins and Matthew Upson in front of him.

"I am delighted and lucky to have a bunch of players that are fantastic. Their commitment, passion and desire to please me and the supporters is unbelievable. That is the best ingredients for success.

"If we perform like this and we have everybody back, it is down to us. We are good enough to start climbing the league but we must have the same attitude and we will have some players back that are missing."

The point, coupled with other results going their way, moved the Hammers up two places in the league standings.

"It was a good point for us. They had good chances but we had some good chances as well. The way we played in the second half meant we deserved to get a point. They had good chances as well so it was a fair game and a fair result.

"When we bought the two wingers, Alessandro Diamanti and Junior Stanislas, on the game changed for the better for us. We looked dangerous and it was a really good game.

"I am pleased and proud of my team's performance as it was a difficult game against a team in form and we had some players missing, so it was brilliant performance from our players."

Although Green will rightly deserve the plaudits he gets for his performance, his manager joked that there was one occasion the England goalkeeper did have him a little worried as he tried to take the ball around John Carew.

"He was outstanding apart from one moment when my heart stopped for a few seconds. Fortunately not long enough to damage my brain, but it is damaged already," he joked.

"His performance was really good and he was back to his normal standard."

Further forward, the 18-year-old Frank Nouble put in a tireless shift and could have easily marked his first Premier League start with a goal in the fifth minute, only to smash his shot over the bar.

"He had a very good game. He delayed too much, he should have taken his chance earlier. Despite that he posed a threat to then all of the time. You can't afford to play a team like Villa and not cause them problems or they will come on top of you."

Another slightly nervous moment came when Radoslav Kovac escaped with just a warning after a foul on Stiliyan Petrov having already been cautioned. Zola was quick to acknowledge the honesty of the Bulgarian in not trying to get his opponent sent off.

"I have to congratulate Petrov as he is a fair person and fair player. The first booking was a little harsh as it wasn't a foul and wasn't a booking and that levelled it up."

Zola was pleased to report that Scott Parker's hamstring injury is not thought to be too serious, while he may be joined back on the training pitches by some other key players over the coming fortnight.

"Carlton Cole shouldn't be far as he might be joining us in training, Kieron Dyer is a couple of weeks away, Danny Gabbidon might be this week, Guillermo Franco will be at least a couple of weeks more and Herita Ilunga should be two weeks away, maybe one week."

West Ham now face games with Portsmouth, Blackburn Rovers, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Birmingham City and Hull City next, which could all go a long way to determining the shape of the season.

"It is massive to be out of the bottom three. But not just being out of the bottom three, picking up a point here is not an easy task. That will give the players a big boost in confidence and many other things.

"Then we have another tough match against Portsmouth and then a run of games as home. It is a big opportunity and the Villa match will prepare ourselves properly to play the next games.

"It will let us push clear as we have important players coming back. The performance will give us a platform for the future."

Far from worrying about the possibilities of the upcoming games, Zola is excited at the prospect of the scale of the encounters.

"I'm looking forward to it as we have big games coming up so it is a very important time for us. What makes me positive is the team is alive and is determined to make a good impact."