Nolan denies Doncaster

Sam Allardyce hailed his players' professionalism in getting the npower Championship campaign up and running with a 1-0 win at Doncaster Rovers.

A sublime close-range volley from Kevin Nolan on just five minutes settled the contest at the Keepmoat Stadium, although much credit should go to Jack Collison - the one change from last week's defeat by Cardiff City. The Wales midfielder, fresh from signing a new long-term deal, picked out Nolan with a delightful cross at the back post.

The Hammers dominated from start to finish, not least because of a dogged defensive display.  The home side were limited to one shot on goal, with Winston Reid and the outstanding James Tomkins providing a strong shield in front of Robert Green.

Allardyce was delighted with the win but admitted his team could have made it more comfortable, particularly if a second Nolan effort had gone in on 18 minutes. He showed great vision to try and chip Gary Woods, only for the keeper to tip it on to the crossbar.


"We missed too many chances again to just make it more comfortable for us but that aside everything else was very good today," he said.

"It was a lot like last Sunday [against Cardiff City]. Lots of good play, lots of chances but this time we got the result. We got the all important clean-sheet and the goal early on. Of course it was a very professional performance.

"It was one we can build on and it will give the lads a lot of confidence. We have talked all summer about the poor away form at West Ham and we've started in a very positive manner away. Hopefully we can continue to do that because we have got Watford away on Tuesday."

The manager was quick to hail the contribution of the travelling support that provided a third of the crowd on Saturday afternoon, even if they were frustrated by spurned chances in the second half including substitute Carlton Cole lashing into the side-netting and Nolan seeing another effort saved by Woods.

"It was a terrific result for the fans. There were more than 3,000 behind the goal and they saw a very professional performance. They were superb."

Equally noteworthy was the captain's display, with Nolan setting the tone with his early goal and bossing the midfield. It was precisely the kind of display that the manager expected from his skipper, in a fearsome middle-three with Mark Noble and Scott Parker.

"Kevin Nolan could have had two or three goals today but the keeper made the saves. He's got a good mentality and he knows what it's all about. He knows what it takes to get out of this division - quality with team-work.

"He builds team spirit in the dressing room and demands things from players and that helps me with my job. If your captain builds a dressing room, it makes the manager's job a lot easier."