Nolan hails Hammers gameplan

Kevin Nolan won a football match but may have lost a friend following West Ham United's 1-0 npower Championship victory at Brighton & Hove Albion.

Captain Nolan led the Hammers to a hard-fought success that took his team back to second in the table, scoring the all-important winning goal past old pal, former Newcastle United team-mate and Seagulls debutant goalkeeper Steve Harper.

Nolan took advantage of Brighton's penchant for playing out from the back by robbing Liam Bridcutt and slamming the ball past Harper, who was slightly out of position following the midfielder's error.

While the skipper was happy to earn another three vital points for his side, he felt a little guilt at ruining his friend's Brighton bow.

"We knew that, at times, we were going to have to pounce and we did that," he told West Ham TV. "I managed to nick it and get a goal and executed it well.

"I noticed that Harps was a bit over [to one side of the goal] because I think he was sweeping up for the defence, but he got a good hand to it and I thought he might have pushed it away. Of course, I'm delighted that he didn't. I'm delighted with another goal and delighted with another three points.

"I'm a bit disappointed for him because he is probably one of my top mates in football, but I'm delighted for us. He was a bit gutted to concede against me and he told me I'm not his mate, but hopefully we'll be mates again tomorrow!"

Having gone ahead after 17 minutes, the Hammers defended superbly, restricting Brighton to one clear-cut chance through Scotland striker Craig Mackail-Smith, whose shot was turned aside by the impressive Manuel Almunia.

In front of the Spaniard, West Ham were solid as a rock, with George McCartney and Mark Noble particularly outstanding.

Nolan was proud of both the effort put in by his team and their commitment to manager Sam Allardyce's tactical approach.

"We knew we would have to work hard in every game and earn the right to play and I think we did the job. Apart from the volley from Mackail-Smith in the first half, they didn't really give us a shot to save. It was a job well done and we executed a gameplan that worked for us.

"We worked hard, especially after the disappointing performance in the first half at Southampton. Once we scored the goal, we knew it was going to be difficult for Brighton if we could stop their chances, and we would get chances.

"We probably had enough chances ourselves to kill off the game, but we didn't take them. I thought we looked solid.

"There is lots more to improve - getting the ball down, keeping it and being more positive with it - but I'm delighted with the win."

Nolan has played every minute of West Ham's league season so far, but he has also been impressed by the impact made by the players who have come into the side for their injured team-mates in recent weeks.

"This has always been about a squad in this league and I think we've got a strong squad. It's up to us to prove that.

"We'll have to start proving it the nearer we get to Christmas and with the more and more games we play.

"We have the fourth Sunday/Tuesday of the season coming up, so we've got to start using the squad a lot more and the squad players have got to be ready.

"I think you saw on Monday that a few of the lads who came in who didn't play at Southampton did really, really well and I'm pleased for them.

"We've just got to keep going and keep turning losses into draws and draws into wins. As long as we can stay up there until around Christmas, then we can start getting a few more wins and pulling away from the rest of them."

Looking forward, Nolan knows Leicester City present a wounded beast, having lost 3-0 at home to Millwall on Saturday and lost manager Sven-Goran Eriksson on Monday.

With those facts in mind, the 29-year-old believes the Hammers will have to be on their guard if they are to build on their 4-0 home win over Blackpool last time out at the Boleyn Ground.

"They have been on a bit of a bad run and lost 3-0 last week so it's up to us to take full advantage. We can't look at what they're doing. We've just got to work on our gameplan this week and try to execute it like we did against Blackpool in the last home game.

"If we do that, hopefully we will be going home with smiles on our faces again."