Nolan winner delights Big Sam

Sam Allardyce was a relieved man on Monday evening after a 1-0 home win against Coventry City moved the Hammers joint-top of the npower Championship.

Kevin Nolan settled the nerves in front of the biggest crowd of the season at the Boleyn Ground when he headed in on 66 minutes. Up to that point, it had looked like it would be an extremely frustrating afternoon, with Coventry keeper Joe Murphy inspirational in goal for the Sky Blues.

The final whistle brought huge cheers, as did the news that leaders Southampton and second-placed Middlesbrough had both suffered 3-0 away defeats at Brighton and Blackpool respectively.

The Hammers, who could and should have extended their lead through Frank Nouble, on as a late replacement, and Mark Noble, are level on 47 points with Southampton, two points ahead of Boro in third.

"We were all relieved when we saw Kevin's header go in because we were wondering if it was going to happen today," said Big Sam.

"We created so many chances like we did at Derby on Saturday but had not taken one. It was an outstanding performance by their goalkeeper.

"I was getting a little worried in the last embers of the game that we wouldn't get what we deserved and there was the nagging feeling the opposition may nick it as we have seen before.

"We got what we thoroughly deserved in the end. We played very well and the only thing I can criticise the lads for is not winning by more goals. Everyone rushed in after the game and to hear our rivals have slipped up and we have gained three points makes it that little bit sweeter."

The Hammers were boosted by the return of Nolan, Julien Faubert, George McCartney and man of the match Jack Collison after suspension, and the quartet played their part in a pulsating contest.

Also notable were Mark Noble, Papa Bouba Diop and Winston Reid after their second 90 minutes in three days. Reid, in particular, caught the manager's eye as did his defensive partner James Tomkins.

"You have to give Winston Reid a huge amount of credit. He hasn't kicked a ball for eight or nine weeks, he has two days of training and plays two 90 minutes in 48 hours. That is a massive reason why we are looking stronger at the back."

The manager said he would continue to look for forward reinforcements this week as well as possible a wide player and a central defender. He will take stock of his squad with Sunday's trip to Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup, when Abdoulaye Faye may return, and consider his striking options.

"In an ideal world, I will bring in two because we only have five subs and we have to rotate the squad. Two quality players would be great. Maybe we will go for a wide player as well because we had to play a diamond today. We have no natural width in terms of wingers.

"We got a three crucial points today and it is a big game to win because we don't play a league game for eleven or 12 days because of the FA Cup."