sport

Carroll targets Villa victory

Andy Carroll fired West Ham to their first win since New Year's Day and then targeted three more morale-boosting points against Aston Villa.

Carroll made a successful return from a nine-week injury lay-off on Saturday, heading the Hammers to a much-needed 1-0 win over Swansea at Upton Park.

West Ham had only won two matches since Carroll last started a game in November - a sequence that had seen the east Londoners slip dangerously close to the Barclays Premier League relegation zone.

But with Carroll now back to full fitness, the Hammers have their tails up and are confident of securing their top-flight status over the next few weeks.

With games against Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester United and Stoke coming up, Carroll knows how important Saturday's win was, and he now hopes the team can follow up their victory with another maximum at Villa next Sunday.

"The points had dried up a bit so the lads are delighted with the win today," Carroll told West Ham TV after the match.

"You could see when I scored everyone was celebrating. And everyone was sliding in with last-ditch tackles at the end. We needed the three points.

"It was good for us to get the win. It will be good for all the lads to get a rest in a rest now and hopefully we can get three points at the end of it."

Hammers boss Sam Allardyce was full of praise for Carroll following his typically bruising display against the Swans.

He proved to be the perfect foil for Kevin Nolan, offering the forward two good goalscoring opportunities with knock-downs from long balls.

Allardyce had been reluctant to start Carroll after such a long lay-off, but the on-loan Liverpool striker had no qualms about playing the whole 90 minutes.

"I've had eight weeks off and I've been working hard in the gym so my fitness is still high," he added.

"All the physios and backroom staff have been helping a lot to keep me fit in the gym when I couldn't run. Obviously it showed with getting 90 minutes. "It felt good. We got three points and I got the goal, so it was great."

Carroll was glad with the whole team's performance and his goal, which came with 13 minutes left from a pin-point delivery by Mark Noble.

"It was a great ball in, he put it in where I wanted it and I've just made a little movement, lost my marker and I put it in," he said.

"Their keeper (Gerhard Tremmel) was on fire. He saved one from me, one from [Ricardo] Vaz Te, and a couple from Kevin [Nolan].

"He kept them in it. We pounded the goal and we were unlucky not to be ahead by half time. But I've put a chance away and we've got the three points, so I'm delighted."

Swansea played the better football by far on Saturday, but for all their wizardry and invention, they lacked a killer pass or finish in or around the Hammers box.

Manager Michael Laudrup was still happy with the way his team played, however.

The Dane, whose side were on a seven-match unbeaten run prior to Saturday's defeat, thought his team would find it hard to get back to the rigours of playing in the league following their shock victory over Chelsea in the Capital One Cup semi-finals, but he has been pleased with what he has seen from his squad of late.

"After the Chelsea game I did expect a reaction, and I haven't seen that," he said.

"When you beat the European champions you might get a negative reaction, you might lose your focus, but I haven't seen that.

"That proves my team is very mature. It's great to see."