Hammers ease their relegation worries

West Ham 2 Portsmouth 0 By Dave Evans at Upton Park. IT WASN T easy, it certainly wasn t pretty, but in the end all that mattered was the result, as the Hammers grabbed a vital three points in their basement battle with Portsmouth. Alessandro Diamanti

West Ham 2 Portsmouth 0

By Dave Evans at Upton Park.

IT WASN'T easy, it certainly wasn't pretty, but in the end all that mattered was the result, as the Hammers grabbed a vital three points in their basement battle with Portsmouth.

Alessandro Diamanti grabbed his third goal in as many games from the penalty spot, before Radoslav Kovac settled things a minute from time with his first of the season.

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In between that, it was a nervous, disjointed West Ham who pounded the Upton Park turf. Skipper Matty Upson was full of uncharacteristic mistakes, Diamanti gave the ball away far too often, and once more Guillermo Franco ploughed a lone furrow against a team of Pompey defenders.

West Ham's only change was James Tomkins for the injured Danny Gabbidon, but it proved a quiet start from both teams as neither wanted to make a mistake that would cost a vital goal.

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Mark Noble was forced off with an injury after just 16 minutes, and it was his replacement who was to create the first goal of the match.

The superb Scott Parker had already had one drive over the bar, when on 23 minutes West Ham grabbed the lead.

Franco controlled the ball in the box and had his shot blocked and when it fell to Jimenez, the Chilean was tripped by Michael Brown and the referee pointed to the spot.

Diamanti stepped up and fired the penalty into the corner for his fifth goal of the season, four of them coming from the spot.

Portsmouth had possession, but rarely troubled Robert Green. There were a couple of moments of early panic as the ball flew across the face of goal, but only Nadir Belhadj's shot that flew well over the bar caused any palpitations - there were a lot more to come after the break!

Diamanti almost made it two when his shot on 47 minutes deflected off Steve Finnan goalwards, only for Asmir Begovic to tip it round the post.

The Italian almost made it two with an audacious 50-yard chip that sailed just over, but as the second half wore on West Ham seemed content to allow Portsmouth to hog the possession and take charge of the game.

Green saved well at the feet of Frederic Piquionne after Kanu's clever flick had put him in, while Kevin-Prince Boateng nipped the ball past the goalkeeper, only for Herita Ilunga to deflect his shot into the side-netting.

Piquionne shot over the bar after outmuscling Ilunga and Boateng forced another save from Green as the pressure began to mount.

Pompey's best chance came with 10 minutes left. Piquionne beat James Tomkins in the air, Matty Upson on the ground and let fly with a powerful shot that Green was equal to.

Manager Gianfranco Zola brought on Valon Behrami for Diamanti, and though it looked a defensive move, it proved the catalyst for West Ham to create some late chances.

Jack Collison had a shot well saved by Begovic, Behrami played a delightful one-two with Parker before shooting inches wide, and then with a minute to go came the clincher.

Jimenez swung a free kick into the middle and it was met by, of all people, Kovac who thumped a header into the corner to complete the win.

"Today I have to say Radoslav Kovac was outstanding as he has been for the last two games," said a delighted Zola.

"He was delighted to score, but I was even more delighted."

The win hauled West Ham out of the bottom three for the time being and Zola knew how important the victory was.

"It was a fantastic win. I rated this as a six point game because it was important for the table, for morale, for the crowd, so this would be a huge boost for us.

"It is a sign that they believe what they are doing. I hope they are playing for everybody, not just me. There is so much enthusiasm and the crowd has been great," he concluded.

West Ham: Green 7, Faubert 6, Ilunga 7, Tomkins 7, Upson 6, Collison 6, Parker 9*, Kovac 7, Diamanti 6 (Behrami 72, 6), Noble 6 (Jimenez 16, 7), Franco 7 (Nouble 90).

Booked: None.

Attendance: 33,686

Referee: Lee Probert 7.

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