Sam Allardyce enjoyed a productive return to his former club Newcastle United as West Ham left St James’ Park with a narrow 1-0 victory.
Kevin Nolan grabbed a first-half winner to settle an otherwise uneventful contest, while Jussi Jaaskelainen produced a fine display to show why Allardyce was so keen to bring him to Upton Park this summer.
A slow first half was kicked into gear by Nolan’s strike on 37 minutes, though the home side were unable to offer a substantial response for the rest of the encounter.
Newcastle pushed for an equalizer – but their search proved fruitless as Jaaskelainen was equal to everything they had to offer.
The Magpies were without captain Fabricio Coloccini and Ivorian midfielder Cheikh Tiote at kick-off, but were boosted by the return of Senegalese forward Demba Ba.
Meanwhile, the headline news for the Hammers was the return of their main marksman Andy Carroll and Nolan to their former hunting ground.
But if anyone had expected an on-song Carroll to remind the Magpies what they were missing, his first action of the game – a foul on Jonas Gutierrez – would not exactly have filled them with hope.
Stand-in captain Gutierrez was forced off after 24 minutes and was taken straight to hospital, while West Ham’s Matt Jarvis suffered a similar fate, ending his already limited contribution soon after.
But four minutes later, the visitors shook the game into action as Nolan rocked the home support with a goal against his former club.
Carroll may have been the big name returnee, but it was Nolan who struck the telling blow for Allardyce’s men, latching onto Joey O’Brien’s loose shot to tap in from close range.
The 30-year-old did not celebrate his goal out of respect for his former side and almost doubled his tally shortly after, firing just over after being put through on goal by Mohamed Diame.
Newcastle pushed for an equaliser before the break, but could not muster one - even though their fans thought they had when Hatem Ben Arfa’s shot struck the side-netting and Jaaskelainen saved another long-range Cabaye strike.
Shola Ameobi replaced Papiss Cisse at half-time and the Magpies persisted in their search for parity – Ba having a fine header saved by Jaaskelainen straight after the restart.
Yet Newcastle’s efforts were hindered by lack of cutting edge, while any momentum they possessed before the break had gradually evaporated into thin air.
And anytime the hosts were able to produce a shot, Jaaskelainen came to West Ham’s aid.
On 70 minutes, the shot stopper got his hands to another Ben Arfa shot, prompting a counter-attack that ended with Carroll being clean through on goal.
But Tim Krul made his best Jaaskelainen impression to race off the line and deny the England striker.
Alan Pardew sent Gabriel Obertan on after 78 minutes, but the move was a rare glimpse of positivity on an afternoon when the Magpies did not display enough attacking intent and ultimately paid the price.