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Aston Villa 1 West Ham 0 By John Curtis PA Sport
Aston Villa midfielder Craig Gardner struck for the second time in five days to propel Martin O'Neill's side into fifth place in the Barclays Premier League.
The England Under-21 player, who had also netted against Tottenham on Monday, settled the issue with his 24th minute free-kick to earn Villa a fourth successive home win.
Villa had enough chances to make sure of the points in the first half and, although there was an improved showing by the Hammers in the second 45 minutes, Scott Carson was only occasionally tested.
It was a third successive league defeat for Alan Curbishley's side for whom Freddie Ljungberg posed the main threat with a series of crosses whipped into the box.
The pace of Ashley Young caused all sorts of problems for the Hammers down the left flank and he must have impressed watching England coach Steve McClaren.
Another member of his latest England squad, Dean Ashton, had a quiet game and looked less then 100 per cent match fit which was unsurprising after his lengthy injury lay-off.
He was also given little opportunity to make an impression by Villa central defender Martin Laursen who had another outstanding game.
From Villa's viewpoint, the quicker the Danish international signs a new contract - his current one expires next summer - the more relieved everyone will be at the midlands club.
Predictably West Ham's former Birmingham defender Matthew Upson and Villa's ex Hammers midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker were booed everytime they touched the ball by the respective sets of fans.
The first decent opening fell to the home side after five minutes when Young turned past Daniel Gabbidon and sent over an inviting low cross.
But Luke Moore, still searching for his first Premier League goal of the season, failed to make proper contact with his attempted volley.
Henri Camara had the ball in the net for the Hammers after nine minutes but he had clearly used his hand to turn in Matthew Etherington's cross and was yellow-carded.
Hammers Robert Green was called into meaningful action for the first time when he parried a low drive from Moore after good play by skipper Gareth Barry.
Villa looked to have strong claims for a penalty after 13 minutes when Lucas Neill appeared to tug at the shirt of Young as he burst into the Hammers box.
But it was turned down by referee Steve Tanner to leave Villa manager Martin O'Neill incensed on the touch-line.
Villa were looking threatening and an inviting cross from Young picked out Gabriel Agbonlahor whose glancing header was saved by Green.
It was no surprise when after 24 minutes Craig Gardner struck for the second time in five days to put Villa ahead after Agbonlahor was brought down right on the edge of the Hammers box by Gabbidon.
Up stepped Gardner, who had scored against Tottenham on Monday, to drill a low shot through the Hammers defensive wall which took a deflection off Gabbidon before flying past Green into the net.
West Ham tried to retaliate and Ljungberg ran at full tilt to meet a deep centre by Etherington but his flying header was well saved by Carson who was perfectly positioned.
Villa looked dangerous everytime the likes of Young and Agbonlahor ran at the West Ham defence.
The visitors were forced to make a substitution when Camara limped out of the action to be replaced by Carlton Cole who had a loan spell at Villa two seasons ago.
Villa were soon back on the offensive as they attacked a packed Holte End in the second half and Agbonlahor had a header blocked by Upson from Young's cross.
Reo-Coker, who was giving the West Ham players little room to manoeuvre in midfield, was yellow-carded for a challenge on Bowyer.
Villa almost gifted West Ham an equaliser after 55 minutes when a poor clearing header by Mellberg only went straight to Cole just outside the six yard box but he failed to make proper contact and Carson was able to save away to his left.
The pace of Villa's game had dropped considerably compared to the opening 45 minutes and O'Neill brought on Shaun Maloney for Moore.
Young appealed in vain for a penalty when Neill appeared to deflect his cross past the post via his right arm.
Laursen, who had another outstanding game, finished the game with his head heavily bandaged after blood had been streaming down his face.
Green denied Agbonlahor at close range with five minutes remaining.
Aston Villa Carson, Mellberg, Laursen, Knight, Bouma,Gardner (Petrov 78), Reo-Coker, Barry, Agbonlahor, Moore (Maloney 66), Young.
Subs Not Used: Taylor, Davies, Osbourne.
Booked: Knight, Reo-Coker, Mellberg.
Goals: Gardner 24.
West Ham Green, Neill, Gabbidon, Upson, McCartney, Ljungberg, Bowyer, Mullins (Noble 80), Etherington (Boa Morte 81), Ashton, Camara (Cole 36).
Subs Not Used: Wright, Collins.
Booked: Camara, McCartney.
Ref: Steve Tanner (Somerset).