HAMMER TIME: Joey O'Brien (right) celebrates his goal with James Tomkins and Ricardo Vaz Te (left)
THERE IS little doubt that the early award of a West Ham penalty set the tone of this contest. Within three minutes Mark Noble had given the hosts a lead, later supplemented by Joey O’Brien’s effort, that was never relinquished despite Russell Martin’s late riposte.
The hosts won their first match since long-term injury befell Mohamed Diame early in December and flourished for much of this encounter. Their largely toothless opponents, in contrast, suffered their fourth consecutive defeat.
West Ham were unable to buy a goal at Reading on Boxing Day but referee Mark Clattenburg gave them a helping hand within two minutes here.
The official saw Ryan Bennett jostling with Winston Reid and decided that the Norwich defender had fouled his Hammers counterpart. It was a poor decision and telling that no West Ham players appealed. The normally placid Chris Hughton raged on the touchline.
Noble efficiently dispatched his spot-kick, putting Mark Bunn the wrong way, before the match had even settled into a rhythm.
This encounter was always going to be a challenge for a Norwich side missing Steven Morison and Grant Holt and aside from a Robert Snodgrass free-kick, which struck a post on 21 minutes, the Canaries failed to attack their hosts, who constantly harried them into ceding possession.
Noble was picking passes and finding angles with impunity as a discordant Norwich struggled to gain a foothold in the contest. Jack Collison, replacing the suspended Kevin Nolan, looked comfortable in his first start following his return from a long-term knee injury.
Further chances were fashioned for Carlton Cole and Collison before West Ham doubled their lead on 26 minutes. Noble powered into the Norwich penalty area and sought Cole. Sebastien Bassong’s interception fell to Joey O’Brien who slotted home the second.
Worse for the visitors was the fact of Alexander Tettey lying prone on the turf when he should have been helping police the marauding Noble, Cole and O’Brien.
Yet West Ham merited their lead and the home contingent could afford to be magnanimous when Cole skewed a glorious chance from four yards on 36 minutes.
Norwich emerged for the second-half with renewed application and on 51 minutes had a penalty claim of their own waved away, as Harry Kane tangled and fell during a tangle with James Tomkins. The Canaries felt justified in their appeals given the earlier decision but Clattenburg did not budge this time.
All the same it was West Ham, embodied by the superb Noble, who showed a greater appetite for the defensive work that enabled their crafted approach play. Time and again they struck Norwich on the counter-attack as they quested for a third goal.
Of all the chances that followed Ricardo Vaz Te went closest when he rose above Martin to meet Matt Taylor’s cross but could only head his effort against the post.
Norwich attacked in spells and a crisp finish for Martin that reduced the arrears ensured a nervy finish but the hosts remained steadfast in stoppage time.