LONDON - A late winner from substitute Zavon Hines against Aston Villa on Wednesday could prove to be the turning point in West Ham United's season, according to coach Gianfranco Zola.
Hines, 20, who recently made his debut for the England under-21 side, struck with less than a minute of stoppage time remaining to give the Hammers a 2-1 Premier League win at Upton Park.
The victory was West Ham's first in the League since a 2-0 win at Wolverhampton Wanderers on the opening day of the season and lifted them out of the relegation zone and up to 16th.
It also lifted some of the gloom surrounding the club following Tuesday's ruling from an independent Premier League trribunal that they have to pay former manager Alan Curbishley compensation following his constructive dismissal last year.
The club are also struggling because of the financial situation of their owners, but Zola forgot all their troubles following Hines late, dramatic winner.
"It was a goal I would have been proud of," said the former Italy and Chelsea international striker.
"Every time he plays he's been very good. I am very pleased for him and for us. But he deserves to be in the spotlight.
"The team is playing better and this may well be the turning point of our season. We demonstrated desire and belief and that's what we wanted. Everything else is there. It was a fantastic game to win."
Hines, who was born in Jamaica but brought up in London's East End, was at the heart of both West Ham's goals after replacing injured England striker Carlton Cole after 30 minutes.
West Ham went ahead in stoppage time at the end of the first half with a penalty from Mark Noble after Hines was clattered by Habib Beye.
Villa winger Ashley Young equalised but Hines was inspirational and kept his composure in a crowded penalty area to strike the winner with seconds remaining.
"It is a long way to go but the team is alive and wants to be out of the situation we are in. We are ready to fight and we will do that. Tonight is just one step," Zola said.comments