• Midfielder's disappearing act bamboozles Sunderland
• Nolan's third goal in five games rescues West Ham
It is not always easy to work out what Kevin Nolan does. In fact, for long stretches of games it is easy to forget that Nolan is on the pitch, even though Sam Allardyce's West Ham are specifically set up to get the best out of their captain. He does not dominate matches, he is not particularly mobile and his passing range is limited at best. At times it feels like his team-mates are carrying him, a luxury player devoid of flair and fantasy.
Yet perhaps there is a cunning plan behind the disappearing acts given the way that Nolan pops up unnoticed in the penalty area to score vital goals like an ersatz Frank Lampard. Few midfielders are as adept at finding space in the box as Nolan, whose third goal in five games rescued a point for West Ham against Sunderland in the third minute of stoppage time. The 30-year-old is on course to hit double figures for the fourth season in a row.
He could have had a hat-trick on Saturday but sent an overhead kick wide in the first half and then watched in disbelief as Simon Mignolet somehow kept out his stunning, acrobatic volley. There is an underrated athleticism to Nolan's game and when he finally beat Mignolet, it was with a volley.
"I don't think anyone underestimates Kevin Nolan," Allardyce said. "All you have to do is look at his CV. I hope they do underestimate him for the rest of the season. He'll end up being our joint-leading scorer or better, like he did at Newcastle."
Nolan raised eyebrows when he joined West Ham last year, leaving Newcastle United to drop into the Championship, but instant promotion vindicated his decision. "You have to give credit to David Gold and David Sullivan for spending that kind of money [£3m] on a player to go into the Championship to get us back in the Premier League," Allardyce said.
Like Allardyce, Martin O'Neill could swoon about a player giving Sunderland excellent value for money. Steven Fletcher's goal in the ninth minute was his fourth in three games, offering a perfect riposte to those who questioned whether the former Wolves striker was worth £12m. "He's a real quality centre-forward," O'Neill said.
However a supine Sunderland were forced to endure the familiar frustration of letting a lead slip for the third match in succession to leave them without a win in 12. "We have to try to find a way to keep possession a wee bit better," said O'Neill, who watched his side drop deeper and deeper in the second half until they were almost defending from their own six-yard box.
Sunderland's winless run is slightly misleading. It could just as easily be pointed out that they remain unbeaten with four draws in as many games, while the picture might have looked brighter if a winnable match at home to Reading had not been postponed because of a waterlogged pitch. In August. That kind of sums up Sunderland's luck at the moment.
Man of the match Mohamed Diamé (West Ham United)