I was pretty pleased with the starting lineup for this one, with Henri Lansbury getting a rare start alongside Mark Noble and returning captain Kevin Nolan. I had thought that Nolan’s return would even further limit Lansbury’s chances, and it probably would have done were it not for an illness for Julien Faubert.
I was slightly disappointed not to see Sam Baldock starting but having Nicky Maynard and Ricardo Vaz Te in the side softened that blow. Both players have impressed me since their arrival and Vaz Te’s work rate in wide positions has been great to watch. I can’t help but feels they’ve got goals in them, but it was to them that our first two chances fell too and they should have done better…
West Ham were really playing some nice football, attacking nicely with intricate passing and moving and rarely a long ball in sight. Our first chance came after some nice play from Lansbury to tee up Vaz Te with a clean view on goal but he mis hit it on his left foot and didn’t trouble the keeper.
Another chance fell to Maynard as the ball floated into the box and he couldn’t connect properly, sending it high and wide.
We were dominating play and were camped inside the Cardiff half and I have to say I think Nolan was playing well. We all know he can pop up with a goal but, while some of his passes weren’t successful, they were stretching Cardiff and showed off his intelligence and desire. Following some determined play from Maynard, Nolan then did chip in with a goal, finishing exquisitely around the keeper. After his goal went in Nolan was one of the most mentioned things on Twitter, which is quite remarkable! Looking back on the game now, I do think it was one of Nolan’s better performances in the claret and blue and I hope he carries this over to our next match.
If at half time I felt the score should have been higher, that was definitely the case after 55 minutes. We continued to dominate and Maynard should have put us 2-0 up when he found himself one on one. Thinking about the chance again, he really has no excuses as he made it too easy for the keeper – I wonder if Baldock or Cole would have finished it…
While Cardiff struggled to make an impression on the game, whenever they did look close to threatening our goal they couldn’t get past the imperious Abdoulaye Faye! He was literally mopping up everything at the back and, even when you thought he had committed a foul, the ref appeared to be on our side for a change!
On 68 minutes, Cardiff could have equalised after a lovely free kick from Peter Whittingham. Green was beaten but the ball hit the inside of the post and carried enough momentum to fly out of the danger zone. This began Cardiff’s best period of the match wherein they had good possession without enough quality.
And talking of quality…
I remember George McCartney’s last goal for us, when he hit a sublime volley on his weaker right foot. The left-back’s run from our half was excellent and though his cross wasn’t converted by Carlton Cole, it rebounded back to him and his right-footed volley was fantastic!
Our second goal took the edge away from the remaining minutes, but we retained an excellent level of discipline: ten men were behind the ball with Cole playing as a target man. I can’t use the word discipline without mentioning Mark Noble, who continued his industrious form in midfield. He has a great mix of work rate, skill on the ball and a beautiful pass. I love watching him play!
It was a classic away performance and one that I’m starting to get used to know after years of being expecting away losses. Two goals and a clean sheet: Big Sam is making this a professional club again.
So the nerves are calm for the next week, as we’re back in the enviable position of a point behind Saints with a game in hand, and four points ahead of Reading. With the way they’re playing, I’m glad it is four points and not any less!