West Ham United ended a torrid week with a fine battling display and a 2-0 win at relegation rivals Cardiff City. This was the Hammers' sixth consecutive win against the Bluebirds since the Welsh side shocked them at Upton Park on the opening day of the Championship season in 2011, and the east London side were good value for their second away league win of the season.
- Report: Cardiff 0-2 West Ham
There was some disappointment with the sending off of James Tomkins for two bookable offences on 72 minutes, and an earlier injury to Guy Demel that resulted in the French defender being given oxygen as he was carried off on a stretcher, but against that, though, was the not inconsiderable fact that West Ham survived the last 20 minutes relatively comfortably with ten men. Carlton Cole again came up with an important goal just before halftime and -- whisper this! -- there was an appearance from the bench of one Andrew Carroll Esq, noted 15 million pound striker and lover of a treatment room. Not only did Carroll come on, he had the nerve to lay on the second goal for Mark Noble.
In fact, nobody personified this performance more than the immaculate Noble who covered every blade of grass and played in every position as he sought to ensure that his club's week ended in some sort of glory. Surely there should be some way of ensuring Noble keeps the captain's armband, even if Kevin Nolan returns to the side immediately after his suspension. For Noble was the very embodiment of what every Hammers fan wanted after the humiliation of the two cup games: He fought, he battled, he cared. The dictionary says the definition of Noble is honest, upright, upstanding, worthy: you'd have to say on this performance that's noble by nature as well as name.
And what of Sam Allardyce? Well, you couldn't help but be pleased for the boss who has had some terrible stick this week and -- although many fans won't like it -- the manager will argue that his decisions have been vindicated with victory at the Cardiff Stadium. "The cups don't matter", he implied -- it's the league that determines the club's future and -- although it would obviously be nonsense to get too carried away with just one win, the boost it has given the fans and the confidence is incalculable.
"We want to use the anger," said Allardyce of the need for the players to want to respond to the resounding defeats suffered against Nottingham Forest and Manchester City, and you would have to say that was exactly what happened: the Hammers remained resolute all afternoon and even increased their lead in the final minute when playing with ten men.
Of particular interest, too, was to note that the three points lifted the Hammers out of the bottom three and well within striking distance of Stoke in 12th place. This is a sobering realisation to supporters bizarrely insisting since Christmas that the Irons are as "good as down".
Of course, West Ham rode their luck at times but 'keeper Adrian managed to get behind most of what Cardiff were able to throw at him and reserved a fine stop for Fraizer Campbell, who was on the end of a good Craig Bellamy run and cross in the second half. But the Hammers' goals came from excellent work of their own: Matt Taylor finding Matt Jarvis on the right, the winger whipping in a low cross that Cole smashed past Cardiff goalkeeper David Marshall just before half-time. Then, in the 93rd minute, Noble was lone front man as Carroll's wide play found the captain unmarked, allowing him to hit a low shot into the net.
The message now, though, is if the club was to ignore the heavy defeats and just get on with trying to win the next game, then the same rules need to apply and the team have to ignore this win and aim to do something West Ham have significantly failed to do since returning to the Premiership. Newcastle are up next and the Hammers have to try and get a back-to-back win. Accomplish that, and things just might start to calm down.