Championship Play-off semi final 1st leg - Cardiff City 0 v West ham Utd 2 - Mach Report

By Yousef Haider at the Cardiff City Stadium for Radio Cardiff

At the start of this season, a keen gambler may have placed a few bets. One may have been for West Ham to win the Championship, another could have realistically been for Cardiff to get relegated.

West Ham had a huge squad, of internationals and top flight footballers, and one of the most experienced managers in English football.

Cardiff on the other hand had just parted company with Dave Jones who was prior to that, the longest serving Championship manager, had no manager, and they had the smallest squad in the world after losing arguably their top 5 players!

Ok so maybe to bet on them getting relegated was a bit of a punt, but not many could see them getting promoted.

Having said all of that, tonight saw the first leg of the Play off semi finals, which means West ham did not win the league and, Cardiff's new manager could work miracles.

To get through a play off that included West Ham, Birmingham AND Blackpool, he would need to work another one.

The more observant of you may notice, they are the same three teams that got relegated last season from the Premiership.

The match started with a bang, and the crowd were the ones who pulled the trigger.

The sound was literally deafening, and Cardiff responded to a not quite full stadium, but still one of the loudest of the season.

If this was a sign of things to come, the match report may have had to wait, Wittingham unleashed a dipping volley that went just over the bar, and then Miller unleashed an almost identical shot that failed to find the net.

Cardiff looked to be shooting on sight, and the mission seemed clear, take a lead to Upton park. Possession was back and forth and then just as Luton drove a preliminary steak through Wrexham's welsh hearts, West Ham did the same to Cardiff.

West Hams hand however was played by a welsh man in the form of Jack Collison.

The irony was almost certainly lost on the majority of the crowd, however the away fans certainly seemed to enjoy it.

Things got ugly after that, the Cardiff players resembled kids who were making their own breakfast for the first time juggling eggs and making a mess of everything.

They were trying their best but they seemed lost. Shell shocked. The plan had come undone spectacularly, and the control they had over the match in the first few minutes was a distant memory.

West ham had City on the ropes and they didn't have an answer.

It took 34 minutes for Cardiff to warm the crowd up at all, the tirade's of abuse and frustration ceased for a brief moment when Cardiff actually built half an attack, and then Miller actually managed a shot, a good shot at that, which curled agonisingly wide.

36 minutes and Mason surged forward, as he turned, he was pulled back, and could have gone down in serious Wittingham territory, he was honest, and stayed up, brought the ball out wide, drifted in a cross which Kenny Miller headed up and over towards the far post. It was too high and gunnarson couldn't really get anything on it.....but Cardiff had come to life.

Cardiff had belief again, this was a good sign, however in some ways, this is where the danger begins.

Every time Cardiff ventured forward, West Ham waited for the chance to counter.

A perfect example was when an intercepted pass led to carlton Cole sprinting through one on one with the Goalkeeper. One on one until Turner raced back to tackle brilliantly.

The next occasion they were not so lucky as West Ham heaped the misery on by going 2 up with another goal from Collison.

The second half began as did the first, a Wittingham volley. Cardiff had a spark, they had not given up, and the shape, the movement, it seemed different.

Green placed the ball for his first gooal kick in front of the Canton stand to the chants of U.S.A, U.S.A.....he was about to have a difficult 45 minutes.

Cardiff were a new team, the first five minutes seemed to take place exclusively in and around the West Ham goal.

A ball was played in field and out wide, and then over the top of the defence and Miller was through! His control let him down, but he had support, he stopped the ball, turned, and tried to backheel it to a city player, but found a West Ham defender. A waste of a brilliant opportunity.

City kept the pressure on, a corner from Wittingham, beat everyone, a city player went down and a header from Demel cleared off the line, the match was turning into a belter.

In the 63rd minute Cardiff had a stroke of luck. The ball somehow ended up making its way to Marshall, with West Ham players chasing it down.

Marshall came flying out, Nolan came flying in, the result was a collision which left the City keeper on the floor and Kevin Nolan with a yellow card.

In another lifetime, Marshall could have easily given away a penalty, and possibly been sent off.

Not today however and there was 20 minutes left to decide wether the trip to Upton park next week was an act of futility or an eagerly anticipated second leg.

Cardiff needed a goal, and on 72 minutes they had one ruled out for offside.

Which prompted a pitch invasion from a solitary fan, which certainly raised the spirits of the home fans.

Shortly after his pretty uneventful stint as a winger Ben Turner powered one of his trademark headers just wide, somehow.

15 minutes left and Miller and Lawrence made way for McPhail and one Mr Robert Earnshaw. Who better to write the end of this story than he?

He had a chance, which went the same way all of his predecessors chances.

Cardiff finished the match extremely strong, but they couldn't get the goal that they needed to really change the game.

2-0 would be the scoreline they would take to Upton.


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