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It isn’t often I predict a scoreline correctly, but I did this one, and it was a thoroughly deserved victory. Cardiff never managed to dominate any part of the game and had barely a shot at goal. We looked comfortable in possession and wanted the ball more than they seemed to. They looked a quite organised side, but lacked much of a spark up front. What they lacked was a Craig Bellamy type player to run at the West Ham defence. The fact that Craig Bellamy was playing need not concern us much.
The team selection was a bit of a surprise with neither Rat, nor Downing making the starting line-up. Downing hasn’t played much in pre-season and according to Sam Allardyce has only had about 150 minutes on the pitch compared to an average of 600 for most of the West Ham players.
And you know what? One of the best things to emerge from this game was the cameo from Downing when he came on. He was simply stunning. Everything he did looked dangerous. Bearing in mind he was playing down the right, he turned their left back inside out. Several times. If any of us had to be convinced that he has what it takes, we don’t any longer. Stewart Downing. You are very welcome.
It was Joe Cole who put in the man of the match performance. He scored a superb goal, although most of us momentarily thought he should have left it for the player behind him (Diame?) who was better placed. But that’s probably what the Cardiff goalkeeper thought too, which was why he was late to get down to attempt a save. Cole produced some of his trademark trickery and could easily have had a hat-trick. I think we need to look at him contributing at least 10 goals this season, so it was good to see him get off the mark.
Matt Jarvis had a bit of an in and outer. He put in the cross for the first goal and skinned their right back a couple of times, but he also had a couple of chances which he should have done much better with. His goalscoring really lets him down. He should also be looking at getting close to double figures.
The midfield trio of Diame, Nolan and Noble looked tight and strong. Diame in particular went on several of his trademark rampaging runs at the Cardiff defence and he was unlucky to miss out on a goal, particularly with a shot from the left hand edge of the area, which was deflected for a corner.
There’s not much to say about our defence. To be honest it wasn’t often we needed one. But the whole of the back four did well and hardly ever looked in any danger.
I found Modibo Maiga’s performance deeply worrying. I know he has a particularly languid style, which gives the appearance of total laziness, but today he gave the impression of hardly trying at all in case an injury might jeopardise his proposed move to St Etienne. Maybe I am being too cynical, but I felt he had a real opportunity today but he just wasn’t interested. Yes, admittedly he laid on the pass for Noble to thread it through to Nolan to score, and apart from a shot which was just pushed aside by the Cardiff goalkeeper, he contributed very little. Let’s hope that Ba or Defoe might be with us before too long.
So, job done. Scores on the doors…