West Ham’s Welsh wonder sinks Cardiff
21:46 03 May 2012
Championship Play-Off semi-final: Cardiff City 0 West Ham United 2
Wales international Jack Collison dealt Welsh side Cardiff City a deadly double play-off blow on Thursday night as his two goals gave West Ham a precious lead to take back to Upton Park.
Play-off favourites West Ham came into the game having missed out on automatic promotion on the final day, but it did not seem to affect them as they grabbed two first-half goals and really could have added to their tally.
Cardiff started the brighter and Peter Whittingham had a shot deflected inches over before Kenny Miller forced a fine parry from keeper Robert Green.
But the Hammers worked their way into the game and on eight minutes they grabbed the lead.
Ricardo Vaz Te crossed from the left to Jack Collison whose downward volley was saved by David Marshall, but the Hammers midfielder reacted first to the rebound and forced a header over the line for his fifth goal of the season.
James Tomkins went close to making it two when he latched on to Matt Taylor’s deep cross, only for his header from a tight angle to slip just over the bar.
Cardiff looked to be shellshocked by going behind and it took them until the 35th minute to make any sort of response.
Miller collected the ball 30 yards out and sprinted to the edge of the box to let fly with a shot that beat Green, but also beat the post by a foot.
But just as Cardiff were threatening to get back into the game, they were hit by a sucker punch four minutes before half time.
Mark Noble’s corner was cleared as far as Collison and he controlled before lashing a shot goalwards which took a big deflection and flew into the net.
They almost made it three right on half time. Gary O’Neil crossed to the near post and Carlton Cole’s header looked bound for the net only for Marshall to fling out a left hand and push it round the post.
Cardiff almost got themselves back into the game on 54 minutes. A corner was swung to the far post where Mark Hudson’s header looked destined for the net until Cole headed off the line.
And when Miller volleyed another good chance wide just past the hour, it looked like it was not going to be the Welsh side’s night.
West Ham had to withstand some pressure from the home side, but they almost hit Cardiff on the counter twice when first Taylor’s free kick was nodded on by Kevin Nolan only for Marshall to save.
And then another Taylor cross set up a glorious chance for Nolan only for him to head over from close range.
That would have sewn up the tie and the Hammers almost paid for it when a cross into the West Ham danger area, but Hudson headed wide with the goal at his mercy.
Substitute Robert Earnshaw volleyed well wide as Cardiff desperately tried to take something back to Upton Park for Monday’s return game, but if anything, West Ham were looking just as dangerous on the break.
Cole was inches away from connecting with Taylor’s beautifully drilled cross, while Mark Noble had a shot deflected wide as the Hammers looked to wrap up the tie in the first leg.
Joe Mason had Cardiff’s last chance, firing wide from inside the box, but this night belonged to West Ham and to one Welshman in particular – Jack Collison.
West Ham: Green, Demel (Faubert 75), Taylor, Tomkins, Reid, Noble, Nolan, Collison (Maynard 86), O’Neil, Vaz Te (McCartney 61), Cole.
Unused Subs: Henderson, Faye.
Referee: Neil Swarbrick.