Cardiff City 0 West Ham 2 (Play-off semi-final first leg)
It’s back to the Lucky Pub. The Master Brew is good and eventually we find a table. Our party consists of Matt and Lisa, Fraser in jacket and tie, carrying a briefcase after a hard day at Stirling Cooper, and Nigel arriving too late to see our first goal because there’s some minor election on.
The Lucky Pub has even been infiltrated by some fellow West Ham fans, whom we may have to eliminate after the game lest they reveal its location.
Cardiff have a blistering first five minutes. Miller forces Green to make a fine save and Whittingham has a shot deflected just over the bar. Lisa points out that on the touchline Big Sam has a terribly coordinated striped shirt and diagonally-striped West Ham tie; clearly the pressure is getting to him. But as the game progresses we compete and start to catch Cardiff on the break.
The management team has done a good job raising the side after the disappointment of finishing third and we make the vital breakthrough after nine minutes. Taylor finds Vaz Te with a nicely cushioned ball and Ricardo races down the wing to send in a perfect cross for Collison who is foiled by a one-handed save from Marshall but heads in the rebound. One-nil to the Cockney Boys.
Carlton Cole is a nuisance to the Cardiff defence, but when he’s given the chance to run at them he reveals his loss of pace and is tackled for a corner. No matter, the ball is headed out and Collison strikes a powerful volley that is deflected in off Lawrence’s head. Jack points to the name on his back and then up to the sky in memory of his dad. ”What a shame we didn’t play Lansbury,” remarks Fraser, ironically. That's Jack's third goal in the Lucky Pub in two weeks and his fifth of the season.
We almost make it three when Cole gets a great diving header in from O’Neil’s cross, only for Marshall to make a brilliant save.
After the break Cardiff predictably come at us and at times we give the ball away needlessly, but we sold go three up when Taylor fizzes in a great cross and Nolan heads wide. Vaz Te is pulled off for McCartney after 60 minutes which seems a bit premature, and Matt gets agitated by some needless bookings for Tomkins and Nolan and several Cardiff volleys that flash wide. Cole has to clear one off the line but generally we’re professional and quieten the crowd by the end.
HALF WAY THERE
Matt and Lisa celebrate our 14th away win of the season with a designer New York lager. Our thoughts turn to Monday. We think it only right that the Cardiff supporters should be forced to exchange their tickets for vouchers at somewhere really inconvenient like the Basildon sign on the A127 and then be forced to walk to Upton Park. And then Matt points out that in the Standard Big Sam talks about being in charge of Blackpool when they won the away leg 2-0 and lost the home leg 3-0 having printed the route to Wembley in the programme.
But obviously that won’t happen again, we hope. It’s half-time in the tie but we can afford to draw at home, which is just as well given our record at Upton Park. At least Big Sam says we’re not going to sit on it – a quick goal and we can start to think about Wem-ber-ley.