Last gasp Miller strike earns Cardiff win at West Ham
West Ham 0 Cardiff City 1
The Hammers quickly discovered that the path back to the top-flight is not going to be an easy one after Kenny Miller plundered all three points with an injury-time winner at rainswept Upton Park.
Cardiff’s �870,000 summer Scottish signing from Bursaspor put a real dampener on Sam Allardyce’s first game in charge and the Hammers manager was left to rue a catalogue of missed opportunities.
Although new Norwegian recruit John Carew was ineligible, the new boss handed debuts to captain Kevin Nolan, Matt Taylor and Joey O’Brien, while Abdoulaye Faye found himself on the bench.
With those four former Trotters in the squad, there was a distinct taste of Bolton Lite down West Ham way but Big Sam was still able to call upon his Hammers heavyweights Robert Green and Scott Parker, who received a hero’s hello from the home fans praying that maybe, just maybe, their talismanic tiger would still stay at Upton Park.
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And with just ten minutes on the clock, only a timely tackle by Anthony Gerrard denied the marauding midfielder as he shaped to shoot the Hammers on their first step back to the promised land of the Premier League.
Earlier Frederic Piquionne has also forced an angled save out of David Marshall, who - on the quarter-hour mark - went on to steer over Taylor’s 25-yard free-kick, before Nolan sent a jack-knife header behind and Freddie Sears blasted wide.
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Midway through the half, debutant Don Cowie forced Green to tip his header aside and after Piquionne spurned two opportunities to give Hammers a deserved interval lead, it was the England keeper, who kept it blank at the break when he pawed away Peter Whittingham’s 20-yard free-kick.
Just after the restart, Whittingham sent another effort inches wide after ex-Hammer Malky Mackay sent the Welshmen out in a far more positive mood.
But on the hour, the Cardiff boss would have been relieved to see Marshall beat out Taylor’s clever curler before the West Ham wide-boy sent a low centre into the danger-zone, where Piquionne somehow slid the ball onto the angle.
Midway through the second half, unmarked Cardiff substitute Rudy Gestede wastefully nodded wide, while at the other end, James Tomkins was thwarted by Marshall, who then tackled the scarpering Sears.
A double-substitution saw Carlton Cole and Jack Collison enter the fray for the final quarter-hour, albeit it was Tomkins who came closest to breaking the deadlock, when Whittingham blocked his goalbound header on the line.
But just as West Ham looked like they were going to have to settle for a disappointing draw, things got even worse in stoppage time, when Gestede cut in from the right-flank and invited the supporting Miller to steal all three points with a scorching 12-yarder.
HAMMERS: Green, O’Brien, Ilunga, Tomkins, Reid, Sears (Barrera 82), Taylor M, Noble (Collison 74), Nolan, Parker, Piquionne (Cole 74). Unused Subs; Boffin,
BLUEBIRDS: Marshall, McNaughton, Taylor A, Hudson, Gerrard, Cowie, Whittingham, Gunnarsson, Conway (Mason 74), Earnshaw (Gestede 67), Miller. Unused: Heaton, Quinn, Parkin.
Booked: Gerrard (77)
Referee: Howard Webb (Sheffield).