Tony Cottee Column: Cardiff win was the sign of champions

“James Tomkins will have learned so much playing in midfield and it will make him a better defender.”

Sunday was another absolutely fantastic away performance from West Ham and I was delighted at the result against what is another promotion rival.

I thought that the first half was solid enough before we scored and we were well organised in both attack and defence.

On the whole, I would actually go as far as saying that it was a champion’s performance from Sam Allardyce’s men and it was a result that could go a long way in determining the rest of the season.

Had West Ham lost, they would have been four points behind league leaders Southampton albeit with a game in hand, so it was important that we went to Cardiff and returned with a positive result.

What really impressed me was how West Ham controlled the game from start to finish, and but for a Peter Whittingham free-kick, limited the opposition to half-chances.

I was also pleased to see the return of Kevin Nolan, who put in a real captain’s shift in midfield.

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Nolan took his goal superbly and I know that he has had his critics this season, with some fans suggesting that he isn’t pulling his weight, but he has now scored eight goals from midfield this season, which is good in anyone’s book.

If he continues at his current ratio, he will easily be in double figures by the end of the season, which is not to be sniffed at.

Nolan controlled the midfield and was at the centre of everything good that the Hammers did and he deserves credit for that.

He even admitted that he didn’t think he would start, but the unfortunate injury to Winston Reid meant that he did and that is how fate works sometimes.

Praise must also go to the centre-back pairing of Abdoulaye Faye and James Tomkins too.

They looked solid throughout the game and never looked like being breached, with was pleasing to see.

I was at the training ground last week and I spoke to Big Sam about Tomkins and he thinks that James will learn so much and gain so much experience from his time playing in central midfield and that it will make him a better defender.

And I have to say that I agree. James has shown that he can pass the ball and is not afraid to be on the ball and this can only stand him in good stead for the future, especially if West Ham get promoted to the Premier League.

From the defence to attack, we always looked dangerous whenever we went forward on Sunday and I think that Sam’s tactic of playing one up front away from home really works well, even with Nicky Maynard.

The one thing that Maynard will do is work hard and he has plenty of pace, which is why Cardiff’s defenders didn’t get a moment’s rest.

Maynard was well supported by Ricardo Vaz Te, and the only thing missing from both players’ games was a goal.

And then when Maynard started to tire, West Ham had the great option of bringing on Carlton Cole, who poses a different threat to defenders.

Not forgetting, we also have John Carew and Sam Baldock to call on and the Hammers’ attacking options will be tested to the limit with this hard run of frequent games between now and the end of the season.

This week we saw Freddie Piquionne move to Doncaster on an initial month-long loan and I think it was the right call by the club to let him move on.

Too many times Piquionne has flattered to deceive really and on his day he could be a real handful, but unfortunately his day didn’t come round enough.

It is disappointing, but he has got off to the right start by scoring on his debut, and I am sure he will be hoping to kick-start his career again and use his time at Doncaster as a fresh start.

And so we look ahead to Doncaster coming to Upton Park this weekend, and it really is a must-win game for West Ham.

Rovers are a team down at the bottom and although they got a very good result at Nottingham Forest on Tuesday I expect the Hammers to win.

When you are near the bottom it can be tempting to come to West Ham and park the bus, and if that happens, then Hammers fans just need to be patient and remain behind the team, and try not to get too agitated, which is what Doncaster will be looking to do.

Tony Cottee was talking to Nathaniel John

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