Football: Fletcher heads off peril for Pardew

West Ham United 1 Cardiff City 0
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WITH 20 minutes left, Alan Pardew was, once again, having to suffer chants of "We want Pardew out," and "You're getting sacked in the morning." The only difference between this and most other weeks of late at Upton Park was that the singing came from the visiting fans.

Those Cardiff supporters gloating at the West Ham manager's parlous plight will, however, never know how close they were to the truth, as Carl Fletcher's 89th-minute header dispatched those fans west in a quieter voice.

Yet the silence emanating from the home support was, in a way, just as damning, as it suggested an apathy rarely associated with Hammers fans has now set in towards Pardew, for whom play-off success now appears the only way to see him remain in the post beyond May.

For a long while his players appeared to be just as indifferent, with Fletcher's header from Chris Powell's cross their only effort on goal in the second half. The midfielder was signed by Pardew in August and that was as good a way as any of paying him back.

The manager said his match-winner had had a quiet game, but called this result: "A vital, massive win. We had to grind away given our recent run and it was a bit tense. The one quality moment produced the goal."

For his part, Cardiff's Lennie Lawrence bemoaned this defeat as like "a dagger through the heart," and blamed bad finishing, with Alan Lee the main culprit.

Lee's first attempt five minutes before the interval was the cue for the Hammers to respond although they failed to test Neil Alexander in the Bluebirds goal. Teddy Sheringham, with his back to goal, controlled the ball deftly for Fletcher but James Collins, outstanding in central defence alongside Danny Gabbidon, stuck his foot out for a vital block.

Cardiff's attitude was surprising given they were the side on song. With three wins in their last five League games and just two defeats in eight, that is form that Pardew would die for. He had seen his lightweight Hammers not win at home in the League since New Year's Day and had Lee taken two further chances that came his way in the last 18 minutes that damning statistic would have endured.

Instead, Fletcher's goal made sure that life took on a rosier complexion for the Hammers as, despite the doom and gloom around the club, they climbed within one position and one point shy of the play-off places.

Goal: Fletcher (89) 1-0.

West Ham United (4-4-2): Bywater; Mullins, Ferdinand, Mackay, Powell; Harewood, Fletcher, Reo-Coker, Noble (Rebrov, 86); Sheringham, Zamora (Chadwick, 62). Substitutes not used: Walker (gk), Brevett, McClenahan Cardiff City 4-4-2: Alexander; Weston (Vidmar, 79), Collins, Gabbidon, Barker; McAnuff, Kavanagh, Inamoto (Ledley, 88), Langley; Thorne, Lee. Substitutes not used: Warner (gk), Bullock, Fleetwood.

Referee: K Stroud (Dorset).

Booked: Cardiff City: Gabbidon.

Man of the match: Gabbidon.

Attendance: 23,716.