James shakes a leg to keep Cardiff at bay

Cardiff City 0 West Ham United 0
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The Independent Football

The feverish excitement that has accompanied ambitious Cardiff City's plans to bring Premiership football to South Wales attracted the largest crowd to a League match at Ninian Park for 23 years, but most among the 19,000 turn-out went home frustrated after all the energy and industry of Lennie Lawrence's side failed to find a way past the England goalkeeper, David James.

These sides were separated by two divisions last season, and while top-flight quality was visible in West Ham's more measured football, hard-running Cardiff held the upper hand for significant periods and had enough chances to have taken the points. However, they found James in commanding form, making several vital saves.

The best of City's chances fell to the stand-in striker Gavin Gordon. With first-choice Peter Thorne as well as Alan Lee and Andy Campbell not available, Lawrence had little option but to choose Gordon to partner the prolific Robert Earnshaw up front, but he wasted a chance to make a name for himself.

His 36th-minute header at the end of Cardiff's best move ought to have given the home side the lead, but after Tony Vidmar, combining with Earnshaw in a swift break, had found him unmarked with a cross from the right, Gordon sent his diving effort wide.

Earlier, James had produced a fine, instinctive save to keep the scores level, somehow blocking with his legs after John Robinson's well-struck low shot had wrong-footed him by taking a deflection off the defender Tomas Repka.

The vitality of Robinson and the skipper, Graham Kavanagh, in midfield was a key feature of Cardiff's performance. West Ham, with Michael Carrick and Don Hutchison pulling the strings, produced football of a higher quality but could not match the drive of the home side.

Jermain Defoe, whose hat-trick on the same ground last month ended Cardiff's interest in the Carling Cup, was restricted to one goal attempt in the opening 45 minutes, although West Ham's rhythm was disrupted by an early injury to Defoe's strike partner David Connolly, who was replaced by Neil Mellor after only 12 minutes. What is more, Defoe found Vidmar and Daniel Gabbidon in superb form in the Cardiff back four.

Proving himself better than his first-half howler was a more immediate objective for his team-mate Gordon, who forced James to make the first of two saves inside the opening minutes of the second half as Cardiff again launched themselves with intent. James tipped over an unexpected strike from 35 yards and pulled off another fine stop when Earnshaw found a gap.

Robinson then saw his shot rebound off the foot of a post with James beaten before West Ham managed to put themselves within range. Vidmar blocked a header by Defoe before the Cardiff goalkeeper, Neil Alexander, after a quiet first 75 minutes, pushed a 25-yarder from Robert Lee over the bar.

The new Hammers manager, Alan Pardew, in his second game in charge, must wait a little longer for his first win.

Cardiff City 0 West Ham United 0

Attendance: 19,202

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