Premier League - Whittingham eases pressure on Mackay

Premier League, Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff City 1 (Whittingham 65), West Bromwich Albion 0

A 65th minute header by Peter Whittingham handed Cardiff a crucial victory against fellow strugglers West Brom.

The midfielder glanced home a Craig Noone cross to give Malky Mackay’s side a win that, on the balance of play, they deserved – although they were indebted to some late heroics from goalkeeper David Marshall.

The home side made most of the running in an uneventful first half, Peter Odemwingie seeing an early free kick batted away by Boaz Myhill and a string of crosses, notably from right winger Noone, requiring the attention of West Brom’s centre backs. Chances were few, though, with the best probably falling to Steven Caulker – who couldn’t quite turn Peter Whittingham’s corner home at the far post after Ben Turner’s flick on. The visitors, with Shane Long cutting an isolated figure up front, rarely threatened – although Morgan Amalfitano’s sidefooted volley might have troubled Marshall had it not struck team mate Claudio Yacob at close quarters.

A more open second half saw West Brom come close to drawing first blood when Gareth McAuley, alone on the six yard line after Claudio Yacob’s scuffed effort had wrong-footed the defence, saw his effort blocked by a combination of Marshall and Gary Medel.

The only goal of the game would follow nine minutes later, when the tireless Noone cut onto his left foot once more and arrowed in a superb ball that Whittingham, arriving from midfield, climbed high to convert.

Cardiff might have doubled their lead when Steven Caulker’s free header struck Odemwingie – who appeared to be pulled back to Jonas Olsson as he tried to convert. Steve Clarke’s side would have a penalty shout of their own moments later, when Long appeared to be bundled over by Ben Turner as the two contested a ball into the box.

As West Brom pressed, Gareth McAuley’s header across the box somehow evaded everyone – before Marshall produced one of the saves of the season, readjusting his feet to brilliantly turn Long’s header around the post after Saido Berahino’s cross from the right. Despite heavy late pressure, the hosts held out for a big win that eases the pressure on the embattled Mackay.

KEY MOMENTS:

3’ CHANCE: Odemwingie whips a free kick in from 20 yards, in a central position, but Boaz Myhill gets across well to shovel away for a corner.

29’ CHANCE: From Whittingham’s second consecutive corner, Turner gets a flick and Caulker, with the ball just behind him, can’t quite wrap enough around the ball to put it inside the post.

56’ CHANCE: Real chance for West Brom. Amalfitano cuts the ball back to Yacob, who scuffs his shot. The ball falls to McAuley, just six yards out, but his effort is blocked on the line by a combination of Marshall and Medel.

65’ GOAL (Cardiff City 1-0 West Bromwich Albion) Peter Whittingham appears at the back post to glance home a superb header from a Noone cross. It's a superb - and quite unlikely - finish from the midfielder, and a vital goal for the home side.

68’ CHANCE: Two good chances for Cardiff. Caulker's header from a Whittingham corner hits Odemwingie, who seems to be pulled back by Olsson as he tries to convert, and then Mutch - who might not realise he is onside - heads the second ball tamely at Myhill.

74’ CHANCE: Chance for Mutch - does very well to cut inside Brunt and manoeuvre onto his left foot, but fires just over from 18 yards.

81’ CHANCE: Long, who is still having to drop deep to be involved, is fouled by Turner. Brunt's ball is much better - McAuley heads it across at the back post, and somehow it evades everyone before dribbling out.

86’ CHANCE: What a save! Marshall seems to be going the other way as Long heads Berahino's cross back across him - but somehow arches back and tips wide. Crucial moment.

KEY STATS:

Craig Noone picked up an assist on his first Premier League start for Cardiff.

This was the hosts’ first home win over West Brom since Boxing Day 1960.

West Brom have now gone six league games without a win – and have lost four on the spin.

Peter Whittingham scored only his second home goal since October 2012.

MATCHCAST: FULL COMMENTARY AND STATS

TALKING POINT:

Has Whittingham saved Malky Mackay’s job? The scrutiny under which Cardiff’s manager has been put feels a little unfair, but there’s no doubt that chairman Vincent Tan has been expecting results to improve sooner rather than later. With a hellish-looking run of away games in the offing, it’s crucial that Cardiff make the most of their home games – and this three points, against the side next to them in the table, might just have bought the likeable Mackay some valuable time.

MAN OF THE MATCH:

Craig Noone (Cardiff City) – The winger was indefatigable on his first Premier League start, providing a constant menace down the right and swinging in a stream of crosses from the first minute onwards. One of them was, eventually, headed home by Peter Whittingham – who will have been the first to appreciate that Noone had provided a level of service more familiarly associated with his own left foot. Some fine defensive work completed an impressive afternoon from the 26 year-old.

PLAYER RATINGS:

Cardiff City: Marshall 8, Theophile-Catherine 7, Turner 7, Caulker 7, Taylor 6; Whittingham 7, Medel 7, Mutch 6, Noone 8, Odemwingie 6; Campbell 6. Subs: Maynard 6, Gunnarsson 6, Kim 6.

West Bromwich Albion: Myhill 6, Jones 7, McAuley 6, Olsson 6, Ridgewell 6, Mulumbu 7, Yacob 6, Amalfitano 6, Sessegnon 5, Brunt 5, Long 6. Subs: Berahino 6, Sinclair 6, Vydra 6.

MATCH IN A TWEET