Take a break, Bluebirds. You’ve earned it after a five-star team display in their Premier League win against West Ham.
More than 32,000 spectators were at Cardiff City Stadium and home fans watched, enthralled, as captain Sean Morrison and his team knocked the Hammers out of their stride.
City produced one of their best team performances of the season – and now have a three-week break until their next fixture against Chelsea at home on Sunday, March 31.
Manager Neil Warnock’s players used stories about a rift in the squad to help prepare for what looked a tough test against the Hammers.
But City showed they remain a close-knit group with a ferocious, energetic and effective team display.
Rumours of splits in the squad followed three successive Cardiff defeats and Warnock said: “That’s the only way you can answer your critics.
“The lads mentioned the ‘split camp’ and the ‘splinters’ and what’s been said this week. But you don’t get a performance like that with a split camp.
“We were asking them to stand up – ‘will you stand up please, you rifters!’ – but nobody stood up.
“The players were fabulous from one to 11 and the subs. There wasn’t a weakness.
“We wanted to have a go at West Ham from the start and not sit back like we did against Watford.
“We scored first and and that put a bit of pressure on them. They are a good side fighting to try and get in Europe.
“The only disappointment is we didn’t score another two or three when we had some fabulous opportunities. But it’s not us to make it straightforward, is it?
“For me, it was an important game. You can say about the other results, but I just think it brings a few more back into the pack. It makes a few more nervous.
“You can see the confidence. There were one or two real plusses for me – Murphy and Hoilett, not just scoring and making goals but the defensive side as well.
“West Ham have Creswell and Fredericks, two of the most attacking full-backs in the league, and they (Murphy and Hoilett) were magnificent.
“You can go through the team as well. I was really pleased how we set up and played some good football at times.”
Southampton’s win against Spurs at St Mary’s means Cardiff are still in the bottom three, but they can reflect on this victory with massive satisfaction.
City made West Ham look a poor outfit – and they are far from that. The visitors had 71 per cent possession, but whenever they had the ball a wall of blue met them head on.
Cardiff have eight fixtures left and have given themselves a chance of staying up. Indeed, they should have won by more than two goals.
At the heart of a big team performance was creative Spanish midfield player Victor Camarasa, a player who has a big role to play. It was worrying that Camarasa went off injured, but the three-week break before playing Chelsea means he has time to rest and relax.
The goals were scored by Hoilett (4 mins) and Camarasa (52) and Warnock said: “It was the biggest win of the season just because of how poor we were in the last three matches.
“There were a lot of positives, plenty of answers for the critics. That’s our eighth clean sheet, I would like to see how many other teams in the bottom half have eight clean sheets this year.
“Whatever happens, 28 points is unbelievable for this group of players really.
“But now we have an opportunity to ruffle a few feathers and bring teams into it who weren’t expecting to be in it.”
Cardiff are fighting for their Premier League lives and clearly wanted this more than their visitors, who were strangely subdued and could not stop City taking control.
Cardiff midfield player Harry Arter said: “We outworked them and had a lot of quality on the ball. We raised our level of performance and put things right on the pitch after a hard week in training.
“Everything we’ve done this season has been fighting until the end, until the last three games. It’s always been a united dressing room. There has been no rift in this squad.”
This is the fourth successive away match in which West Ham have failed to score, but that should not take anything away from a lively and spirited Bluebirds squad who are prepared to scrap their way all the way to the end of this season.
Mentally, too, City were spot on. They stayed calm under pressure, dealing with situations in a composed manner.
West Ham United: Fabianski, Fredericks, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Rice, Noble (Antonio 58), Snodgrass, Lanzini (Nasri 58), Felipe Anderson (Arnautovic 46), Chicharito. Subs not used: Adrian, Balbuena, Masuaku, Obiang.
Referee: Graham Scott