|Ipswich Town 3 v 0 Cardiff City|
Saturday, 18th February 2012 Kick-off 15:00
Town 3-0 Cardiff City
Saturday, 18th Feb 2012 17:05
Lee Martin’s first Town brace and Michael Chopra’s perhaps inevitable goal against his old club saw the Blues to a 3-0 victory over Cardiff at Portman Road and to four wins on the trot for the first time since November 2004. Martin put Town in front in the first half from Daryl Murphy’s cutback, Chopra converting Carlos Edwards’s cross just after the break and Martin added the third when he made the most of a defensive lapse.
The Blues were unchanged from Tuesday’s 1-0 victory at Portsmouth with three ex-Cardiff players in the starting line-up, Chopra, Arran Lee-Barrett and one-time Bluebirds loanee Jay Emmanuel-Thomas.
Town started the brighter of the two sides but without creating anything significant in front of the visitors’ goal.
There was controversy in the ninth minute when ex-Cardiff keeper Lee-Barrett rushed out of his goal and somewhat crudely upended Joe Mason when through on goal but when taking the ball away from the target.
Damien Delaney had got himself behind his keeper and inside the area, which may have partly been what persuaded referee Simon Hooper that it wasn’t an obvious goalscoring opportunity and to show only a yellow card. However, other officials might have seen the incident differently. Peter Whittingham wasted the freekick.
Cardiff striker Kenny Miller, who played for Paul Jewell during his time as Derby manager, was lucky not to be booked on 13 when he took a dive inside the area under the attentions of Tommy Smith with the New Zealand international not impressed with the Scot’s antics.
With rain starting to fall heavily, the visitors were by now on top and on 16 Andrew Taylor hit a low shot which Lee-Barrett couldn’t hold. Mason following up was offside but hit the ball straight at the Blues keeper in any case.
Despite the visitors having the upper hand, it was Town who would go in front in the 20th minute. Initially, the Bluebirds appeared to have cleared their lines after Murphy’s shot from a tight angle on the left was saved by David Marshall. However, Delaney sent the ball back down field and it eventually reached Murphy, who cut the ball back to Martin from the left and the ex-Manchester United man diverted it into the net.
It was the 25-year-old’s fourth goal of the season - his first ever from open play at Portman Road – and two minutes later he should have made it 2-0 when sent away in space down the right. With Chopra looking for a ball across the box, the midfielder cut inside Ben Turner and hit a shot just over Marshall’s bar.
The impetus swung back towards the Blues in the minutes after the goal but the visitors began to get back on top, their main threat coming from set pieces, although with Town so far remaining resolute at the back, stand-in skipper Carlos Edwards making a vital challenge on Miller as a loose ball ran to the striker on the edge of the six-yard box.
Lee-Barrett, who wasn’t having the most convincing of games, misjudged the bounce of a deflected Whittingham shot in the 32nd minute and after spilling the ball was forced to dive to his right to claw it from the line, fortunately with success.
Town might have had a penalty in the 42nd minute when Luke Hyam was felled when running on to a cutback from Chopra, although the referee wasn’t interested.
After one minute of additional time, referee Hooper blew his whistle to signal the end of what had been a half which could have gone either way.
The visitors, who have a Carling Cup final to look forward to next week, had had the greater share of the possession but with the Blues having created most of the penalty area danger, aside from one or two shaky moments at the other end from Arran Lee-Barrett.
The Town keeper might have been dismissed for his early foul by some referees, although a Cardiff goal was in no way a given had Mason not been fouled, which is likely to have been what persuaded Mr Hooper to issue only a caution.
Martin took his goal well but ought to have done better with his chance soon afterwards when he had time to pick his spot, although a two-goal lead might have flattered the Blues a touch.
With the rain now falling if anything harder, the start of the second half was delayed due to one of the linesmen suffering a calf injury and needing to be replaced by the fourth official.
Within two minutes of the restart it was 2-0 to Town. Skipper Edwards broke away down the right and sent in a superb ball to Chopra at the far post, the ex-Cardiff man slamming it back across Marshall and into the roof of the net. It was the striker’s fifth in four games, his second against his old club this season and his 12th of the campaign.
On 51 Chopra just had the ball taken away from him when again well placed in the area and from the resultant corner Smith headed just wide.
The Blues were well on top and Cresswell forced Marshall to punch the ball into the air in the 54th minute with a powerful 20-yard strike.
Emmanuel-Thomas reacted quickly to take the ball ahead of keeper Marshall on 57 but the visitors were able to clear before the one-time Cardiff loanee and Martin could make anything of it.
Town had had much the better of the second period but there was a scare on 63 when, after a slip by Hyam, sub Vuckic hit a shot which was blocked by Delaney. Two minutes later, Turner headed wide after a cleared corner had been returned from the left.
Soon after, good work from Chopra and Drury led to Martin hitting a curling effort from the edge of the box which Marshall parried. Emmanuel-Thomas following up wildly miscued his first-time shot out for a throw-in.
Town made it three in the 73rd minute when Murphy cut a ball he had only just reached back from the byline. Kevin McNaughton intercepted but with not enough power to reach Marshall, Martin nipping in to slip the ball under the keeper for his second of the game and his fifth of the season.
Hyam was booked for a foul, then Chopra just missed a Cresswell cross from the left after it had flicked off someone ahead of him, although with the Blues striker subsequently flagged offside.
Cardiff chances were by now rare but on 81 Whittingham hit a low 25-yard shot through to Lee-Barrett, who had had a much more comfortable second period.
Murphy failed to get a touch on a Chopra cross from the right on 84, then a minute later the former Bluebird was given a standing ovation by all four stands when he was replaced by Jason Scotland. With a minute left on the clock, Martin received a similar response from the crowd as Jimmy Bullard took over.
Scotland’s low strike was saved by Marshall moments before the board went up to signal three minutes of injury time. Almost immediately Grant Leadbitter replaced Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, who had had one of his quieter afternoons by his recent standards, if still playing his part, with the final whistle following moments later.
Once Michael Chopra had netted Town’s second goal so soon after the break only one team was going to win with Cardiff minds perhaps concentrating themselves on next week’s Carling Cup final.
The Blues continued to look a threat going forward as they had in the first half and might have scored more than their three goals. At the other end, most of the more significant defensive work was done before the break with Tommy Smith particularly impressive in the right-sided central defensive role.
The result means that former Canary Malky Mackay has lost his record of never losing to Town as either a player or a manager and continues the Blues’ climb away from the relegation places into the safety of mid-table, and given current form, perhaps even beyond that.
Town: Lee-Barrett, Edwards, Smith, Delaney, Cresswell, Drury, Hyam, Emmanuel-Thomas (Leadbitter 90), Martin (Bullard 89), Murphy, Chopra (Scotland 85). Unused: McCarthy, Ainsley.
Cardiff City: Marshall, McNaughton, Taylor, Gerrard (Blake 79), Turner, Whittingham, Cowie, Gunnarsson, Kiss (Vuckic 54), Mason, Miller. Unused: Parish, Earnshaw, Conway. Referee Simon Hooper (Wiltshire). Att: 17,032 (Cardiff: 333).
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