|Cardiff City 3 v 1 Ipswich Town|
Saturday, 18th March 2017 Kick-off 15:00
Cardiff City 3-1 Ipswich Town - Match Report
Saturday, 18th Mar 2017 17:10
Town dropped to 17th, only five points from the relegation zone after Cardiff City came from behind to beat them 3-1 at the Cardiff City Stadium. Skipper Luke Chambers headed the Blues into a 23rd minute lead but Kenneth Zohore equalised for Cardiff on 36, then put the home side in front five minutes after the break before Joe Bennett added the third in the 63rd minute with Town never looking like they would get back in it.
Grant Ward and Tommy Smith returned to the Town starting line-up with Myles Kenlock dropping to the bench and Emyr Huws unavailable against his parent club and also having a hamstring injury.
Smith came in on the left of the central defensive three with Jonas Knudsen moving out to left wing-back. Ward joined Cole Skuse and Toumani Diagouraga in central midfield.
For Cardiff, Peter Whittingham returned in midfield with Joe Ralls missing out through injury. Former England striker Rickie Lambert was back on the bench after a long-term back injury, while ex-Town keeper Brian Murphy was also among the subs.
In breezy conditions and swirling fine rain, the Bluebirds were first to threaten in the fourth minute after Skuse had fouled Junior Hoilett not far outside area. Whittingham curled the freekick towards the bottom corner but Bartosz Bialkowski did well to save down to his left.
The home side continued to have the better of the opening spell and a minute later Zohore hit a shot on the turn from the edge of the box just over.
Town, wearing all white, should have taken the lead in the ninth minute after a swift counter-attack following a Cardiff freekick.
David McGoldrick picked up a half-cleared ball just outside the area and brought it forward before feeding Tom Lawrence to his right.
The on-loan Leicester man, back in his native Wales, took it on into the area before cutting across to the far post to the unmarked Ward, who shot against Bluebirds keeper Allan McGregor from not far outside the six-yard box. Either side of the Scotland international and Town would have been in front.
After a slow start the Blues had got on top and as the game approached the 20-minute mark they were beginning to dominate possession with Lawrence and McGoldrick involved more than they were at Barnsley last week. On 21 the Irish international shot over from distance.
And in the 23rd minute the Blues went in front. Skuse played the ball down the right for Spence, who did well to reach it before being fouled by Sol Bamba, who was memorably red-carded in this season’s Portman Road fixture between the clubs.
Lawrence sent in the freekick from the right and Chambers headed back across goal and into the net for his fourth goal of the season.
In the 29th minute Christophe Berra clipped Kadeem Harris’s heels just before he broke into the area and Bialkowski sharply diverted Bennett’s freekick over from under his bar, then from the corner Bamba looped a header well over.
The home side were starting to get on top, however, and on 31 Zohore broke into the area on the right and shot straight at Bialkowski while under pressure from Chambers.
Two minutes later at the other end, Lawrence whipped in a wind-assisted freekick from the right and Diagouraga stooped and headed over.
But in the 36th minute the Bluebirds got back on terms. After Knudsen had fouled Craig Noone on the right, Whittingham played the freekick wide to Jazz Richards, who crossed into the box where it was nodded down by home skipper Sean Morrison and Zohore volleyed home his eighth goal in 10 games from close range giving Bialkowski no chance.
Zohore, who has now scored nine goals this season, will feel he should have netted another two minutes later but lashed wildly into the stand after Chambers’s poor defensive header had landed at his feet in the area.
Cardiff went closer to going in front in the 42nd minute when Aron Gunnarsson cut the ball back from the right and it reached Hoilett, who worked himself space and then hit a shot on the turn which struck the angle of post and bar.
After Whittingham had sent a freekick well over from distance, Icelandic midfielder Gunnarsson, who had a trial with the Blues as a schoolboy, hit an injury-time shot wide.
Having started slowly Town had got themselves on top during an entertaining half and deserved their goal when it came with Ward having gone close to opening the scoring earlier.
However, the Bluebirds then began to take charge and once they’d levelled - via a set-piece goal Mick McCarthy will no doubt have been disappointed to have conceded - looked the more likely scorers of the game’s third goal with Hoilett unlucky with his shot off the woodwork.
Lawrence had looked more like his January self and he and McGoldrick had both shown that they were capable of troubling the Cardiff defence without either having had a clear-cut opportunity.
Town switched Smith for Brett Pitman ahead of the second half and moved to 4-4-2 with Lawrence on the left and Ward on the right of midfield.
Cardiff started the second half the brighter, Zohore hooking a cross from the right wide off a Town defender and wide.
Town’s first opportunity came from another Lawrence freekick on the right. Berra nodded back across the face of goal but McGoldrick was unable to control at a tight angle as he looked to cut across.
And following the resultant 50th minute goalkick the Bluebirds took the lead. Zohore flicked a long ball from Morrison on to Hoilett, who backheeled into his path and with Chambers not having tracked his run and appealing for offside, the Cardiff top scorer hit his 10th goal of the season and ninth in 10 games into the net off Bialkowski.
Three minutes later Berra was booked for a foul on Hoilett as Cardiff continued to put the pressure on.
Town didn’t threaten until the 58th minute when McGoldrick twisted and turned inside the area before trying a chip which failed to test McGregor. A minute later, Hoilett hit a shot across the face of goal from the Cardiff right.
But a third Bluebirds goal wasn’t too long in coming. In the 63rd minute Harris brought the ball in from the left past Skuse along the byline and cut it back to Bennett, who picked his spot to claim his first goal for the Welsh side.
Town, who had failed to settle into their 4-4-2 system after the break, looked to have no way back. On 68 Pitman was yellow-carded for a foul on Gunnarsson.
Noone curled over from distance in the 75th minute, then for the Blues McGoldrick burst into the area on the left and cut back to Pitman, who looked to turn goalwards but found Bamba, who had been outstanding at the back for the Bluebirds, in his way.
With 11 minutes remaining Town made a double change with McGoldrick and Diagouraga making way for Freddie Sears and debutant Danny Rowe.
Zohore shot tamely through to Bialkowski in the 82nd minute with the Bluebirds looking more likely to add a fourth than Town were to pull a goal back. A minute later the Dane was subbed to a standing ovation by home supporters, Anthony Pilkington taking over.
Cardiff should have made it 4-1 in the 85th minute when sub Pilkington found Hoilett in space in the Town area but the ex-QPR man shot weakly straight at Bialkowski.
Town had what looked a not unreasonable shout for a penalty in the 88th minute when Spence crossed from the right and Pitman turned the ball against Morrison’s arm. If he saw it referee James Linington may have deemed it ball to hand.
The Blues continued to press for a goal in four minutes of injury time, Pitman having added more of a penalty are threat, but were unable to force McGregor into further action before the final whistle.
Town never got going after the half-time change of system - with Lawrence notably quieter having moved wide - and then Cardiff’s second goal which was a shocker from a Blues perspective.
Cardiff prodded and probed and deserved the third goal when it came and might even have won more convincingly had Hoilett taken his chance.
The result ends Town’s streak of consecutive draws at six as well as their eight-match unbeaten run.
The Blues have now won just once in their last 13 in all competitions and only twice 2017 and have taken only 13 points from their last 42.
With only five points separating them from the bottom three they face a nervous last eight games of the season. The Blues look to be one of seven sides battling to avoid the final relegation spot with Rotherham and Wigan already looking to be down.
After the two-week international break, Town face Birmingham, who are one place behind the Blues on goal difference alone, and then the Latics in what now appear to be crucial back-to-back home games.
Cardiff City: McGregor, Bennett, Morrison (c), Richards, Whittingham, Noone (Halford 79), Bamba, Gunnarsson, Harris (John 90), Zohore (Pilkington 83), Hoilett. Unused: Murphy, Ecuele Manga, Lambert, Meite.
Town: Bialkowski, Chambers (c), Berra, T Smith (Pitman 46), Spence, Skuse, Diagouraga (Rowe 79), Ward, Knudsen, Lawrence, McGoldrick (Sears 79). Unused: Gerken, Digby, Kenlock, Bru. Referee: James Linington (Newport, Isle of Wight). Att: 15,182.
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