Cardiff Regain The Championship’s Top Perch
Cardiff City reclaimed the top spot with a rare away win.
Cardiff City’s away day jinx came to an end on Saturday afternoon with a hard-fought 2-1 win at Barnsley. Nineteen year-old debutant Ben Nugent and Aron Gunnarsson with near doppelganger goals sealed victory for the Bluebirds, seeing Cardiff City returning to top spot in the npower Championship.
Cardiff City turned out against Barnsley wearing their traditional blue strip, a rare occurrence this season, and with the City following in strong voice behind them this was little surprise the first chance fell to the Bluebirds, Kim Bo-Kyung darted into the left hand side of the box, but his shot deflected out for a corner.
Barnsley then had several minutes where they dominated the run of play, after a rebounded shot was hastily cleared by City the ball fell to Greening outside the area who half volleyed it wide of Marshall’s left hand post and Craig Davies also left a chance begging.
The next few minutes belonged to Peter Whittingham – Craig Noone was foiled in Whitts territory, but Whittingham failed to get lift into the ball and it struck the wall. Cardiff had Barnsley on the back foot and Whittingham was soon lining up another free kick – near the right corner flag. This time his strike forced a save from Tykes keeper Luke Steele.
The game became stagnant. Frustratingly for the home side, The Bluebirds had the majority of possession but did nothing with it until the ball fell to the feet of Craig Noone via a sloppy pass midway into the Barnsley half he unleashed a shot at goal but the effort went wide, but it did serve to wake the city players up and within minutes, Joe Mason was a one on one with the keeper after beating two Barnsley defenders, Steele made a great save and City had a corner. Whittingham took it, his pin point cross found the head of young Ben Nugent who headed the ball home on his first senior start.
The Bluebird supporters celebrated in grand style and fine voice as only they know how to.
Barnsley, badly stung, came back at Cardiff from the restart, but City’s makeshift defence held strong and got a lucky break when Stephen Dawson who had ghosted onto the back post, completely missed the ball pulling off a spectacular air shot to a loud cheer from the Cardiff City supporters as the ball trickled out for a goal kick.
A string of half chances fell to the home side; Jonathan Greening’s free kick caused confusion in the area, the ball bobbling around for what seemed like an age before the ball was somehow eventually gratefully hacked away. The ensuing corner saw Marcus Tudgay’s header glanced wide of David Marshall’s goal.
Barnsley now had the wind behind their sails, Craig Davies was played through on goal his shot meant big David Marshall was forced to dive low to his left, but his fingertip save only served to push the ball out for a corner. Two corners followed in quick succession when the ball was headed over anywhere out of the way, before the threat was eventually dealt with properly by The Bluebirds.
The half time whistle came as a relief to the travelling and listening Cardiff City supporters, the team had been holding on for the last twenty minutes and most of the City supporters were starting to think here we go again away from home we are going to throw away a great start.
During half time thick fog and torrential rain descended on Oakwell, the Cardiff City supporters huddled closer together and sang their hearts out.
Barnsley started the second half the way they had ended the first – on the attack – and had the first chance when Jacob Mellis sent a vicious drive into the box, but Marshall pulled out a special save to thwart him.
That moment woke Cardiff up, they created two great chances and should have doubled their lead, but Kim Bo-Kyung’s by-line cross across the goal was cut out by a Barnsley defender. Then Joe Mason dispossessed Wiseman, carried the ball into the box where his forward pass found Helguson who pulled the trigger only for Steele to save from point blank range.
Cardiff supporters started to fear it might be another one of those days for the Bluebirds, a Whittingham cross found the head of Arron Gunnarsson in the penalty area, the Iceman calmly powered the ball home past Luke Steele who could only watch as it flew by him into the back of the net.
The Bluebirds faithful erupted into rapture hugging one another and chanting “Bluebirds, Bluebirds” prayers of thanks where sent on twitter to the footballing gods “please let City not blow it this time”, surely the hex away from home was going to be over?
Barnsley responded with a double Substitution Akos Buszaky on for Stephen Dawson and Reuben Noble-Lazarus on for Matt Done, Cardiff City countered by throwing on Rudy Gestede for Heidar Helguson.
Cardiff crafted more chances, a Helguson headed chance sailed over the cross bar. But Barnsley stepped up their tempo; enjoying their strongest period of the match Mellis, Davies and Buszaky all came close to scoring, and Cardiff squandered a double clear cut chance to go 3-0 up. Gestede rifled a shot from 18 yards out which was parried by The Tykes ‘keeper Luke Steele straight into the path of Kim, who hit his effort agonisingly wide of the right hand post.
Cardiff made their final changes: Jordan Mutch on for Aron Gunnarsson and Welsh national treasure and Bluebird favourite Craig Bellamy on for Joe Mason. Barnsley didn’t give up and on 76 minutes they got their reward. After the ball failed repeatedly to be cleared from the box it eventually fell to Jacob Mellis at the back post, he placed his shot into the bottom right hand corner.
Barnsley were energised by the goal and The Tykes had a claim for a penalty with only ten minutes left on the clock. The referee had a look and signalled for a corner. Much to the annoyance of the Cardiff players who made their feelings plainly clear that they thought Davies had dived and should have been booked, Barnsley then threw their last throw of the dice by bringing on Emile Sinclair for Marcus Tudgay
A Barnsley corner caused problems before Mark Hudson hoofed it away. Then Cardiff debutant loanee Simon Lappin was shown a second yellow after bringing down Noble-Lazarus midway inside his own half. The resulting free kick bounced about like a pinball before it was pounced on by Akos Buszaky who fired the ball goal wards; Marshall spilled the shot, but Hudson was able to spare his blushes by clearing the ball to safety.
The four added minutes were a nervy time for City until Jordon Mutch stole the ball away before passing it to Craig Noone who took the ball to the corner. He and Rudy Gestede then ate up the remaining two minutes, winning a couple of corners from the desperate Barnsley players’ attempts to get the ball from them.
The final whistle sent joyful reverberations through the Cardiff City faithful worldwide The Bluebirds had not only finally secured a fantastic away victory they had reclaimed top Perch in nPower Championship.