Cardiff City returned after the International break with a trip to Nottingham Forest and before the kick-off news filtered through to the City supporters that Craig Bellamy wasn’t fit, despite reports earlier in the week, hearts sank a little.
The sinking feeling wasn’t helped when attacking towards the Cardiff City fans Forest made the first meaningful forward play of the game, but the cross into the box from Chris Cohen went pass everyone and out for a Cardiff City goal kick, from which Kevin McNaughton went on a run down the wing, leaving everyone in his wake his cross into the box was to be scrammed away by a flustered Forest defence.
After some fragmented midfield play where either team struggled to keep hold of the ball for more than three passes, somehow Forest gained a corner, swung in by Cohen it somehow bypassed everyone and forced Marshall punch to the ball clear at full stretch on the floor leaving him angry at his defence for going to sleep in front of him.
It was fairly dire stuff to watch and a little light relief came in the shape of a trademark long throw by Aron Gunnarsson; which found Craig Conway; his cross was met by Don Cowie whose header drifted wide of the far post.
The game became ever more stagnate, bogged down in midfield littered by mistakes by both sides, when out of the blue The Reds had a free kick awarded to them after McNaughton was adjudged to have climbed to win a header on the edge of the penalty area. Reid stepped up and calmly struck the free kick onto the underside of the cross-bar before falling behind the white line.
Forest heartened, by the goal which came from nothing heaped on the pressure. Just two minutes later The Reds were two up against the shell-shocked Bluebirds. Greg sent in a cross from the right corner of the box, Daniel Ayala met the ball, steering his header into the bottom right corner of the net which passed a badly positioned David Marshall.
The sides came out for the second half, with Cardiff City supporters angry at the lack of passion showed by their side and at first it seemed they had found their mojo again, as The Bluebirds started brightly in trying to get themselves back into the game. A run down the flank from Conway, but his final ball came to nothing, the loose ball was picked up by Reds substitute Radoslaw Majewski, who showed quick skillful feet passing the City midfield with ease before calmly slotting the ball through the static City defence. Billy Sharp perfectly placed drove the ball past Marshall into the bottom left corner of the big Scots goal.
At the restart Cardiff immediately went up the other end of the field, but a looped pass meant the attack somehow frustratingly became a game of head tennis just inside the penalty area the ball finally fell to Don Cowie whose shot went well wide of Lee Camp’s goal. Cardiff maintained pressure and earned themselves a corner. Whittingham with the ball swung in, but Mark Hudson headed agonisingly wide at the far post.
Nottingham Forest started to frustrate Cardiff City by playing ‘keep ball’, with every pass being cheered by the home fans. The game was slowly drifting away from the Bluebirds. Just as some of the travelling City fans started to drift out of the stadium to start to make their way home.
The game was now boring and lacklustre neither side really attempting to do much with the ball, then out of the blue Cardiff got handed a life line when Helguson scored his fifth goal of the season. An attempted clearance from the Forest back line looped up in the air, it landed at the feet of the Icelandic forward who struck it home well. This goal was the trigger for a complete momentum change. It looked like Cardiff had found a second gear, when Tommy Smith hit the upright after jinking his way into the area and releasing a shot that got palmed away, within minutes Lee Camp was then further forced to parry away efforts by Gestede and Noone.
The game opened up with Cardiff pushing forward to make a comeback, it was end to end stuff as both sides went close, the board went up indicating there would be five minutes added on. Tommy Smith played a long-range delivery into the box; Gestede rose and his dipping header forced Camp to pull off another impressive leaping save to tip it over the bar. Time ran out for the Bluebirds, having left themselves far too much to do in the second half.
The City supporters greeted the final whistle with an ironic cheer, reflecting the fact that for most of the game their team had played appallingly!
The Cardiff City dressing room post match prepared itself for Malky MacKay to dish out a roasting to the Bluebirds defence.
The game however proved to be a kick-start for Cardiff City, although The Bluebirds were again poor in their midweek game against Watford at Cardiff City Stadium thanks to Aron Gunnarsson’s injury time winner, The Bluebirds stayed joint top of the npower Championship with Leicester, but still sat second on goal difference. The victory also broke a sixty-five year old record in the process, Cardiff City had gone the first six home games of the season unbeaten and are the only side in the English Football League to remain unbeaten at home, heavy stuff for a team that for so many years languished in the lower two divisions
The game which also saw the return of prodigal son and Bluebird legend Craig Bellamy from injury had started badly as City had fallen behind in the twenty-eighth minute to Tommie Hoban’s powerful close range shot that rifled pass David Marshall. It had been against the run of play; The Bluebirds had made all the early running but were once again struggling to find the killer touch in front of goal.
The game was poor, Watford committing a string of cynical fouls, Craig Bellamy got hacked down off the ball in the penalty area and nothing was given, but it was clear Bellamy was hurt and although he got up he was shaking his head and muttering he limped heavily for the remaining few minutes of the first half and failed to emerge for the second period.
The second half and Malky Mackay’s side continued to at least try to play football, but Watfords game plan which seemed to be hack down anyone looking dangerous, was to come back to haunt them. First Daniel Pudil was sent off for dangerous foul play and then Nathaniel Chalobah for a second bookable offence. On 71 minutes – Peter Whittingham stepped up and converted a penalty kick after a hapless Watford defender had committed a needless handball inside the box.
Then in second-half stoppage time, substitute Aron Gunnarsson was the man who made Bluebird history. Craig Noone’s perfect cross was met by the big Icelander who had ghosted in behind the forest defensive line, he gleefully powered home a header to secure all three points.