The Cardiff City Stadium boasted its largest ever crowd for the Saturday afternoon meeting with Nottingham Forrest who came into the game as the in-form team in the division, having put together a ten match unbeaten run, while all the other teams including Cardiff City had stuttered and faltered.
Even the driving rain couldn’t perturb Cardiff City supporters, who had galvanised together, after ecstasy had turned into agony for them on Tuesday night; when, with the Cardiff City faithful desperately calling for the final whistle after the five minutes of added time were up, Barnsley’s Stephen Foster deflected Tomasz Cywka’s shot past a stranded David Marshall.
The 97th minute goal equalised for Barnsley and denied The Bluebirds the win they richly deserved, it felt cruel and unjust, the old doubts and niggles started to surface, fans from Championship rivals stared the old taunts of Bluebottlers, but the Bluebird supporters and the team took it all in their stride and turned it into the their advantage by using those taunts to fire themselves up.
So with CCS buoyant, the supporters singing all the old songs loudly and proudly; the Bluebirds dressed in red and black kicked off against the blue and white wearing Nottingham Forest. Billy Davies’ side had come ready for a fight, chasing a playoff place and not ready to hand over their undefeated ten game run, but City were snapping at their heels from the off – a handful, bright and determined chasing after every ball, down the right wing Bellamy was full of tricks with able support from Taylor and Kim. The Forest defence were quickly on the back foot, all sixes and sevens after being forced to deal with several early probing and dangerous crosses.
The match was being played at a high tempo, though it was to be The Forest who created the first real chance as Chris Cohen broke into space down the left. He passed to Adlène Guedoiura on the edge of the box, who unleashed a low driven shot that brushed the side-netting – this just served to galvanise The City’s efforts and both Helguson and Bellamy fired shots just over the bar, City fans began to fear that the missed chances may prove to be costly, but they need not have worried because in the 25th minute, Kim was brought down and Bellamy stepped up to take the free kick, an in-swinging, whipped in delivery, into the box, which was met by the head of Heidar Helguson. The Iceman coolly nodded the ball down into the bottom corner for Cardiff city to take the lead.
Nerves settled a little, but Forest kept coming and David Marshall was forced to make a superb double save, palming Darius Henderson’s shot away from goal, then scrambling back up quickly to dive at the feet of Dexter Blackstock as he tried to connect with the ball at the back-post. Henderson was then sent off for a raised elbow which on second view may have been a little harsh – a game changer.
The start of the second half saw a change for both sides with Nottingham Forest bringing on Tudgay for Majewski, while Cardiff City brought on Rudy Gestede for Helguson.
However, despite being down to ten men The Forest Reds signalled by their substitution of a midfielder for a replacement striker that they were determined to continue attacking The Bluebirds.
Things went from bad to worse for the visitors when Rudy Gestede with his foot high, caught the stooping Greg Halford in the head a sickening and worrying injury; Halford left the pitch on a stretcher to a round of applause from everyone in CCS, relieved to see he was conscious. Welsh international Danny Collins replaced Halford.
Forest continued to break and cause City problems, but they were finding it harder and harder, the spaces were starting to open up and the Bluebirds were exploiting them at every opportunity – The Forest soon picked up a third and fourth yellow cards of the game, for niggly, silly, panicky fouls outside the box giving Bellamy a free kick which rattled the upright with a curling shot completely bamboozling Karl Darlow. The rebound bounced out wide, where Taylor met it quickly, whipping the ball back in and Rudy Gestede, showing perfect timing, met the ball and planted his header sweetly into the back of the net.
The Bluebirds were now dominant and threatening to cause a rout, a plethora of good chances ensued. First Kim dummied one way, then another on the edge of the box before firing towards the top right hand corner. Somehow Darlow launched himself to his right in an almost acrobatic fashion to palm the ball away, then Leon Barnett (who on Thursday had extended his loan spell with Cardiff from his parent side Norwich until the end of the season) had a far-post header fly just wide, then the impressive Kim then laid the ball off for Tommy Smith, whose powerful strike was deflected wide for a corner. Bellamy swung an excellent delivery into the box and it was Gestede who again rose highest to head the ball his effort hitting the post before going in. The Cardiff City Stadium erupted – a round of The Blues are going up rang out loud.
Then everyone thought that the superb Craig Bellamy had scored, after he latched onto an Aron Gunnarsson drive into the box from the right hand side, drilling the ball across the face of goal to Bellamy, unmarked at the back post, but somehow with a rue smile at the celebrating Bluebird fans he had only found the side netting! Another substitution was made by Cardiff City: Peter Whittingham coming on for Jordon Mutch
City saw the game out dominating possession and keeping Forest at bay – toying with them, giving them a lesson in passing and fancy footwork, but they failed to add to their tally. Craig Noone again came agonisingly close, crashing a shot against the far post; the ball seemed to roll across the goal line and over the goal line, but the goal wasn’t given
The game ended 3-0 and the Bluebirds now just need one point from their remaining games to be promoted to the Promised land of the Top Flight which has eluded them since 1962, and just four points to be promoted as championship leaders, a feat that would see them get one over derby rival Swansea who were promoted via the playoffs two seasons ago
So, in extremely high spirits, Cardiff City and their Blue army of supporters will again pack out CCS on Tuesday night for the game against Charlton, ready to start the promotion party.
Malky Mackay attempted to remain stoic, but allowed himself a little smile saying “I was really pleased with the way we played up until the sending off because we were up against a team who were flying,”
Mackay continued “It can be difficult to play against 10 men, but I thought we were brilliant.” He added ”We will go into the Charlton game in the same way as we did last Tuesday against Barnsley and as we did today.
Obviously we need to see who is ready to go and who has the fresh legs, but we will make sure the players have the best preparation.”