GOOD DAY HUNT­ING... BUT CITY MUST NOW STAY AHEAD

South Wales Echo - - THE BLUEBIRDS - TOM COLE­MAN Foot­ball writer tom.cole­man@waleson­line.co.uk

CARDIFF City re­turned to win­ning ways in dra­matic style with two goals in the clos­ing mo­ments to see off Nor­wich at Car­row Road, earn­ing them­selves three cru­cial points in their bid to re­turn to the Premier League.

Ken­neth Zo­hore came off the bench to net just four min­utes from time, be­fore star man Ju­nior Hoi­lett net­ted with a sub­lime vol­ley to make sure of the win.

The re­sult, cou­pled with Ful­ham’s slip-up at home to Brent­ford, made it a bril­liant day for the Blue­birds. Here we take a look at the key talk­ing points to emerge...

THE HUNTER BE­COMES THE HUNTED AGAIN

NEIL Warnock made the com­ment, of course, af­ter the 1-0 loss at As­ton Villa which saw Ful­ham leapfrog the Blue­birds into sec­ond place.

Cardiff ’s man­ager reck­oned he would rather be hunt­ing down, than be­ing chased by oth­ers.

Well, his team have wasted no time hunt­ing down, the week­end re­sults mean­ing they have jumped back above Ful­ham into sec­ond place.

It was not in­con­ceiv­able for Cardiff to have found them­selves trail­ing the Cot­tagers by four points on Satur­day night. In­deed, many feared that would hap­pen, with Cardiff los­ing at Nor­wich and Ful­ham bash­ing Brent­ford.

But in the space of a few hours the op­po­site un­folded – and in beau­ti­ful fash­ion if you are a Cardiff fan.

What it means is that the Blue­birds are back in the as­cen­dancy, a point clear, with a game in hand too.

Surely, with games fast run­ning out, you would pre­fer to be in a sit­u­a­tion like that – even if it means be­ing hunted.

Sim­ple equa­tion. If Cardiff win three of their re­main­ing four matches, then the hunters can’t catch them.

End of. The Blue­birds have their Premier League des­tiny very much in their own hands.

GUNNARSSON AN­SWERS HIS CRIT­ICS

ARON Gunnarsson has come in for a fair bit of stick fol­low­ing his re­cent show­ings, with some fans point­ing out the side’s fail­ure to win in three games co­in­cided with his re­turn to the side from in­jury.

Given the cal­i­bre of op­po­si­tion – As­ton Villa, Wolves and away at play­off chas­ing Sh­effield United – a lot of that crit­i­cism has per­haps been a lit­tle un­fair.

Re­mem­ber, Gunnarsson was re­turn­ing in the most daunt­ing of cir­cum­stances, hav­ing to mark Jack Gre­al­ish, Ruben Neves and David Brooks – amongst the most ta­lented play­ers in the divi­sion – and at the same time need­ing to get up to match sharp­ness im­me­di­ately.

The crit­ics were right, in a way, to point to the lack of legs in the Cardiff mid­field, but Warnock ad­dressed that by bring­ing Craig Bryson and Loic Damour back in at Car­row Road.

That, in turn, gave Warnock an in­cred­i­bly pow­er­ful bench to utilise in

the clos­ing mo­ments. Bruno Manga, Ken­neth Zo­hore, Marco Gru­jic and Cal­lum Pater­son would walk into many start­ing XIs in the Cham­pi­onship and An­thony Pilk­ing­ton is not bad, ei­ther.

Gunnarsson was im­pres­sive in the first half at Car­row Road, but un­der­stand­ably ran out of steam af­ter the break. How­ever, it’s an­other 90 min­utes in the legs and he will be bet­ter for it.

Warnock has stuck by his Ice­landic war­rior, who per­haps hasn’t been as bad as some have sug­gested.

He will con­tinue to stick by him too. Gunnarsson re­mains one of the first names on the Cardiff team-sheet and more than played his part in this hugely im­pres­sive win.

HAVE CARDIFF LOST SOL?

THE ju­bi­la­tion of the trav­el­ling Cardiff fans was as fer­vent and wild as we’ve seen the whole sea­son, and you can un­der­stand why.

Blue­birds sup­port­ers have seen their nerves shred­ded to pieces in re­cent weeks by their stut­ter­ing re­cent form, and thoughts must have been rac­ing into over­drive just be­fore half­time at Nor­wich.

Sol Bamba’s last-ditch tackle to deny Den­nis Sr­beny will have caused a few pal­pi­ta­tions in the typ­i­cally noisy away end, and again when the striker flicked an ef­fort onto the post just a few mo­ments af­ter.

And when Bamba, who hurt him­self in his bid to stop Sr­beny in the pre­vi­ous in­ci­dent, was forced off with in­jury, many Cardiff fans may have been ini­tially fear­ing the worst.

But, just as the Ivo­rian him­self echoed the gaffer’s call for calm be­fore the game, it’s not quite time to push any panic but­tons just yet.

Warnock re­vealed that the in­jury was not nearly as bad as some may have thought, stat­ing that the tal­is­manic cen­tre-back could even be in con­tention to face Not­ting­ham For­est next week­end.

Let’s hope so. Bamba ar­guably has been the best de­fender in the league this sea­son, and Cardiff are un­ques­tion­ably a su­pe­rior side with him in it.

That said, and de­spite a cou­ple of nervy mo­ments, Bruno Manga is a very ca­pa­ble deputy.

So, what­ever hap­pens, don’t panic.

ZO­HORE PROVES A POINT

WARNOCK’S de­ci­sion to drop Ken­neth Zo­hore and pick Gary Ma­dine up top raised eye­brows.

Cardiff’s main striker could eas­ily have bagged a cou­ple of goals at As­ton Villa and would have been itch­ing to go again against Nor­wich.

As it was, Warnock waited un­til the 73rd minute be­fore throw­ing him into the fray.

Fair to say, Zo­hore in­stantly made his mark, set­ting the Blue­birds on course for their price­less vic­tory with his clev­erly struck open­ing goal.

The sign­ing of Ma­dine was in­tended to put pres­sure on Zo­hore to per­form and he has cer­tainly risen to the chal­lenge.

Warnock talked up his £6m sign­ing af­ter­wards, say­ing he had paved the way for the win. ‘I think Ma­dine did the work and then Ken got the cream!’

Per­haps, but it’s likely Zo­hore will be back in his fa­mil­iar start­ing spot against Not­ting­ham For­est on Satur­day – which is where most Cardiff City fans want him to be.

What­ever, Warnock once more ap­pears to have man­aged the sit­u­a­tion bril­liantly.

CARDIFF CITY JUST AT­TRACT DRAMA

NEVER leave a Cardiff City match early. This was the fourth game run­ning to have been de­cided in the last five min­utes, and the first time in that run that such drama has yielded a win.

Hav­ing snatched a point at Sh­effield United, Cardiff have been on the re­ceiv­ing end of two nar­row de­feats that have been de­cided in the fi­nal few min­utes, miss­ing two penal­ties ver­sus Wolves be­fore be­ing un­done by Jack Gre­al­ish’s 85th-minute stunner at Villa Park.

To lose two cru­cial games in such a man­ner will have pre­sented a real test of char­ac­ter in the Cardiff City camp – a test they’ve shown lit­tle sign of shy­ing away from.

See­ing the drama tilt in their favour this time around will make this vic­tory taste just that lit­tle bit sweeter.

AN OVER­DUE CLEAN SHEET

IT is com­monly ac­cepted Cardiff’s pro­mo­tion cam­paign has been built upon a solid de­fence – and rightly so.

Yet, be­lieve it or not, this was their first clean sheet since back in Fe­bru­ary, when Bris­tol City were blot­ted out in the 1-0 Sev­ern­side derby.

That re­sult se­cured Warnock’s pre­sea­son tar­get of 16 clean sheets for the sea­son, and their in­abil­ity to keep an­other one over the last seven games will have been a dis­ap­point­ment.

If Cardiff can re­gain their pre­vi­ous de­fen­sive so­lid­ity, it could well pro­vide them with the boost needed to get them­selves over the line.

Neil Warnock shows his joy at the fi­nal whis­tle

Cap­tain Sean Mor­ri­son, pic­tured clos­ing down Nor­wich’s Mario Vran­cic, will have been de­lighted with an­other Cardiff clean sheet

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.