The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By James Candy

CARDIFF boss Rus­sell Slade be­lieves David Mar­shall earned the tag of the Cham­pi­onship’s top keeper af­ter he in­spired vic­tory over Read­ing.

The Scot­tish num­ber one was on top form to stop the Roy­als from go­ing in­front and deny­ing a late come­back.

Ken­wyne Jones could not have timed his re­turn from in­jury any bet­ter as he rose to power a header home to be­come Cardiff’s first scorer in five matches, be­fore Matthew Con­nolly soared above An­ton Fer­di­nand to wra­pup the three points.

But it was Mar­shall who stood out for Slade af­ter his fine per­for­mance moved Cardiff above Read­ing and three points off the play-offs.

Slade said: “I would say David is the best keeper in the Cham­pi­onship and he’s in ab­so­lute top form at this mo­ment.

“Read­ing’s strength is their move­ment in for­ward ar­eas, it’s al­most like play­ing against four cen­tre for­wards.

“They are go­ing to get op­por­tu­ni­ties so your keeper has to be on his met­tle and con­cen­trat­ing – and that’s what David does so well.

“It was a good win against a very strong Read­ing side, the first goal was im­por­tant and we man­aged to get that thank­fully.

“We con­trolled a lot of the first-half and their best chances came af­ter we had scored.”

Craig Noone looked the most likely Cardiff player to break their goal­drought and could have done so af­ter ten min­utes when he cut in­side past An­drew Tay­lor, but could not di­rect a shot past Ali Al-Habsi in the Roy­als’ goal.

It was the tricky winger who had the next chance to be­come the first Cardiff player to score for five games af­ter half an hour, but he could not beat Al-Habsi from close range.

Cardiff were al­most made to pay when Nick Black­man forced Mar­shall into ac­tion from a driven shot af­ter Aaron Gun­nars­son had care­lessly given the ball away to Matej Vy­dra in mid­field.

But the wait for Cardiff fans was fi­nally over when Jones pow­ered a header home from a Joe Ralls free-kick on the stroke of half-time.

Con­nolly en­sured the Cardiff City Sta­dium broke into full voice again on 52 min­utes.

Read­ing stop­per Al-Habsi looked un­con­vinc­ing as he de­flected a free­kick be­hind for a cor­ner and the score­line was soon dou­bled.

Con­nelly rose above Fer­di­nand from Ralls’ re­sult­ing cor­ner to head home a sec­ond and wrap up a much needed vic­tory for Slade .

A late Roy­als fightback was thwarted by Mar­shall, who was in in­spired form in the Cardiff goal.

He was at full-stretch to tip Oliver Nor­wood’s bend­ing free-kick over the the cross­bar for a cor­ner.

Michael Hec­tor then had the chance to pull one back from the re­sult­ing set­piece, but Mar­shall got down sharply to his right to block, earn­ing a stand­ing ova­tion from the home fans.

Read­ing man­ager Steve Clarke also sin­gled out Mar­shall for praise, say­ing: “Mar­shall was ter­rific out there and the fact he got man of the match shows we weren’t far away from a good re­sult.

“We knew they would be a threat at set-plays, but we were very dis­ap­pointed with the referee.

“The free-kick he gave for the first goal was very soft.

“They got the first goal which made it dif­fi­cult for us as well and con­ced­ing from a cor­ner is not like us.

“I have to give credit to the play­ers be­cause they kept go­ing and kept try­ing and on an­other day some of those shots could have gone in.”

PIC­TURES: Pro Sports

HEAD FIRST: Cardiff City de­fender Matt Con­nolly scores his side’s sec­ond

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