Etheridge’s point-blank save keeps Cardiff on top

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Sport | Football - By Alex By­wa­ter at Cardiff City Sta­dium

This was a frus­trat­ing af­ter­noon for Cardiff City. Ref­eree James Lin­ing­ton was the sub­ject of the home crowd’s ire, but that said more about the hosts’ fail­ure to reach their best than the per­for­mance of the Welsh of­fi­cial.

Neil Warnock’s side stayed top of the Cham­pi­onship, but only a su­perb close-range save from Neil Etheridge de­nied Derby sub­sti­tute David Nu­gent from seal­ing a win for the vis­i­tors.

Warnock said: “I’m only partly dis­ap­pointed. It was there to be won, but we kept our home record in­tact and to get seven points in a week is a tremen­dous ef­fort.

“I can’t fault the play­ers at all and I’m de­lighted to keep the run going. Joe Ben­nett’s wife gave birth on Fri­day and he was up all night, but kept going all game. We tried to win and Neil pulled off a great save at the end there, but it’s been a great start and I’m look­ing for­ward to the in­ter­na­tional break now.”

Derby in­cluded former City man Joe Ledley in their side, while Tom Lawrence – who had an im­pres­sive game – was also a fa­mil­iar fig­ure in Cardiff.

Derby’s poor start to the season has come de­spite an im­pres­sive squad, and with Ledley, Tom Hud­dle­stone and Cur­tis Davies, Gary Rowett had ex­pe­ri­ence to call on. The vis­i­tors were neat and tidy in posses­sion, but nei­ther side cre­ated any­thing of note in a first pe­riod that was, at times, close to un­watch­able.

Cardiff ’s Ju­nior Hoi­lett had the best chance, from 25 yards in the 17th minute, but Scott Car­son was equal to the shot, the former Eng­land stop­per tipping it over the bar. Loic Damour also dragged wide just be­fore the break but, after Tues­day’s im­pres­sive win over Leeds, Cardiff were much qui­eter in what was their third game in a week.

Derby man­ager Rowett in­tro­duced Chris Martin for Sam Win­nall at the break and the sec­ond pe­riod was, at least, much bet­ter than the first. In truth, it could not have been worse.

Sean Mor­ri­son and Hoi­lett headed Cardiff cor­ners over the bar and Nathaniel Men­dez-Laing shot wide for Warnock’s side. Fi­nally, there was some action of note. Derby had been quiet, but Lawrence was their chief threat, the Welsh­man back on home soil hold­ing the ball up well and pro­vid­ing his team’s only creative im­pact.

The mood at Cardiff City Sta­dium was tetchy as fans di­rected their frus­tra­tions at Lin­ing­ton. The New­port of­fi­cial booked Damour for a foul on Richard Keogh and both man­agers rolled the dice. Derby paired Nu­gent with Martin up front, while Warnock gam­bled with for­ward Lee Tom­lin along­side Ken­neth Zo­hore.

Cardiff went di­rect but had no joy, and were re­liant on Etheridge de­liv­er­ing the goods when Nu­gent came call­ing. Rowett said: “If you’d told me be­fore the game we would have had a clean sheet and limited Cardiff to just one real chance be­fore the game, then I’d have been happy. But I thought we de­served to win the game.”

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