Etheridge’s point-blank save keeps Cardiff on top
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.”