Cardiff 1-0 Burnley (report)
Burnley arrived at Ninian Park with an unbeaten away record for this season and flying in 3rd place in the Championship. Ex-Cardiff City sweeper and Captain Roger Gibbins said in his pre-match talk to the hospitality areas that they could expect a broken up and niggly game from Burnley with lots of fouls and aggressive tactics. This was exactly what the fifteen and a half thousand crowd got.
Burnley were out of the blocks fast in a scrappy game but seemed unwilling to do anything with the ball whilst restricting Cardiff to head-tennis and clearances. They pressed especially hard in midfield and Cardiff were unable to get the ball down to play. Kevin Campbell, in for the injured Steve Thompson failed to win any header in the opening 15 minutes and looked completely lost under the pressure of Burnley. Neither side was able to play any football and the game descended into a scrappy affair full of fouls and complaining to the referee.
Everything changed however in the 23rd minute. Paul Parry won Cardiff`s first corner on the right, the ball was cleared however and found Darren Purse in the centre circle, his centre back partner Glenn Loovens has stayed upfield however and was well picked out by Purse. Loovens then did what Campbell had failed to do so far and won the header diverting across goal where Campbell held his defender off strongly and allowed the ball across his body where RICCY SCIMECA was waiting to beautifully power home in the bottom right corner from 20 yards. The shot curled away brilliantly and looked in from the moment he struck it for Scimeca`s 5th of the season, it obviously meant a lot to the midfielder with his son Lucas the team`s mascot for the day too. Burnley`s prolific striker Andy Gray was booked for dissent before the restart but was lucky not to have been booked previously after contesting every decision and persistently protesting to the referee.
Paul Parry had to withdraw with a dead leg and Willo Flood replaced him to good avail showing some nice touches and positive intent. He was twice brought down within minutes of coming on and he won 2 headers against a defender almost a foot taller than himself.
HT: Cardiff City 1-0 Burnley
The second half was played at a much higher tempo as Burnley looked to press. Cardiff started well and had 2 shouts, one particularly strong for a handball in the Burnley area but nothing was given. Flood and Chopra linked up well to set-up Ledley at the far post but he delayed and the shot was blocked.
Kevin Campbell had improved but was showing weariness and made little impact in the second half and Cardiff`s lack of squad depth showed as Campbell was withdrawn and replaced with defender Roger Johnson who took his place up-front. Johnson had played in that position for Wycombe before but was not found suitable. He did however keep things simple and helped to hold the ball up and did improve Cardiff`s attacking options, almost getting on the end of a Chopra cross but he could only divert wide.
A Burnley substitution made a big difference as ex-Bluebird loanee Alan Mahon came on to a frosty reception. It signalled a change in Burnley and the attacked quickly and pushed City back. Time and time again Loovens and Purse headed clear amidst a flurry of Burnley fouls, some of which were cynical and really the Clarets were lucky to end with all 11 players on the pitch.
Steve Jones had a decent chance mid-way through second half but fluffed his shot well wide from 15 yards. Andy Gray did have the ball in the net after a goalmouth scramble as the ball seemed to bounce over the line after hitting the crossbar but the referee instead gave a free-kick for a foul on Neil Alexander. Burnley kept going but lacked quality and had few efforts on goal. Michael Chopra had a glorious chance to seal the game when he raced clear onto a Darren Purse hoofed clearance but inexplicably shot over as he bore down on Brian Jensen.
The 4 minutes of injury time was played out at a high tempo with Kevin McNaughton bursting forward from defence and nearly breaking free, and one Chris McCann shot saved low by Alexander but City held on for a deserved win.
FT: Cardiff City 1-0 Burnley
A fantastic 3 point for the Bluebirds to extend the lead to 3 points. Burnley came with a gameplan and despite their tiny squad used a squad rotation policy effectively by using a different player each time to commit the cynical fouls. It was not pretty to watch and 5 players ended with cautions when it could have been more. James Chambers was booked for scything down Steve Jones with the ball long gone but Cardiff did try to play football and deserved the win.