Snapshot:Cardiff City head to Dubai on Sunday morning with a ten-point lead at the top of the nPower Championship after taking all three points at Bloomfield Road against Blackpool.
David Marshall smartly stopped an effort from Tom Ince in the most clear-cut chance of the first half, shortly before Gary Taylor-Fletcher disagreed with the referee’s decision not to award the home side a penalty after the ball had struck Andrew Taylor’s arm. Tommy Smith, on his first start since the home game with Watford in October had his shot tipped over the bar by ‘Pool keeper Gilks in City’s best chance of the period.
Things didn’t look good for the Bluebirds as captain Mark Hudson was forced off after failing to shake off an injury he originally suffered in the first half, but they took the lead through Kim Bo-Kyung’s second goal for the club. Not long after Blackpool fired back via Gary Taylor Fletcher’s header, but a Cardiff counter attack four minutes later concluded with Tommy Smith’s excellent winner, the volley his fourth goal in seven games against Blackpool and his first goal for City.
Chronological report:Cardiff City travelled to the northwest in search of a win in front of the Sky cameras that would take them ten points clear at the top of the nPower Championship. Craig Bellamy picked up a bug on Friday so did not travel with the squad, while Ben Turner missed out with a tight hamstring. Kevin McNaughton and Joe Mason came in for the two absentees, while Tommy Smith made his first start since a long absence through a hamstring injury of his own. Kim Bo-Kyung’s inclusion was the fourth change in City’s line-up since last week’s draw with Ipswich, while captain Mark Hudson made his 300th career league start.
The home side were looking for their first win of 2013, drawing three and losing four since their 2-0 home win over Blackburn Rovers, the club that manager Michael Appleton left the Tangerines for last week. And all of the talk around Bloomfield Road centred around Blackpool’s search for their third permanent manager of the season. The home side will have been motivated by the chance of revenge for City’s 3-0 win at Cardiff City Stadium in September, when Ian Holloway was in charge. The last three Championship meetings between the two clubs at Bloomfield Road had finished 1-1.
The groundsmen at Bloomfield road had worked to get the game on despite the harsh weather, but that did not stop City keeper Joe Lewis experiencing a painful fall on a poor pitch during the warm-up. He made the bench despite his injury scare.
The first minute of the match saw a penalty appeal for the away side. Joe Mason was felled by the arm of ‘Pool captain Kirk Broadfoot in the area but did not receive anything from referee Naylor despite a clear arm over Mason’s throat. The pitch came in for criticism from ‘Pool’s Tom Ince after some early misplaced passes, with clumps visibly displaced from the turf. Tommy Smith then had the game’s first attempt after being played down the right wing by Kim, but his effort was high and wide of Matt Gilks’ goal. Peter Whittingham’s free-kick after fourteen minutes was easily gathered by Blackpool’s number one.
A delightful flick from Gary Taylor-Fletcher gave Blackpool a great chance as Thomas Ince found himself clean through, but City keeper Marshall was on hand to ensure the highly-rated winger’s recent drought in front of goal continued. Down the other end, some patient build-up play from Cardiff and some tenacious work on the right wing by Craig Conway allowed Kim to get an effort on goal, but the ball went wide to Gilks’ right.
City’s defensive work was excellent when Ince again collected the ball inside the area on twenty-eight minutes, with three black shirts surrounding the England Under-21 international and the follow-up effort from Chris Basham. Taylor-Fletcher demanded a spot-kick from the referee soon after, claiming the ball had struck Andrew Taylor’s arm.
As Blackpool started to get some attacking momentum, Nathan Delfouneso released Tom Ince again before the assistant referee flagged for offside, despite the replays suggesting Mark Hudson was playing him on. A break in play came after thirty-six minutes when Hudson received treatment for seemingly twisting his ankle while defending a corner.
Tommy Smith was then inches away from getting his head to a Conway cross with five minutes of the first half left to play. An excellent ball from Ludovic Sylvestre split City’s back four soon after, but again Ince was unable to convert despite his clever run. The final kick of the half saw Tommy Smith denied by Matt Gilks.
HALF TIME: BLACKPOOL 0-0 CARDIFF CITY
Mark Hudson came out for the second half in a bid to continue after his ankle injury in the first half, but lasted little over a minute before making way for young Ben Nugent.
Cardiff Substitution: Ben Nugent on for Mark Hudson (47 mins)
Aron Gunnarsson picked up a yellow card for crashing into the back of Pool midfielder Bob Harris. Gunnarsson’s next contribution was to hit the post on the volley after Tommy Smith’s left-sided cross was fumbled clear, and from the rebound Kim Bo-Kyung pounced with purpose to put City a goal up.
GOAL: BLACKPOOL 0-1 CARDIFF CITY (Kim Bo-Kyung, 53 mins)
City’s lead lasted all of five minutes. Tiago Gomes set up Taylor Fletcher to head home for his fourth goal of the season, and continuing his impressive scoring record against the Bluebirds.
GOAL: BLACKPOOL 1-1 CARDIFF CITY (Gary Taylor-Fletcher, 59 mins)
Blackpool Substitution: Matt Phillips on for Tiago Gomes (61 mins)
If the gap between the first two goals was short, the gap between the second and third was even shorter. On the counter after defending a corner, Andrew Taylor was blocked on his way into the area, and with the ball in the air, Tommy Smith smacked home a beautiful left-footed volley via a deflection off Craig Cathcart into Gilks’ net.
GOAL: BLACKPOOL 1-2 CARDIFF CITY (Tommy Smith, 64 mins)
Cardiff Substitution: Heidar Helguson on for Tommy Smith (65 mins)
After breaking the pattern of 1-1 draws between these two sides at this ground, Smith was replaced by Heidar Helguson. Ludovic Sylvestre fired wide before Aron Gunnarsson had to receive treatment, the studs of Taylor-Fletcher raking his Achilles. His fellow midfielder Kim Bo-Kyung became the third and final City player to be substituted, Don Cowie his replacement.
Cardiff Substitution: Don Cowie on for Kim Bo-Kyung (75 mins)
Blackpool Substitution: Ángel Martínez on for Isaiah Obsourne (75 mins)
Trickery from Tom Ince allowed him enough room to get a strike past Andrew Taylor, but the attempt was not enough to beat Marshall. A late challenge by Cathcart on Gunnarsson warranted but did not get a yellow card, and Craig Conway put the free-kick over the bar.
There was a nasty-looking clash of heads between Helguson and Cathcart on eighty-six minutes, but fortunately both men appeared to emerge unhurt. Peter Whittingham saw yellow as he took one for the team by bringing down Tom Ince before he could get a shot away. Bob Harris’ resulting free-kick was comfortable for Marshall.
Five minutes of additional time were signalled by the fourth official before the referee showed Heidar Helguson a yellow card, either for a challenge on Bob Harris or for the altercation afterwards – in which case is was questionable why Harris was not also booked.
Malky Mackay and Steve Thompson enjoyed some considerable debate over the decision, but that aside City held on and went ten points clear at the top of the table, picking up their fifth league victory at Bloomfield Road in their history and a second double over the Seasiders in six seasons. This was City’s two hundredth away win in second level league football.
FULL TIME: BLACKPOOL 1-2 CARDIFF CITY
Blackpool:Gilks (GK), Basham, Cathcart, Broadfoot (c), Harris, Osbourne, Sylvestre, Gomes, Taylor-Fletcher, Ince, Delfouneso. Subs:Halstead, Eastham, Robertson, Angel, M. Phillips, Caton, Eccleston.
Cardiff City:Marshall (GK), McNaughton, Taylor, Hudson (c), Whittingham, Conway, Connolly, Bo-Kyung, Smith, Gunnarsson, Mason. Subs:Cowie, Gestede, Noone, Mutch, Helguson, Nugent, Lewis (GK)
Referee:Mr. M. Naylor