An uneventful first half came to life after the break at Cardiff City Stadium as the Bluebirds showed their flexibility to combat Wigan’s threat out wide. The introduction of debutant Anthony Pilkington troubled Wigan who were eventually unable to deal with a succession of corners - Nicky Maynard turning in from close range following classy short corner involving Whittingham, Fabio, Gunnarsson and the tireless Jones.
Chronological Report: Cardiff gained possession almost immediately following Wigan Athletics’ kick-off; a spell on the ball culminating in a deflected shot from John Brayford. The resultant corner bounced around the Wigan area, with Aron Gunnarsson first to react with a low shot on the turn. Carson got to ground well as his leg blocked the effort, allowing Wigan to clear the early danger.
Kenwyne Jones’ presence was causing Wigan difficulties early on, the forward dropping deep and laying the ball off to good effect. At the other end McManaman surged into the Cardiff area only to be dispossessed by Fabio. The Brazillian’s slide challenge inch-perfect, though it was an early warning from the highly rated midfielder who was finding space all over the field.
Maynard then capitalized on poor Carson distribution, the forward finding the ball at his feet inside the Wigan area but a lack of decisiveness led to dispossession before he could fire at the Wigan goal. McManaman again burst from deep to attack Cardiff’s defence, but was halted by Matthew Connolly. Morrison was also settling in well, Cardiff’s defensive debutant mopping up loose balls confidently, despite not having much to deal with.
After twenty-five minutes Wigan were starting to gain a foothold, afforded time in wide areas. Ex-Cardiff left back Andrew Taylor’s whipped cross found the onrushing McManaman, though his headed effort was palmed over by David Marshall.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær reacted to City’s inability to stop Wigan attacking down the flanks by switching to a flat four four two, though McManaman was still finding pockets of space. Maynard then headed wide from a Whittingham corner won by Fabio; the left back’s relentless runs causing Wigan problems.
Just as the half entered stoppage time, Daehli picked up a loose ball and played an eye of the needle pass to Gunnarsson. The Icelandic international was calm in possession and picked out Adeyemi on the edge of the box. The midfielder side-footed a powerful effort that Carson was unable to hold, but the ball was cleared. It was Cardiff’s best chance, signalling the end of the half.
HALF TIME: CARDIFF CITY 0-0 WIGAN ATHLETIC
Substitution, Cardiff City: Mats Dæhli replaced by Anthony Pilkington (Half Time)
As Cardiff made changes, Gunnarsson moved to a central role accompanying Adeyemi in the centre of the park, with Whittingham and Pilkington manning the flanks. The change nearly reaped instant reward, as City’s midfielders combined with Kenwyne Jones to move the ball out wide for Brayford to drill into the box. The delivery was good, but evaded the bodies in the box - Pilkington crossing in a similar manner minutes later.
John Brayford and debutant Pilkington were combining excellently down the right, winning a succession of corners. Kenwyne Jones headed the first from close range with an effort that looked destined for the top corner, but was blocked off the line. The Bluebirds made no mistake second time around however, as Whittingham played a corner short to Fabio who found Gunnarsson, who in turn headed to Jones who tested Carson. Ever the poacher, Nicky Maynard followed up to slot the ball home from six yards.
GOAL: Cardiff City 1-0 Wigan, 52 mins, Maynard
Cardiff had stepped up a gear as the half progressed, Wigan’s only chance of note a good cross by Don Cowie that Marshall covered extremely well before Fortuné could find composure.
Substitution, Wigan Athletic: Callum McManaman replaced by Martyn Waghorn (61 minutes)
Substitution, Wigan Athletic: Marc-Antoine Fortuné replaced by Riera Magem (61 minutes)
McArthur volleyed a dipping effort that fell wide from just outside the area as Cardiff absorbed some pressure from Latics, the visitors restricted to long range efforts until Don Cowie again found space deep in Cardiff territory. His low cross was guided toward goal by substitute Waghorn, though the effort was tame and rolled wide.
Substitution, Wigan Athletic: Andrew Taylor replaced by Tavernier (75 minutes)
Taylor’s removal was greeted by warm applause from the Cardiff City faithful, the left back instrumental in Cardiff’s promotion season. Meanwhile, Cardiff City’s new number three Fabio was doing a fine job reading the game on the left side of defence, his pace a constant threat going forward.
Substitution, Cardiff City: Nicky Maynard replaced by Adam Le Fondre (79 minutes)
Riera then spurned a golden opportunity when found with a long ball forward by fellow substitute Tavernier, the striker’s touch letting him down between the two Cardiff central defenders. Kenwyne Jones was then rightly awarded a standing ovation as he was removed; the striker’s mobility a constant worry for Wigan’s back three.
Substitution, Cardiff City: Kenwyne Jones replaced by Javi Guerra (87 minutes)
In to the dying moments, David Marshall claimed a dangerous ball with three added on. Fabio was then instrumental in harrying and hustling Wigan as the away side attempted to pump the ball into the box. The left back is growing into his role with each passing game, while the final whistle blew, marking three big points earned for the second time in four days, Cardiff City sitting at the summit of the Championship.
CARDIFF CITY: Marshall ©, Fabio, Connolly, Morrison, Brayford, Whittingham, Adeyemi, Gunnarsson, Dæhli (Pilkington, 45), Jones (Guerra, 88), Maynard (Le Fondre, 79). Subs not used: Moore, Hudson, Cala, Eikrem.
WIGAN ATHLETIC: Carson, Taylor (Tavernier, 76), Ramis, Huws, McManaman (Waghorn, 61), McArthur, Boyce ©, Cowie, Perch, Kiernan, Fortune (Riera, 61). Subs not used: Al Habsi, Caldwell, Espinoza, Barnett.
YELLOW CARD CARDIFF: Tom Adeyemi
YELLOW CARD WIGAN: none
ATTENDANCE: 20,662 (inc 276 away)
REFEREE: Robert Madley