A revitalised and spirited Cardiff City came away from Derby County's iPro Stadium with a hard-earned 2-2 draw on Saturday.
An Aron Gunnarsson goal and a sublime Peter Whittingham effort saw Scott Young & Danny Gabbidon's Bluebirds take a 2-0 lead in the second half.
Indeed, it was only a Craig Bryson wonder-goal five minutes from the end that denied City three points that they arguably deserved.
Thirteen hundred noisy Bluebirds sang the names of Danny Gabbidon and Scott Young ahead of kick-off, audibly backing the two City greats in their first game as City Caretaker Managers.
Cardiff were first to deliver a ball into the opposing penalty area, after the returning Craig Noone was brought down 25 yards from goal to the left of the Derby area. Anthony Pilkington’s free-kick was good, though Aron Gunnarsson’s well-met header dipped just over Lee Grant’s cross bar.
Derby came back strongly though and twice could have take the lead through striker Chris Martin. Having been played through in the eighth minute, only a sublime David Marshall save kept the scores at 1-1; two minutes later, Martin found the net from a similar position, though this time saw his goal chalked out by the linesman’s flag.
The home side continued their attack, and it was Marshall again in the fifteenth minute who kept the scores level. The raucous iPro Stadium faithful were incensed as Referee Andre Marriner waved away calls for a free-kick and red card, as the City Skipper raced from his area and tackled the on rushing Jordon Ibe, directing the ball behind to safety.
After a nervy opening 20 minutes, Cardiff came back much stronger as they looked to put pressure on the Derby area. Indeed it was a counter attack that almost caught them out in the 28th minute, some defensive indecision leading to a point blank save from Marshall from a Jamie Ward strike.
Derby right-back Cyrus Christie was enjoying plenty of time and possession down the Rams’ right, delivering consistently but being thwarted by a sturdy City back-line. With refereeing decisions not going their way as regularly as the home support wished, tension was building inside the iPro Stadium as the game drifted towards half-time.
HALF TIME: DERBY COUNTY 0-0 CARDIFF CITY
City looked much more organised after the restart, playing with a confidence to go forward. Some sublime footwork down the right by Anthony Pilkington saw the winner lay a pass off for Aron Gunanrsson to strike; his effort took a deflection wide of Grant’s near post, though from Pilkington’s subsequent corner, the Icelandic midfielder poked home from close range to give his side the lead.
GOAL: DERBY COUNTY 0-1 CARDIFF CITY (Gunnarsson, 52 mins)
City were rampant and Derby were evidently shaken at the back. Just two minutes after Gunnarsson’s opener, the battling Bluebirds were two to the good. More good play from Pilkington saw the ball fall for Peter Whittingham inside the area – and despite a terrible challenge that surely would have brought about the penalty kick, the midfielder struck home superbly to double his side’s advantage.
GOAL: DERBY COUNTY 0-2 CARDIFF CITY (Whittingham, 55 mins)
An incredible second half continued to deliver at the iPro as Derby found a route back into the game on the hour mark. Good play down the right hand side by Simon Dawkins as the midfielder played a perfect ball across the area to find the onrushing Jordan Ibe. Marshall was helpless as the winger found the perfect connection to tuck home. Unsurprisingly, the goal lifted the Derby faithful.
GOAL: DERBY COUNTY 1-2 CARDIFF CITY (Ibe, 60 mins)
Substitution, Cardiff City: Adam Le Fondre on for Craig Noone (63 mins)
Substitution, Cardiff City: Nicky Maynard on for Aron Gunnarsson (73 mins)
Aron Gunnarsson was replaced by Nicky Maynard in the 73 minute, the midfielder seemingly struggling with a knock incurred in the opening minute. And it was almost the perfect introduction – Maynard finding space in the area to hit a Jones knock down on the volley, first time; only a late Keogh intervention stopped it rocketing into the bottom corner.
Substitution, Derby County: Johnny Russell on for Jamie Ward (79 mins)
Derby were throwing everything at City in search of the equaliser. Substitute Russell struck superbly from distance in the 84th minute to bring out a terrific save from Marshall, though an even better effort was to follow. Craig Bryson found time from thirty yards out to hit a superb half-volley – Marshall rooted as the ball struck both posts before firing up into the corner of the net.
GOAL: DERBY COUNTY 2-2 CARDIFF CITY (Bryson, 85 mins)
With their cumulative tails up, the home side pushed for a late winner and bombarded the City box with wave after wave of balls into the box. A well organised Bluebirds outfit stayed compact though and remained composed to see themselves through five minutes of injury time and to a point away at many people’s Championship favourites.
FULL TIME: DERBY COUNTY 2 – 2 CARDIFF CITY
Derby County: Grant, Christie, Forsyth, Bryson, Keogh ©, Dawkins (Ibe , Martin, Ward, Eustace, Whitbread, Hughes. Subs: Roos, Russell, Naylor, Best, Shotton, Mascarell, Ibe.
Cardiff City: Marshall ©, Brayford, Manga, Whittingham, Jones, Noone, Connolly, Gunnarsson, Adeyemi, Pilkington, Ralls. Subs: Moore, Le Fondre, John, Daehli, Guerra, Maynard, Morrison.