Cardiff City extended their unbeaten run to five games as they defeated Wigan Athletic 1-0 at the DW Stadium. A first half finish from Aron Gunnarsson gave the Bluebirds all three points on what was a questionable surface in the North West.
City started with two changes from Saturday’s draw with Huddersfield. Joe Ralls and Matt Connolly coming in for Scott Malone and Lee Peltier in the Cardiff defence. Wigan welcomed Jermaine Pennant to the starting line up, joining the club after a stint playing in the Indian Super League with FC Pune City.
Cardiff in control
It took ten minutes for the first shot on target and it went to the hosts. Liverpool-loanee Sheyi Ojo fired straight at David Marshall and the Scotland stopper gathered with ease. Without creating many clear-cut chances it was the visitors controlling the ball in midfield during the early stages. The Cardiff central players were finding plenty of space and keeping plenty of possession on what was proving to be a tricky playing surface. The ground sharing with Rugby League outfit Wigan Warriors had obviously taken its toll with many areas of the field cut up badly.
The Bluebirds battled through the conditions and their first shot on target came after 19 minutes and it came from Iceman, Aron Gunnarsson. The Icelandic captain picked the ball up close to the half way line and with some slick footing ghosted past the Wigan midfield on his way into the area. Gunnarsson, keeping his composure then slotting the ball into the bottom corner past Ali Al Habsi to give City a deserved lead.
The goal proved to be a catalyst for the visitors to apply more pressure. Kenwyne Jones was winning a number of aerial battles and his nodded layoff gave Eoin Doyle his first chance after 25 minutes. The Irishman hit a sweetly struck half volley from outside the box, which forced a save out of Athletic’s Omani goalkeeper.
The Latics thought they had found an equaliser with eight minutes left of the half. After a flick on in the box James McClean prodded the ball past Marshall only for it to be ruled out by the assistant referee for offside. The City defence was remaining resolute, forcing the home side to shots from distance as they struggled to make a breakthrough in the first half.
Solid under pressure
Wigan came out of the blocks quickest in the second half and created an early chance. With little more than two minutes gone after the interval some neat midfield interplay provided Kim Bo-Kyung with ball on the edge of the area. The South Korean produced an audacious back heel into the path of James McClean and as he was about to pull the trigger Bruno Ecuele Manga slid in with a tremendous last ditch tackle to prevent what would have been a fantastic goal scoring opportunity five yards out.
The home side keen to pull themselves back on level terms continued to build the pressure and Slade’s side found themselves pinned back in their own half. An opportunity soon followed but this time Marc-Antoine Fortuné could not direct his effort on target from deep inside the penalty area as he was hassled by the Bluebirds backline.
After putting in a lot of graft in the first hour of the tie Kenwyne Jones made way for Alex Revell with a third of the game remaining. The tempo had now noticeably increased as the Lancashire side looked for a reply. As a result Cardiff were now looking dangerous on the counter attack.
The play was end-to-end but it was Marshall who was called into action next. Harry Maguire forcing the Scotland International into a brilliant diving save low to his right as he diverted the shot safely around the upright. Soon after there was a moment of deja vu for the home supporters as the ball hit the net once again only for it to be ruled out. Martyn Waghorn this time providing the finish before being brought back for an offside infringement.
After a second escape City sparked into life again. A sustained period in the attacking third led to a corner kick. Peter Whittingham found the head of Sean Morrison but the former Reading centre back couldn’t add to his impressive goal tally of five on this occasion.
Wigan were now committing men forward and allowed City to find space behind. A beautifully weighted pass for Whittingham unleashed Noone down the wing only for him to be cynically brought down by Harry Maguire as the 18-yard box loomed. The tackle gained him a booking and prevented Noone from an inevitable shot on goal. Instead, Cardiff did have an attacking free kick and once again the Whittingham and Morrison combination almost came into fruition. The resulting header narrowly clearing the crossbar.
Kim Bo-Kyung, eager to impress against his former employers almost gave the Latics their desired equaliser. Once again, Marshall was more than a match with a spectacular acrobatic stop to ensure the left footed strike didn’t nestle in the top left corner of the net.
The Bluebirds held on to gain a deserved three points and extend their unbeaten record to five games whilst also securing a first double of the campaign following August’s 1-0 home victory over the Latics.
FINAL SCORE: WIGAN ATHLETIC 0-1 CARDIFF CITY
Wigan Athletic: Al Habsi, Maguire, McClean, Pennant (Cowie, 77), Kim, Boyce, Ojo, Bong, Perch ©, Pearce, Fortune (Waghorn, 70). Subs Not Used: Carson, Taylor, McCann, McKay, Robles.
Cardiff City: Marshall ©, Ralls, Connolly, Ecuele Manga, Morrison, Whittingham, Gunnarsson, Noone, Kennedy, Jones (Revell, 66), Doyle (Harris, 77). Subs Not Used: Moore, John, McAleny, O'Keefe, Adeyemi.