Peter Whittingham’s last minute penalty gave Cardiff City all three points against a dogged Bolton Wanderers side at Cardiff City Stadium.
Cardiff looked to capitalise on Sheffield Wednesday dropping points at Derby to close in on the top six before the Bluebirds travel to Hillsborough next Saturday.
City looked the brighter in the opening exchanges as they came forward down the left. Anthony Pilkington was brought down on the corner of the area after a one-two with Peter Whittingham. As the free-kick, and subsequent corner were cleared, Cardiff reworked the ball and almost found Matthew Connolly in the area but the defender couldn’t stretch far enough to connect with the pass.
However it was the travelling Trotters who took the lead against the run of play seven minutes in as Emile Heskey was fouled on the edge of the area. Number 10 Zach Clough stepped up to curl the free-kick superbly past David Marshall in the Cardiff goal. It was a world class set piece from the promising youngster.
Despite the early setback the home side pressed forward for an instant reply. Whittingham found space on the left and his cross was cleared to Stuart O’Keefe whose first time shot flew just wide.
The hosts had another chance when Whittingham drilled in a free-kick on 18 minutes. The ball found its way to Craig Noone at the far post but his outside of the foot shot was saved by Bolton stopper Ben Amos.
Bolton see red
Bolton's task was made even harder in the 32nd minute when Niall Maher was sent off for a flailing arm on Noone when challenging for a high ball. Almost immediately City had a chance against the ten-men when Whittingham collected a Zohore knock down in the box but his effort bounced over.
That was the last action of a first half in which the Bluebirds dominated possession couldn’t find the crucial breakthrough against a stubborn Bolton side.
The second period started as the first ended with City controlling the game. And they almost had the ball in the back of the net after the restart but Oscar Threlkeld cleared Noone’s cross off the line after a Bolton defensive mix-up.
The Trotters posed a threat on the counter attack and almost grabbed a second as Marshall saved well from Clough after good work from Threlkeld.
City Level Things Up
The Bluebirds got the breakthrough their play deserved when Noone broke several challenges as he dribbled from halfway. The winger played in Kenneth Zohore and the big striker squeezed the ball through the legs of Amos from a tight angle to level things up.
Zohore was involved again as he latched onto a loose ball, he shrugged off his man but Rob Holding recovered well to the block the Dane’s shot.
Substitute Ameobi was then played in by Pilkington just past the hour mark but the wide man’s shot was held by Amos from a tough angle.
Knocking on the door and final minute delight
The chances kept coming for Cardiff as Ameobi chased down a seemingly lost cause and outmuscled his man to drive into the area. He squared it to Pilkington but the Irish international was surrounded by Bolton defenders before he could get his shot away. Pilkington saw his turn and shot drift just wide of the far upright in the 77th minute as Cardiff piled bodies forward in search of a winner.
80th minute substitute Kadeem Harris made a big impact from right back as he stood the ball up for Noone in the middle but his looping header was tipped over the bar by Amos.
Marshall was called upon once more as sub Kaiyne Woolery broke free but the Scot stood firm to deny him late on. The City stopper had to be alert again as he saved from Clough whose shot looked destined for the top corner.
The pressure finally paid off as in the dying moments City were awarded a penalty for a foul on Harris. Iconic Bluebirds midfielder and regular penalty taker Whittingham stepped up and slotted the ball home with the last kick of the game to give Cardiff City a crucial three points.
FINAL SCORE: CARDIFF CITY 2-1 BOLTON WANDERERS (Zohore 55', Whittingham 90+4'; ‘Clough 7')
Cardiff City: Marshall, Peltier, Morrison, Whittingham, Ralls (Ameobi ’45), Noone, Pilkington, Connolly (Harris ’80), O’Keefe, Zohore (Lawrence ’66), Malone. Subs Not Used: Moore, Turner, Dikagcoi, Saadi.
Bolton Wanderers: Amos, Vela, Clough, Osede, Danns, Heskey (Woolery ’58), Pratley (Garratt ‘33), Wheater, Threlkeld, Holding, Maher. Subs Not Used: Rachubka, Dobbie, Finney, Thomas, Walker.