Snapshot: Cardiff City are back at the top of the Championship for the international break after coming from behind to pick up a rare three points at Portman Road. A double from Heidar Helguson saw Cardiff rectify a controversial conclusion to the first half with a much-improved performance in the second.
A first half that was largely absent of any distinct quality or talking points from either side was turned on its head with the final touch before half time, as Ipswich took the lead in controversial fashion. Mark Hudson’s slip allowed the home side through to attack via their left wing, and the resulting cross from David Martin was converted via the hands of striker DJ Campbell.
Campbell was reluctant to celebrate the goal, and was visibly shocked at the referee’s failure to disallow his effort, though there were initially no appeals from the Cardiff players, who did not have the benefit of the instant replays on Sky to inform them of the injustice.
The Bluebirds took fifteen minutes of the second half to level things. Substitute Craig Conway played a dangerous diagonal cross into the area which Ipswich keeper Loach fumbled to the grateful Heidar Helguson, who will not get an easier tap-in all season.
With the game all square it was the Bluebirds who looked in control for the next twenty minutes, and their dominance was rewarded with the winning goal just a few minutes before full-time, Helguson getting between Richard Creswell and Scott Loach to fire a header into the net and to see City past Leicester City to the top of the table.
Chronological report: League leaders Cardiff City arrived at Portman Road looking to continue their fantastic start to the campaign in front of the Sky cameras with another three points against an Ipswich side that the Bluebirds had experienced mixed results against in recent seasons. Ipswich had won six of their last seven meetings with Cardiff. The home side entered the match occupying twenty-third position in the Championship, and had failed to keep a clean sheet in their past eight matches. Former Bluebird Jay Emmanuel-Thomas started for the Tractor Boys, but Michael Chopra was absent. Craig Bellamy missed out for the Bluebirds, with Craig Noone taking his place in the eleven and Rudy Gestede returning to the squad after an injury lay-off.
A Peter Whittingham corner was pushed off the line by Ipswich keeper Loach in the first five minutes, the England Under-21 International very nearly being caught out by the Bluebirds’ top scorer’s audacious effort. A foul by Murphy on McNaughton put City on the front foot again after eleven minutes, when Whittingham’s long ball found Mark Hudson unmarked in the penalty area, but the City captain was unable to make something out of his header.
The home side had the best chance so far on sixteen minutes, as DJ Campbell attempted to take a left-sided cross on the volley. If the former Blackpool and QPR man had managed a stronger connection, Marshall in the City goal would have had no chance.
Another Hudson header, following some quick thinking from Aron Gunnarsson, was dealt comfortably by Loach on twenty minutes. A swerving thirty-yard left-footed drive from Jay Emmanuel-Thomas brought out the best from Marshall, who had to stretch to his left to keep the former Arsenal youngster out.
A scramble in the penalty area followed a Carlos Edwards corner, from which David Murphy’s goal-bound header was cleared off the line by Craig Noone, the City defence relieved that no further damage had been done.
Confident following his earlier effort, Emmanuel-Thomas tried his luck again from long range, though his second strike was not nearly as menacing as the first, the ball ending up in the upper reaches of the stand. His team-mate and former Stoke player Danny Higginbotham got in on the act with five minutes of the first half left to play with a left-footed long-ranger of his own, but in similar fashion his effort proved more dangerous to those sitting in the stands than Marshall in the Cardiff goal.
Andy Drury picked up the game’s first yellow card for the home side for a body-check on a surging Craig Noone, as the game’s physicality was raised up a notch.
The first half’s defining point will have angered not just Malky Mackay but the entirety of Cardiff City Football Club. Mark Hudson’s slip gave Ipswich a chance to attack down the left wing. As the Sky pundit put it, is was more a case of DJ Handball than DJ Campbell, as the Ipswich striker palmed the ball, Maradona-esque, into the goal to put the hosts 1-0 up. Campbell, who was expecting to be penalised, was bemused by referee Ilderton’s failure to spot the offence, and could not bring himself to celebrate his side taking the lead. It was the sort of luck the home side had yet to experience thus far this season.
GOAL: IPSWICH TOWN 1-0 CARDIFF CITY (Campbell, 45+2 mins)
HALF TIME: IPSWICH TOWN 1-0 CARDIFF CITY
Peter Whittingham fizzed over from just outside the box as Cardiff sought to amend for the low blow they suffered at the end of the first half.
Jay Emmanuel-Thomas slinked past Kevin McNaughton at the other end before blasting over Marshall’s bar, the striker not finding the final product to match his approach play.
Cardiff Substitution: Craig Conway on for Craig Noone (56 mins)
Ipswich Substitution: Jason Scotland on for DJ Campbell (59 mins)
In the first prolonged spell of Cardiff pressure, substitute Craig Conway’s diagonal cross was only parried in a calamitous mistake by Ipswich keeper Loach, as Heidar Helguson mopped up the scraps by collecting his second goal of the season an open goal from within the six-yard box to level things.
GOAL: IPSWICH TOWN 1-1 CARDIFF CITY (Helguson, 62 mins)
Cardiff Substitution: Rudy Gestede on for Joe Mason (63 mins)
Malky Mackay sensed the home side were there for the taking from the wings as he sent on Rudy Gestede to partner Helguson up top and Town were indeed looking anxious, giving away possession needlessly on numerous occasions.
Former Swansea striker Jason Scotland used his weight to turn past Whittingham before launching a wayward shot well wide of Marshall’s goal in the first decent chance since the Bluebirds’ equaliser.
Ipswich Substitution: Massimo Luongo on for Richie Wellens (74 mins)
Andrew Taylor’s drive was stopped by Loach following an excellent McNaughton cross, but City were unable to convert any of the subsequent rebounds, with the home side on the rocks.
With three minutes of normal time left to go, Taylor crossed from the left side towards goalscorer Helguson. The Icelander’s marker Cresswell had left the ball thinking his keeper would come to collect, but Helguson had other ideas, powering a header past Loach to double his tally put Cardiff in front and put them back to the summit of the Championship.
GOAL: IPSWICH TOWN 1-2 CARDIFF CITY (Helguson, 88 mins)
Cardiff Substitution: Ben Turner on for Kevin McNaughton (91 mins)
Ipswich Substitution: Bilel Mohsni on for Daryl Murphy (91 mins)
Helguson nearly collected a third with the game’s final chance as he headed over, though luckily for him this was in front of his own goal. The Bluebirds had turned it round for another vital three points towards their promotion push.
FULL TIME: IPSWICH TOWN 1-2 CARDIFF CITY
Ipswich Town: Loach (GK), Cresswell, Chambers, Higginbotham, Edwards (c), Emmanuel-Thomas, Martin, Wellens, Drury, Campbell, Murphy. Subs: Lee-Barrett (GK), Smith, Bilel, Carson, Ainsley, Luongo, Scotland.
Cardiff City: Marshall (GK), McNaughton, Taylor, Hudson (c), Connolly, Whittingham, Gunnarsson, Cowie, Noone, Helguson, Mason. Subs: Lewis (GK), Turner, Kiss, Conway, Bo-Kyung, Velikonja, Gestede.
Referee: Mr. E. Ilderton