Snapshot:Cardiff City earned a hard-fought point against third-placed Watford at Vicarage Road on Saturday night, ensuring that their opponents would not gain any ground in the promotion race.
The first half was a well fought affair but neither side were quite able to open the scoring. Kim Bo-Kyung stood out for City and was unlucky not to give his side the lead with a close-range effort after cutting in from the right. Meanwhile Watford’s main chances fell to Troy Deeney, who saw his header from a corner well saved.
The second period continued in a similar vein and although chances fell both ways, the deadlock remained unbroken. Both keepers were in fine form and while Almunia denied Mason well, Marshall made a sensational fingertip save to keep out another Deeney header in front of the City fans.
Chronological report:Cardiff City took to the pitch for their top of the table clash with Watford knowing that a win would leave them needing just five points from their remaining six games to guarantee promotion. Malky made just one change from the side that beat Blackburn so comfortably at CCS on Monday, bringing in Joe Mason for the injured Fraizer Campbell.
City started the brighter and earned the first corner of the game after some classy midfield play from Kim Bo-Kyung and Jordon Mutch, who enjoyed a successful loan spell with the Hornets back in 2010/11. Although the corner came to nothing, Mutch then played in Craig Bellamy down the right for City’s next half chance, but Almunia got there first to gather his low whipped cross.
Matt Connolly appeared to have picked up a knock early on in the match and Malky Mackay took no chances, bringing on Kevin McNaughton to replace him with just 10 minutes on the clock.
Substitution Cardiff: Kevin McNaughton on for Matt Connolly (10 mins)
City seemed to be getting some joy down the right hand side and some neat interplay involving Kim Bo-Kyung allowed the South Korean to cut onto his left foot and break in to the box. Manuel Almunia, who had come back into the side for impressive young Welshman Jonathan Bond, managed to keep his effort out.
At the other end, the home side carved out their first opportunity as Troy Deeney found Scottish winger Ikechi Anya on the right flank. His high cross was aimed towards Championship Player of the Year Matej Vydra at the far post, but Kevin McNaughton rose superbly to intervene. From the resulting corner the Hornets came even closer as Troy Deeney’s powerful header was well kept out by Marshall.
Although Ben Turner was unlucky to see his header fly over for City, Watford had started to get themselves into the game and nearly took the lead in controversial circumstances. With McNaughton down injured, Gianfranco Zola’s men played on and Matthew Briggs whipped the ball into the box. Vydra knocked it down to Troy Deeney but the forward, who scored the winner in their recent away win over Hull, could only blaze the ball over the bar with half time looming.
HALFTIME: WATFORD 0 – 0 CARDIFF CITY
With barely two minutes on the clock in the second half Malky’s men almost took the lead out of the blue. Joe Mason showed great pace to drift in between two static Watford defenders and collect a loose ball. However, his low strike was kept out once again by an alert Manuel Almunia.
In the 54thminute, David Marshall was then called upon to keep his side in it. It was that man again as Troy Deeney planted his header towards the bottom corner from Joel Ekstrand’s cross. Marshall responded with one of his finest saves in what has been a superb campaign, diverting it wide of the post with his fingertips.
Substitution Watford: Jonathan Hogg on for Christian Battocchio (51 mins)
Substitution Cardiff: Rudy Gestede on for Joe Mason (54 mins)
Substitution Watford: Fernando Forestieri on for Matej Vydra (59 mins)
The match remained an even affair midway through the second half, with half chances falling to both sides. While Craig Conway fired a volley over the bar in his final act of the match, Fernando Forestieri proceeded to lash a similar effort into the stand holding the travelling City fans.
Substitution Cardiff: Tommy Smith on for Craig Conway (70 mins)
Both keepers were in excellent form, determined not to give up their clean sheets without a fight. Manuel Almunia typified this, making a vital intervention to punch the ball away from the imposing figure of Rudy Gestede following Bellamy’s in-swinging free kick. The defences also played a huge role in keeping the score at 0-0, and Ben Turner stuck a toe in to nick the ball away from Deeney who was ready to pounce with the full time whistle fast approaching.
The referee indicated that four minutes of injury time would be added on. Watford put pressure on the City defence for much of this, and nearly won it at the death when Fernando Forestieri’s strike was deflected just over Marshall’s bar. However, City’s defence held firm until the final whistle, ensuring that they’ll travel back to South Wales with a well-earned point.
FINAL SCORE: WATFORD 0 – 0 CARDIFF CITY