In the first of a series of historical pieces, Richard Shepherd looks back at a hugely significant Bluebirds goal that brought about second-tier survival.
Cardiff City won promotion to what is now the Sky Bet Championship in 2003 through the Play-Offs, when we defeated Queens Park Rangers 1-0 at the Millennium Stadium. The following season (2003/04) City finished in mid-table, but in 2004/05 there was a danger of relegation as the final stages of that campaign approached.
Then, in March 2005 City manager Lennie Lawrence signed midfielder Neal Ardley from Watford for the remainder of the season. But with four games left, our situation was still looking ominous.
On April 19th 2005 in the first of those matches, we were a goal down at Leicester City when Ardley equalised from a superbly placed free-kick from just outside the Leicester penalty area, and we drew 1-1.
That result boosted the Bluebirds’ confidence as we won two and drew one of the remaining three games – a 2-0 home win against Reading with strikes from Peter Thorne and Cameron Jerome, a 1-1 draw at Gillingham when Paul Parry’s equaliser confirmed our safety, and a 1-0 home win against Queens Park Rangers with a goal from Jobi McAnuff.
City finished in sixteenth place, several points clear of the relegation zone, but it signalled the end of Lennie Lawrence’s time in charge and he was succeeded by ex-Wolves manager Dave Jones.
As for Neal Ardley, he moved to Millwall for 2006/07, at the end of which he retired, and in April 2007 he was appointed our Academy Manager. In October 2012 he was named boss of AFC Wimbledon, a position which he still holds. A former England under-21 International, Neal made 415 League appearances for Wimbledon, Watford, Cardiff City and Millwall.
In his time with Cardiff City, he scored just one goal – that equaliser at Leicester – but it was that one which surely led to our escape from relegation in 2004/05.