City Flashback - 2002 | Earnie nets hat-trick at Loftus Road
As the Bluebirds prepare for a trip to Queens Park Rangers on Wednesday night, we take a look back at a fine away display against the R’s in 2002.
Lennie Lawrence’s side came into the contest in good form, losing just three of their opening 19 games of the 2002/03 campaign, with key wins over Tranmere Rovers, Brentford and Stockport County,
The R’s, meanwhile, were looking to return to winning ways after falling to a shock FA Cup exit to non-league Vauxhall Motors in the First Round of the competition three days prior.
In front of 14,345 fans, City produced a memorable performance to secure an impressive 4-0 victory. After a goalless first half in West London, former Wales international Robert Earnshaw netted the opening goal for Lawrence’s men in the 59th minute.
Playing in his sixth season as a Bluebird, the striker scored his 14th goal of the campaign after he headed home a brilliant corner from Andy Legg.
It was a prolific campaign for Earnshaw, who would go on to make history by scoring a remarkable 35 goals during the campaign and break both the 56-year record of 30 league goals, held by Stan Richards, as well as the record of Hughie Ferguson's 32 goals in all competitions.
City showed their quality to find another goal six minutes later through Earnshaw once again, who finished off a sweeping team move by slotting past goalkeeper Simon Royce to secure his second goal of the evening.
The Bluebirds made sure of the points with four minutes remaining, with Earnie adding a third. After some individual brilliance, he showed great composure to lift the ball over the advancing goalkeeper before celebrating a memorable hat-trick.
With City applying late pressure, there was still time for substitute Andy Campbell to add a fourth in stoppage time. Having replaced Earnshaw from the bench, Campbell tapped in the rebound after Royce had saved his initial shot, one of Campbell's seven strikes for the club that season.
Despite Earnie and Campbell taking the headlines that evening, Chris Barker, who would go on to join Rangers in June 2007, was a standout performer within a Bluebirds' backline that earned themselves their 10th clean sheet of the season.
City impressed throughout the remainder of the campaign and secured a spot in the Second Division Play-Offs, finishing five points behind second-placed Crewe Alexandra. Bristol City were the Bluebirds' Play-Off Semi-Final opponents, with striker Peter Thorne giving the club a vital 1-0 first-leg lead.
A great defensive display at Ashton Gate in the second leg, with goalkeeper Neil Alexander displaying a worthy man-of-the-match performance, saw the Club edge through to the Final with a 0-0 draw, securing a 1-0 aggregate victory.
The Bluebirds would face Queens Park Rangers once again, this time in the Final at the Millennium Stadium. A crowd of 66,036 saw City record a historic 1-0 victory, with Campbell once again coming on as a substitute for Earnshaw, and repeating his Loftus Road feat by scoring against the R's.
His extraordinary winner six minutes from the end of extra time sealed his place in Cardiff City folklore, as the Club gained promotion into the First Division of the Football League.