Football: McFarland aims to defeat history

Cambridge United 0 Cardiff City 0
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POINTS IN the bag or games in hand? Roy McFarland knows which he prefers. With two fewer points and games played than leaders Cardiff, the Cambridge manager firmly believes that the Third Division championship is heading to East Anglia rather than South Wales.

"History will tell you that invariably the points usually beat the games in hand," said McFarland, "but we are going to defeat history - although it's obviously going to be hard because Cardiff are a well-organised team. Whether it's us or Cardiff who win the championship, the main thing for both teams is to get promotion."

On the evidence of Saturday's predictably tense struggle, the title race will go right down to the wire. There was precious little to choose between the division's best two sides and what the match lacked in goalmouth incident, it more than made up for in controlled passion and commitment. A crowd of nearly 8,000 - more than a quarter of them from Cardiff - witnessed just two bookings as defences dominated an absorbing contest.

"A draw was a fair result," said Cardiff's manager, Frank Burrows. "It wasn't a dull game and I thought it was a very good advert for Division Three. It was nip-and-tuck, there was a lot of good passing in a fast game."

There was no chance of Cambridge repeating their 7-2 demolition of Mansfield a fortnight earlier with Cardiff being strengthened by the return of Mike Ford. The captain exerted a calming influence as the City defence thwarted Cambridge's high-scoring attack - minus the suspended Trevor Benjamin. Ford, Jeff Eckhardt and Graham Mitchell dealt magnificently with John Taylor, Martin Butler and Neil McKenzie and with wing-backs Wayne O'Sullivan and Andy Legg always pushing forward, it was clear that Cardiff were interested in more than a point.

Having survived the expected early onslaught, they nearly took the lead in the 12th minute. Jason Fowler found himself clear on the edge of the box thanks to Kevin Nugent's perfect-weighted knock-down, but he half- volleyed wide.

Cardiff almost fell behind on the hour when Ian Ashbee's well-struck free-kick took a deflection. Taylor, in search of a record 75th goal for Cambridge, then went close but it was Cardiff who came nearest to breaking the deadlock in the last 20 minutes.

Legg's free-kick only just cleared the bar, Fowler's shot was well-saved by Shaun Marshall and then Bowen set-up Craig Middleton, but the substitute missed the target.

Cambridge United (4-3-3): Marshall; Chenery, Duncan, Eustace, Campbell; Mustoe, Wanless, Ashbee; Taylor (Walker, 80), Butler, MacKenzie. Substitutes not used: Preece, Bruce.

Cardiff City (3-5-2): Hallworth; Eckhardt, Mitchell, Ford; O'Sullivan, Hill (Middleton, 74), Carpenter, Fowler, Legg; Bowen (Williams, 80), Nugent. Substitute not used: Jarman.

Referee: M Dean (Wirral).

Bookings: Cardiff: Fowler. Cambridge: Eustace.

Man of the match: Eustace.

Attendance: 7,787.