Aron Gunnarsson keeps Cardiff soaring on top of highflyers with victory over Crystal Palace

Cardiff City 2 Crystal Palace 1

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The Independent Football

The Cardiff City manager, Malky Mackay, has challenged his squad to fight for their places as the race for the Championship title starts to take shape. Substitute Aron Gunnarsson scored the winning goal for the Bluebirds in their 2-1 win over fellow high-flyers Crystal Palace today.

"Look at Craig Conway, someone who, four or five weeks ago, was putting in a transfer request," Mackay said. "It's about making sure you take your chance.

"Gunnarsson came in and did that. But they're a great group and there's a lack of ego in there, which is important, and that makes them work hard for each other."

Mackay watched his team fall behind early on to Ian Holloway's side, but they managed to secure the equaliser before the break and went on to dominate the second period.

"I thought we started slowly and Crystal Palace started well," said Mackay, who added that he had been wary of the Eagles' England international Wilfried Zaha.

"But I thought we were excellent in the second half playing a good team, who have lost one game in 20."

"We knew it was going to be tough because we were playing against a player who has caught the nation's attention, but I thought Kevin McNaughton came in and was outstanding against him."

Palace scored the opening goal through captain Mile Jedinak after just four minutes when the midfielder got in front of his marker to fire in from Owen Garvan's corner.

They then had three further chances through Garvan and Glenn Murray, but their best fell to Zaha, who saw his curling effort smack the top of the crossbar after beating a couple of defenders.

But they were left to rue those opportunities as the hosts drew level before half-time thanks to Craig Noone, who rifled a shot past Julian Speroni from Craig Bellamy's low cross.

And they took a deserved lead when Gunnarsson popped up to rise above everyone from Peter Whittingham's corner to head home.

Palace manager Holloway was disappointed his side didn't respond in a positive manner and said he had a lot to contemplate before Saturday's trip to Nottingham Forest.

"I'm disappointed with the last 15 minutes because, if any team looked like they were going to score another goal, it was Cardiff," he said.

"After they scored the second, I didn't think my team did what they needed to do. We've got a lot to think about."

Cardiff City Marshall, McNaughton, Taylor, Hudson (c), Turner, Whittingham, Conway, Mutch (Gunnarsson, 46), Noone (Mason, 76), Bellamy, Helguson (Gestede, 57). Substitutes not used Lewis, Cowie, Kim, Lappin.

Crystal Palace Speroni, Parr (Easter 87), Moxey, Gabbidon, Ramage, Dikgacoi, Jedinak (c), Garvan, Bolasie (Moritz 74), Zaha, Murray. Substitutes not used Price, Martin, O'Keefe, Williams, Appiah.

Referee P Gibbs (West Midlands).