Cardiff cash in on Davies' dodgy week
Cardiff City 1 Birmingham City 0
It's fair to say Curtis Davies has experienced better weeks. It was the central defender's outrageous deflection on Wednesday which left Birmingham on the brink in Europe and it was his red card yesterday which ultimately handed victory to Cardiff. One moment can be put down to misfortune, the other to plain clumsiness.
Chris Hughton certainly wasn't best pleased as he saw his side concede their fifth defeat in the Championship to drop to 14th in the table. Somewhat inevitably he sought to deflect the criticism despite the replays showing Davies was indeed culpable of bringing down the ever more impressive Kenny Miller as the last defender.
"I think there was enough doubt on the incident that you don't give a red card," he said. "Curtis got up knowing he had touched the ball. The game hinged on that."
The upshot is that Cardiff, the form horses of the League, are sitting so pretty in third, three points off the automatic spots following a weekend which saw the top sides both lose and with a Carling Cup semi-final against Crystal Palace awaiting. Any foreboding at the start of the season has been blown away in a gale of optimism whisked up by Malky Mackay's overhaul.
In the eight League games since losing by the odd goal in seven at Peterborough in mid October (when they fell as low as 12th), Cardiff have won six and drawn two – and this spell includes two Carling Cup wins. There isn't the panache of Bellamy, Bothroyd and co of last season, but, unarguably, there is a greater team and work ethic. The one concern for Mackay must be the depth of his squad. He lost Andrew Taylor and Stephen McPhail in the build-up, before kick-off and then saw Filip Kiss, Anthony Gerrard and Aaron Gunnarsson limp off with injuries.
In truth, there hadn't been much in a game of few chances, which some purists would call "intriguing", but everyone else would refer to as "deadly dull". It was definitely a day to be a defender until Davies struck in the 62nd minute. At least his influence on the loss to Braga at St Andrews was unfortunate (unwittingly redirecting a weak, long-range Hugo Viana effort past Boaz Myhill). Andrew Taylor was obliged to show him a straight red for his clumsy challenge on Miller, running into the area. "It was absolutely crystal clear," said Mackay.
Everything was connected in this scenario. Peter Whittingham thundered the resulting free-kick against the inside of the post and although it somehow stayed out, so the momentum built. In fact, Birmingham survived just six minutes with 10 men. Hughton was forced into a hasty rejig, bringing off the target man Nikola Zigic for another defender in Pablo Ibanez.
One of the Spaniard's first acts was to make a howler of a clearance which set up Miller to smash home his seventh of the season. The culpability of Ibanez apart, it was all traceable back to the error of Davies, who was on a yellow anyway.
Only the post stopped Cardiff winning by more, with another superlative Whittingham drive locating wood instead of the net.
Cardiff City (4-5-1): Marshall; McNaughton, Gerrard (Hudson, 54), Turner, Naylor; Conway, Kiss (Mason, 66), Whittingham, Gunnarsson (Ralls, 48), Cowie; Miller. Substitutes not used: Heaton (gk), Earnshaw.
Birmingham City (4-4-2): Myhill; Carr, Caldwell, Davies, Murphy; Burke, Fahey, Spector (Wood, 75), Beausejour (Elliott, 71); King, Zigic (Ibanez, 64). Substitutes not used: Doyle (gk), N'Daw.
Referee: A Taylor (Cheshire).
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