Serious contenders? You better believe it. Cardiff City maintained their six-point advantage at the top of the Championship with a victory against Southampton that proved they can do it the nasty way as well as the nice way.
For 84 minutes George Burley's side kept the hosts tethered, but eventually sheer doggedness chewed through the shackles. Steve Thompson's timely strike gave Cardiff their fifth win in a row and had their manager gnashing his teeth. "That was our best performance of the season," said Dave Jones. "Just because of the way we won it. The 4-0s and 4-1s are great, but this is more satisfying. We displayed our courage."
They had to as well, because with conditions on the Teflon side of slippery, the early stages did not feature the players finding their feet so much as trying to plant them. Even the referee went flying at one point, although it was little surprise that the home side seemed least inconvenienced; Cardiff's feet have been becoming increasingly detached from the ground in their soaring start.
They should have taken a first-half advantage after a series of chances fell to their top scorer, Michael Chopra. If the opportunity that came the Geordie's way in the 10th minute - when only a Gareth Bale deflection denied his powerful volley - was just a half chance, then that which arrived in the 33rd minute was as full as they get.
Chopra found himself in the six-yard box with a whole net to aim for. But in between was Chris Baird's outstretched left leg, allowing the visitors to go in fortuitously level.
Southampton might even have been thinking of the maximum return after their ambitions had been raised somewhat by Claus Lundekvam coming as close as anyone had to breaking the deadlock. The central defender had stolen in on the far post to meet a Bale cross, but from point-blank range Neil Alexander, in the Cardiff goal, proved big enough and brave enough.
With six minutes to go, so too did Thompson. The Scottish international has become used to playing second fiddle to Chopra (albeit expertly in tune) but here he took sole use of centre stage. It was Chopra who squared the ball to his striking partner on the edge of the box and it was Thompson who produced the low, left-foot screamer. Cardiff might just take some stopping.
Cardiff City (4-4-2): Alexander; Gilbert, Purse, Loovens, Chambers; Parry, McPhail, Scimeca, Ledley; Thompson, Chopra. Substitutes not used: Johnson, Flood, Glombard, Campbell, Kamara.
Southampton (4-4-2): Davis; Wright, Lundekvam, Baird, Bale; Licka, Viafara, Idiakez, Surman (Skacel, 88); Rasiak, Jones. Substitutes not used: Miller, Pele, Sarmiento, Wright-Phillips.
Referee: R Oliver (West Midlands).Reuse content