Cardiff rue loss of Bothroyd for 'mega derby showdown'

Cardiff City 3 Norwich City 1
Click to follow
The Independent Football

It says much about Cardiff's fierce rivalry with Swansea that most of the talk in the capital on Saturday night did not focus on their team soaring above Queen's Park Rangers to the top of the Championship, but instead on Jay Bothroyd's suspension from what the Welsh newspapers are billing "the mega derby showdown".

Except that this is more than mere parochialism and Sunday's lunchtime tussle will offer more than mere local bragging rights. The home side will be first in the table; the visitors in third. Never before will these South Walian neighbours have been conducting their internal squabbles so high in the English League pyramid.

The two sides have yet to appear in the top division together and for this reason it is fair to suggest this is the one of the most anticipated Bluebirds v Swans encounter in the 98-year history of enmity. And Bothroyd's absence, after picking up a fifth yellow against Norwich City, only ramps up the nervous tension.

It was the third question Dave Jones faced after watching his side extend their run to a six wins and a draw. "How will you cope without Jay?" came even before "What does it feel like to be top?" The Cardiff manager was quick to point out that Swansea had lost their own target man that afternoon in their 3-0 victory over basement club Crystal Palace. Yes, news is the one thing that can travel fast down the M4.

"The boy [Darren] Pratley has picked up a fifth booking as well so I'm sure Brendan [Rodgers, the Swansea manager] also has his problems," Jones said. "But we've built a squad here to try to cover all eventualities. We've lost Craig [Bellamy] for long spells and won games. We're not just relying on one or two players."

Maybe not, yet Bothroyd is important to Cardiff as highlighted in this defeat of the team who arrived in fourth place. He scored the first – his 12th in 14 games – set up Michael Chopra with a trademark flick on for the second and with his ever more impressive link-up play was the game's notable performer. No wonder Fulham are said to be interested in signing the Arsenal youth product whose contract is up this summer.

Norwich were aggrieved with the penalty which sent them 3-1 behind in the first half, minutes after they had closed the early deficit, but there was always the sense that Bothroyd and his team-mates had another gear if necessary. It is likely to be needed against Swansea and the fear must be it will not be so easily located without him.

"Yeah it is a big blow," said Peter Whittingham, the converter of the spot-kick. "Jay's on fire right now. But there's people who can come off the bench and do just as good a job and our confidence is really high at the minute. Hopefully this run continues and we can start to pull away."

Cardiff City (4-4-2) Heaton; McNaughton, Hudson, Gyepes, Naylor; Burke, Whittingham, Olofinjana, Bellamy (Koumas, 71); Chopra (McPhail, 78), Bothroyd. Substitutes not used Marshall (gk), Keogh, Blake, Matthews, Wildig.

Booked: Cardiff Bothroyd.

Norwich City (4-4-2) Ruddy; R Martin, Barnett, Ward, S Smith; K Smith, Lappin (McNamee, 62), Crofts, Hoolahan (Johnson, 81); Jackson (C Martin, 62), Holt. Substitutes not used Rudd (gk), Gill, Fox, Berthel Askou.

Booked: Norwich S Smith, Barnett, Crofts, Holt.

Possession Cardiff 56% Norwich 44%

Shots on target Cardiff 10 Norwich 6

Referee G Scott (Oxfordshire) Att 24,634

Man of the match Bothroyd Match rating 8/10