Just when Nigel Clough was hoping his side had turned the corner so a dark alley came into view. And they do not come any more sinister than Cardiff City on a Tuesday night when Michael Chopra is doing the mugging.
Four goals from the striker caused the bulk of the damage on a scoreline Derby County will be wanting to forget in a hurry. It was Cardiff's first win in four games and their opponent's fifth loss in six. When Chopra added the sixth goal here it seemed an awful long time ago to Derby's win against Bristol City on Saturday.
While Clough crossed the Severn Bridge back to England last night a shellshocked man, Dave Jones's mood was improved considerably. In the match programmes the Cardiff manager embarked on a rant against the officials on the back of what he termed a few "dodgy" decisions in their recent reversals. He demanded the introduction of video technology.
It was somewhat inevitable, therefore, that the first of the sextet arrive courtesy of an unraised flag which could have done with some celluloid assistance. Peter Whittingham was set up for a tap-in after Jay Bothroyd was put into acres of space by Stephen McPhail down the right flank. It was not an optical illusion. The tapes showed Bothroyd was a yard offside.
Yet whatever Derby might claim, the linesman's error was hardly to make a huge impact on the night. They were simply awful, their defending verging on the comical. Certainly Chopra was laughing. The Geordie has now scored 12 goals in 13 games this season. He proved to Cardiff yesterday that if they have the wherewithal to feed him he will feast all season. As arch-provider last night, Bothroyd will require no reminding again of that fact.
Of all Chopra's finishes perhaps the most exquisite was his third when chipping the poor goalkeeper, Stephen Bywater. Saying that, the first was special when he volleyed in Mark Kennedy's pin-point cross. His most important, however, had come earlier in the second-half when clinically finding the corner of the net.
Derby had just reduced the deficit to one at that stage, Rob Hulse giving the visitors hope within two minutes of the restart, his second goal of the season. In truth, the hope was undeserved. Chopra calmed whatever panic had been brewing in the home side 10 minutes later and then two goals in as many minutes, the second coming from the cultured left foot of Chris Burke, gave Chopra the stage for his four-fingered swansong.
Cardiff City (4-4-2): Marshall; Matthews, Hudson, Gerrard, Kennedy; Burke, Rae (Scimeca, 86), McPhail (Taiwo, 83), Whittingham; Chopra (Magennis, 89), Bothroyd. Substitutes not used: Enckelman (gk), Gyepes, Quinn, Scimeca, Comminges.
Derby County (4-1-4-1): Bywater; Stoor, Leacock (McEveley, 30), Barker, Moxey; Savage; Croft (Pringle, 69); Livermore, Hendrie, Teale; Hulse (Dickov, 80). Substitutes not used: Deeney (gk), Mendy, Vaughan.
Referee: S Hooper (Swindon).Reuse content