West Bromwich Albion revitalised their bid to catch First Division leaders Norwich City with a victory earned through grit, determination and no little luck. It proved the perfect response to criticism from their manager, Gary Megson.
After last week's defeat at Preston, Megson had described his team as "shameful" as they slipped five points adrift of Norwich. But, after seeing his side win out in a battle of wills with a physical and aggressive Cardiff side, Megson claimed his harsh words had encouraged the desired response.
"We knew that we needed to lift our game and I thought that the players showed a better attitude and real commitment," said Megson. "Cardiff are a strong side and came here looking to beat us. Overall I thought we deserved the win.
"It was a bit touch and go at the end but on the balance of play we deserved it. There is a long way to go and we need to continue putting in performances with this kind of effort and attitude."
The game began brightly, with West Brom clearly intent on ignoring the disruption in and around the Hawthorns caused by the arrival of Cardiff's army of supporters and the associated swell in the numbers of police.
Burly West Brom forward Geoff Horsfield soon became immersed in a battle with Cardiff defender Danny Gabbidon, while Cardiff's main threat came through sprightly striker Robert Earnshaw, relishing the opportunity to run at West Brom's defence.
West Brom's Welsh international Jason Koumas, returning after a four-game absence through injury, fired the first shot on target after 10 minutes but Cardiff, through Earnshaw and Peter Thorne, came close, forcing Joe Murphy, standing in for the injured Russell Hoult, into smart saves. West Brom speculated from distance but Cardiff posed the greater threat, with the home side's ambitious midfield, regularly caught too far up field, giving Earnshaw and Thorne ample room. The game almost boiled over in the 39th minute, when Cardiff's Graham Kav-anagh felled Andy Johnson. The crowd rose and players went eyeball to eyeball but, thankfully, no further as Kavanagh was rightly booked.
A scrappy start to the second half saw West Brom exert some authority on the game and their persistence was eventually rewarded when, on 55 minutes, Neil Clement rose high in the Cardiff penalty area to head home Koumas's right-footed free-kick.
Cardiff reacted to the goal by pushing forward while West Brom, desperate to hold on to a much-needed three points, looked increasingly nervous. It was no surprise, then, when Cardiff equalised in the 80th minute when Kavaner's free-kick was deflected home by Tony Vidmar.
Earnshaw then had a goal disallowed for offside. But, soon afterwards, West Brom defender Thomas Gaardsoe rose to head low past goalkeeper Martyn Margetson, with striker Lee Hughes grabbing the last touch as the ball headed towards the net.
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