Setting the scene
Since parting company with now-Albion assistant Paul Trollope and appointing Neil Warnock, Cardiff had begun to climb away from the relegation zone and came to The Amex with just one defeat in their last eight games including three back-to-back wins. Having played them away little more than a month ago and arguably the most boring game of the season so far, it was pretty obvious what to expect. Defensive, turgid football designed to get points on the board and survival – exactly what Chris Hughton did in his first six months with us. This would clearly be all about patience and breaking a well organised team down – something that might prove difficult with only one striker.
The Albion had come out in the week and said Bruno would be available for selection which, given our track record for reporting on injury comebacks meant he was all but ruled out. That meant Connor Goldson continued at right back with Beram Kayal coming in for Oliver Norwood and Solly March replacing the suspended Glenn Murray in the number 10 role just behind Tomer Hemed. In truth, none of the widemen looked particularly comfortable playing down the middle and after the experiment of playing Anthony Knockaert there earlier in the season was also aborted after one game, it just heightens the sense that trying to get through the season with just Murray, Sam Baldock and Tomer Hemed as forward options is a risky stratergy.
Hemed may have struggled for opportunities this season but he showed he still has his class here, scoring the only goal of the game with 15 minutes remaining. It was a great finish as he receved the ball with his back to goal from Norwood, turned and smashed a rocket past Allan McGregor.
Plenty has been made about Warnock and Cardiff’s negative approach but were it not for David Stockdale they could easily have gone into the break ahead. He pulled off three excellent saves – a one-on-one from Kenneth Zohore, tipping over a Sean Morrison header and then getting a finger to a Junior Hoillet effort. March had the Albion’s only real effort of the first half but it was a poor one straight at McGregor. We had a lot more luck breaking down the Cardiff defence in the second half although it took a brilliant block by Shane Duffy from a Craig Noone effort to maintain the clean sheet. Hemed should’ve done better when stretching for a March cross and Murphy and Anthony Knockaert were denied by McGregor. The stats show we had five shots on target to their four, pointing to the fact it was a lot closer than those who say Cardiff had no intention of trying to win are suggesting.
WeAreBrighton.com Man of the Match
It took a moment of quality from Hemed to win the game and he gets our vote. It hasn’t been easy for the striker but when he was needed, there he was to secure a vital three points.
This game panned out exactly as expected and it is the sort of game a year ago that would have ended in a draw or even a defeat. Warnock showed why he is one of the Championship’s wiliest managers with a game plan his side stuck to until Hemed brilliantly undid it. It represents a huge three points in the bag as Cardiff will frustrate and take points off of plenty of teams around us before the end of the season. And while returning to the top of the table is nice, more important is the 11 point gap to third. An excellent nights work.
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