Cardiff conceded two late goals against promotion-chasing Burnley in an end-to-end game at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Aron Gunnarsson had put the Bluebirds ahead before half-time, with Sean Morrison heading the hosts 2-0 up just after the hour. However, the visitors fought back, with young substitute Rouwen Hennings pulling a goal back five minutes from the end, before scrambling an equalizer through Matthew Connolly’s own goal in injury time to deny City all three points, heaping further pressure on manager Russell Slade.
New signing Tony Watt, brought in on-loan from Charlton, was handed a starting place partnering Kenwyne Jones in attack. It didn’t take long for the former Celtic striker to make an impression. His early link-up play with Jones during the first quarter of an hour was encouraging to see, as from his cross, the Trinidadian saw his header palmed away by former City goalkeeper Tom Heaton. From the ensuing corner, Connolly saw another effort tipped over, as Cardiff pressed continuously early on.
Watt then made a darting run, swerving through Burnley’s defence before taking aim, firing just wide of Heaton’s near post. Craig Noone saw his dipping effort pushed away, before his ball in created another chance, only one that neither Jones nor Peter Whittingham could take. The visitors had early opportunities, with the tenacious Andre Gray seeing his pacey run cut out by Scott Malone. Ten minutes before half time, Burnley could have been ahead, as Gray caught David Marshall off guard, before rounding him to square the ball to George Boyd, only for his shot to be cleared off the line by Connolly. Boyd then saw another effort dip just over the bar, as the visitors cranked up the pressure on the Bluebirds’ defence.
It wasn’t long though, before the hosts made the breakthrough. From Joe Ralls’ floated free-kick, Gunnarsson stooped low to head past Heaton five minutes from half time, and send City into the break ahead.
After the restart, Cardiff began threatening again, with Gunnarsson firing straight at Heaton, and Jones heading just over from a corner. Watt was replaced on the hour by Joe Mason, leaving the field to a standing ovation after such a promising debut. Only minutes later, City were two ahead with Whittingham’s corner met expertly by Morrison, as Cardiff began to take control – the trio of Whittingham, Ralls and Mason looked dangerous every time they moved forward.
However, their dominance wasn’t to last. As the game ticked down, Burnley finally took their chance. Sean Dyche threw on young Rouwen Hennings, who proceeded to wriggle through City’s defence and fire past Marshall and into the back of the net from a tight angle. With much of the reaming 15,331-strong crowd on the edge of their seats, the visitors continued to press for the equaliser. Deep into added time, substitute Dean Marney swung in a cross, met by defender Michael Keane, who saw his effort turned into his own net by the unfortunate Matthew Connolly.
Burnley stay fifth, firmly among the chasing pack, while Cardiff now drop to tenth in the league, two points below the final play-off place. Away trips to lowly Bolton Wanderers and surprise package Sheffield Wednesday await Slade and his men, who will look to build on this disappointment to ensure that 2015 ends on a high note for the Bluebirds.
Cardiff City: Marshall, Peltier, Morrison, Connolly, Malone, Whittingham, Ralls, Gunnarsson (O’Keefe, 67’) Noone, Watt (Mason, 61’), Jones (Macheda, 89’)
Subs: Moore (g.k), Manga, Tamas, Kennedy.
Burnley: Heaton, Darikwa, Duff, Keane, Mee, Barton, Jones (Marney, 66’), Arfield (Hennings, 76’), Boyd, Long (Taylor, 55’), Gray
Subs: Gilks (g.k), Lowton, Kightly, Ward.