Cardiff City overcame already-relegated Blackpool to gain a 3-2 victory in the penultimate game of the Championship season.
On what was their last home game Cardiff welcomed rock bottom Blackpool to the Cardiff City Stadium. While Blackpool are mathematically stuck in 24th position, and while Blackpool manager Lee Clark stated that “Attitude wise, they’re trying their very best. But the league table doesn’t lie”, they had a lot more to play for than just pride.They were looking for at least a point to equal the lowest ever amount of points by a team in the Championship or their first away win of the whole campaign, and a point seemed a reasonable task after defeating City at Bloomfield Road earlier in the season.
Cardiff started the same strike-force of Joe Mason and Eoin Doyle that proved underwhelming in the previous week after a dismal 0-0 draw against Millwall, but they certainly learned from the performance.
Ditching the long-ball tactics that were more suited to when loaned-out Kenwyne Jones or the long-lost Alex Revell started, the Bluebirds were more intent on playing quick attacking football that played to the strengths of their striking duo; pace.
Both attackers seemed comfortable in overlapping the wingers and playing on the outside, which lead to a low cross from Doyle that Mason fought for in the Blackpool box which was eventually scuffed after a deflection from Miles Addison to put the home team up 1-0.
Cardiff manager Russell Slade applauded his strikers, and stated that “they’re getting better as a partnership.” The emphasis on attacking from the wing nearly resulted in the lead being doubled, after Fabio chipped in a cross intended for Doyle that rattled the crossbar along with Blackpool keeper Elliot Parish.
City maintained the pressure upon the Blackpool defence, and after an attack from the Bluebirds seemingly broke down, Gunnarsson had the awareness to pounce on a sloppy touch from Blackpool centre half Miles Addison, who was then forced to immediately bring him down in the penalty area. Doyle had proven himself to be nuisance every time Cardiff had pushed forward, and he confidently stepped up to the plate to slot an accurate shot into the bottom right to double the Cardiff lead.
The Bluebirds went into the second half undisputedly the team on top, and were confident their free-flowing attacking play would result in a goal that would effectively end the game. However, Blackpool substitute Andrea Orlandi immediately made his presence felt in the 47th minute as he strolled through the heart of the Cardiff midfield and curled a strike into the bottom left of City goalkeeper David Marshall to stun the home support and give Blackpool a fighting chance.
This shock retaliation didn’t faze Cardiff too much, and they quickly resorted back to the play that they had displayed in the first half. Young winger Matthew Kennedy seemed to be at the heart of every attack down the left hand side, yet he couldn’t find anyone on the end of multiple low crosses.
Cardiff’s determination nearly paid off, as Mason cut through the middle of the defence on a quick break and calmly hit a shot into the net, however, it was questionably called back for offside, to the confusion of the home support.
Cardiff were finally rewarded for their attacking football after substitute Pilkington played Mason into the edge of the penalty area, who was then subsequently barged before referee Stephen Martin awarded another penalty. Once again, Doyle stepped up, and he flipped the aim of his previous penalty, faking Parish into going right before converting into the bottom left to reinstate the 2-goal difference and a 3-1 score-line.
The home team played out the last 15 minutes seemingly quite content in their lead, but regretted their lax defending as Blackpool captain Peter Clarke turned in a low cross from Jamie O’Hara to make the score 3-2, giving the Blackpool faithful the slightest glimmer of hope of redeeming something from the game.
This glimmer of hope was quickly erased, as Cardiff held out against weak attacking play, as Russell Slade stated that he “didn’t see at any stage” that the Bluebirds wouldn’t secure the three points.