The Under 21 Development side emulated their seniors by going top of their league this afternoon with a comfortable 3-1 win over a young Ipswich Town team at a bitterly cold Cardiff City Stadium in front of what may well have been the biggest crowd for one of their matches this season. With schools on their Easter break, there was a large contingent of children present who gave enthusiastic support to the team throughout and they responded with some very watchable football in the first half especially as they took a stranglehold on proceedings.
The City side included Joe Mason, but there was no Ben Nugent, Declan John, Steve McPhail or Joe Ralls and Deji Oshilaja captained a team which I would say was not quite as strong as the ones fielded recently. However, with Ipswich, who, seemingly, have included Michael Chopra and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas in their recent Under 21 sides, arriving with a team made up of youngsters (none of whom were names I recognised), City were able to keep their challenge for the top two finish which would see them take part in the end of season Play Off’s up while giving the impression they always had another gear to go to if need be.
Roadworks on Lansdowne Road meant that my usual 15 minute drive to the ground took almost double that time, so the match had been underway for a while when I arrived with the scoreboard showing City already a goal up. I was told that top scorer Etien Velikonja had got it with what this excellent Ipswich site described as a “shot from distance” after eight minutes. It didn’t take long once I’d settled in my seat to see that City were dominating matters with Kadeem Harris and Kane Owen’s combination down the left responsible for many of the problems an overworked visiting defence were facing. For example, Harris got to the byeline to pull back a cross which was well met by Velikonja only for Michael Crowe in the Ipswich goal to deny him with a great save and the keeper then reacted well to turn the follow up effort (which I think might have been from Kiss) aside and a few minutes later Owen’s crisply struck thirty yarder forced the keeper into action again with Harris volleying the rebound wide from the edge of the penalty area.
Another run by the dangerous Harris was then stopped at the expense of a corner, but when the winger swung in a deep cross from the flag kick, Josh Yorwerth headed back for Rhys Healey to fire in from inside the six yard area to double the lead after around twenty minutes. For a time after that, City eased back a little and, although Ipswich weren’t causing them too many problems, we no longer looked like creating something dangerous every time we attacked. However, five minutes before the break, the match was, to all intents and purposes, all over as a contest when City made it 3-0 with a strange goal which came about when Velikonja did well to create a shooting chance for Mason whose effort was blocked by a defender before the ball looped slowly towards goal – it looked like an easy ball for Crowe to gather, but it somehow found it’s way to Filip Kiss who netted from point blank range.
At this stage, it looked like City could go on to get a bigger win than the 6-0 by which Ipswich had beaten us earlier in the season, but, out of nowhere, the visitors got back into the game in the last minute of the first half when Yorwerth went for a header which bounced over him and this allowed Timlin in on goal, his angled shot was beaten out by City goalkeeper Elliott Parish, but the ball fell to Jack Marriott (who scored a hat trick for Ipswich Under 18’s in their 4-2 win over City’s youngsters on Saturday) to squeeze his close range shot in from close to the bye line.
The team had done well in the first half. At times their slick football was good enough to take your mind off the bitterly cold conditions, but the shivers set in after the break during a more low key second half which City started sloppily. Ipswich having a goal disallowed for offside after a goalmouth scramble seemed to get the team to focus a bit more, but they never came close to matching their first half domination. Ipswich had a few good attacking moments, but Parrish was never seriously tested, while at the other end, what goalmouth action there was tended to centre on Velikonja – his angled free kick was beaten out by Crowe and when the Slovenian volleyed a cross back in, Yorwerth’s header flew not far wide and about ten minutes later, his shot from fairly wide out on the left hit the outside of the post.
Apart from a pretty harsh booking for Healey, there was not much else to record. Best players for me for City were Harris and Oshilaja who, as I’ve mentioned before, looks a very accomplished defender at this level, while I thought Theo Wharton had a fine first half, but, rather like the rest of the team, he faded a little after the break.
Anyway, City’s win allowed them to go to the top of the table. This page from QPR’S offical site gives the table before this weekend and with Charlton not playing until early next month, Cardiff have a three point lead over them, albeit they’ve played two games more than the London side. Charlton’s remaining matches are shown here and I think they still have to be considered favourites to top the division at the end of the season. However, the good news for City is that Brentford were beaten 4-2 by QPR today and, looking at that table on the QPR site, it looks to me that they will be all but assured of a top two place if they win their last two matches – the first of these is a rearranged match against the wurzels, who could lose to us and still possibly pip us on goal difference by winning the other six six of their seven remaining matches, on 3 April, before they finish their league season with a match at bottom of the table Barnet a week later.
N.B. Swansea won 3-2 at Bristol City today, so two more wins will definitely get us in the top two.