conspired to provide Cardiff City with a late, late win over a hugely disappointing and relegation threatened Burnley side at Ninian Park.
In doing so, they provided three welcome but unexpected points, only the 5th home win in over 5 months and 15 games - after 75 previous minutes of football that would be only satisfy insomniacs.
Until then, City looked every inch a side going through the motions at the end of a long season whilst Burnley were as poor as their perilous league position suggests but, surprisingly, never really showed the heart of a team fighting for First Division survival.
As the game drifted towards an inevitable 0-0 - and some wished they had had chosen to watch paint dry instead - Campbell replaced Earnie (who tried but was still out of sorts) with 15 minutes remaining and became an unlikely, instant hero. 60 seconds later and with his first touches, Campbell fell to the ground. Nothing unusual, some might say, but he was clumsily felled by a Burnley defender and won a penalty with Richard Langley coolly despatched. Three minutes on and Camps sweetly finished one of City's best goals this season with a lightning move from end to end, totally out of context with the game. Incredibly, his first City goal since the play-off winner 11 months ago.
Cardiff's season was effectively over after those crushing defeats by Crystal Palace and Wigan in the past week, the team looking dispirited on both occasions. Whilst this was little more than an end of season friendly, Lennie called for pride and a Top Ten finish to round off a successful campaign overall on a happy note. He had few options but Willie Boland was back after 7 games missing though injury. Paul Parry was dropped to then bench (with Lennie talking about him having a possible mystery illness - only at Cardiff!) and joined by Arran Lee-Barrett, the third choice keeper given the nod ahead of Alexander despite the Scot having an excellent midweek reserve game. City therefore started with Margetson, Croft-Gabbidon-Collins-Vidmar, Robinson-Boland-Whalley-Langley, Earnie-Lee.
Burnley have struggled all season will probably not know until the last kick of the season whether they restart in August in Division One or relegated to Division Two. They have some decent players but have not gelled as a team and their defence has proven to be as bad as it gets. Only already relegated Wimbledon have conceded more than Burnley’s Recent away from has been good however with 7 points collected from their 3 previous games on the road than 14 conceded in the last 6 and 72 all season after today is the exact reason why they’ve got major problems.
Their starting line -up was Jensen, Roche-May-Branch-McGregor, Camara-Little-Grant-Chadwick, Chaplow-Blake. The Dane Jensen cut a huge, imposing figure in goals, his horrid luminous green shirt made him Hulk-like in appearence. Ex-Man United players and one-time City targets David May and Luke Chadwick have talent, the bald Richard Chaplow (England under-21 player and scorer against City at Turf Moor) is able but the biggest threat was £1M signing Robbie Blake, a striker with 22 goals in a struggling side had to be watched.
The Grandstand looked like the old Kremlin Politburo with Sam Hammam sitting with Neil Kinnock (City fan) and ex-Labour spin-doctor and Burnley fan Alistair Campbell. Not even all his spin could deny that his team are currently crap but they brought about 350 followers to Cardiff on a mild, cloudy day with partial sun. Also sat in the Directors Box was Burnley manager, Stan Ternant, currently serving a touchline ban and keeping in touch with his dugout by mobile calls every single minute it seemed. His mobile bill will probably cost more than his fine!
The game had a bright opening, City should have gone ahead inside just three minutes. First good work set up Earnie but his shot lacked the necessary crispness then Willie Boland won a header, Lee flicked on and John Robinson was clear on goal. He got into the area and skipped wide of the keeper but Jensen’s long arms stretched and grabbed the ball just as Robbo got around him and was about to tap home.
Burnley hit back with Collins winning an important tackle and Blake showing why he is a class act as he manufactured some space and hit a rising shot from the edge of the area that Margetson equalled with a great tip over.
All the first half highlights came in those opening 10 minutes. The rest was a yawn. It became a nothing game, Burnley doing nothing, City creating nothing.
City were struggling badly to find invention in their game and guilty of over-playing and taking too many touches. Those who make the point that Earnie’s game is affected because balls are no longer put forward fast or into space have a valid point. City were even shot shy at times, nobody really taking the responsibility to shot when half chances were there.
Alan Lee was looking average but created the main talking points as he got past three players wide right and clipped a ball across goal but the nearest City player was 20 yards behind. Controversy came later when he slipped past a defender, Jensen charged out and touched the ball just outside his area. Not deliberate perhaps but surely a sending-off offence, Jensen was lucky to see yellow only. Earnie met a good Vidmar run and cross by charging in and throwing his body at the ball, his right boot made contact and unluckily put his shot a couple of feet wide with Jensen beaten.
There was plenty of singing and banter between City and Burnley fans but their passion was far greater than most of what was unfolding before our eyes.
Half-time: CITY 0 BURNLEY 0
If the first-half was devoid of major action, the second period was even worse. Earnie lead the way early on by just missing a Robbo cross, saw his shot blocked, chased the rebound to the touchline, muscled off Grant (twice his size) and back-heeled to Croft whose first-time cross was headed goalwards by Lee but well taken by Jensen. Easily, the best bit of football so far.
Burnley had their only notable effort of the second half when Croft was unluckily penalised and Blake lined up a free-kick 25 yards out but also 5 yards wide of the right-hand post. His whipped delivery went across the crowd of players and was heading inside the far post until Margetson showed great reflexes to fingertip away.
If, heaven forbid, Earnie is to leave this club and Burnley go down (or even if they stay up), Blake looks a good candidate as a replacement. A totally different player but undoubtedly a footballer with real ability who could mix well in this City side.
City were again on the wrong end of a refereeing decision when Willie Boland - Cardiff’s best player by a country mile even though John Robinson’s all action style won the day with some pundits who weren’t watching so closely - burst into the area and was brought down by a lunging tackle which missed the ball. Referee Jones denied it, I still can’t work out why. The penalty he gave for Campbell, although justified, wasn’t as obvious by comparison.
That was pretty much it until subs intervened, Parry came on for Whalley on 75 and then cometh the hour, cometh the man. Campbell replaced Earnie, a couple cheered for Earnie going off which was very unfair. I thought he tried and worked hard but nothing came his way and nothing feel for him. At the time, I was surprised Alan Lee didn’t come off as he was far less effective.
Whatever the rights and wrongs, it worked. Campbell’s first touch nodded the ball to Parry who flicked on and Campbell took the ball in the area but with no real danger and turning away form goal, Mark McGregor (ex-Wrexham) brought him down with a needless challenge. The penalty was right even if it was innocuous, a penalty was probably the only way we were going to score too.
It took an eternity to take, almost two minutes as players lined up and argued over the placement of the ball. Langley re-spotted it twice and still wasn’t ready. It was agonising to watch but LANGERS was the coolest man in the ground as he strode up and effortlessly placed the ball high to the top right corner. Jensen ‘did an Alexander’ and went the other way. Relief and celebration with the fans but Langley still looking cool as he walked a few paces towards the Grange End without celebrating in the slightest, despite John Robinson climbing all over him.
Two minutes after that, it was 2-0, game over. Burnley at last came out and got forward but as Margetson took a cross, the game opened up for City. Margetson threw it ahead to Parry who took the ball on before flicking it into the final third for Robbo to chase. He got there first and sent a perfect diagonal ball along the ground behind two defenders and into CAMPBELL’s path. His execution was perfect too, low, hard, first time and back across goal into the opposite corner with Jensen well beaten.
This time the celebrations were manic with the whole team seemingly piling on top of Campbell. Obviously a popular scorer amongst his team-mates, his first in 22 games this season although nearly all have been as a sub and mostly playing wide or in the hole instead of his standard position. Not only his first goal but the first time I can recall him being an influence too.
At 2-0 Burnley collapsed and City were rampant, it literally could have been 4-0 or 5-0 by final whistle and although that would have been harsh, City should have scored more too.
If Campbell banged his head coming on, the effects were now wearing off when he skied a sitter over the bar from 10 yards with the goal yawning, that’s more like the Campbell I know! Paul Parry, who was hugely influential in his brief spell and causing havoc, met a far post Alan Lee cross but hit the side netting when the target should have been hit too. Ginge Collins hit two stingers, one of them was a superb 35 yard hit that seemed to get faster en route but flew just wide, the other from 25 yards just over.
Blake had one more effort but went wide but the best Burnley entertainment came when Lenny Johnrose appeared as a late sub to be greeted immediately with chants of “you Jack b*strd”. First time we’ve been able to do that in a while and it still sounds good even if we most of us don‘t really care or look out for their results much anymore!
City stayed in 11th but cannot now possibly finish any lower than 14th. They are two points off a Top 10 spot and must fancy their chances of making it. Burnley meanwhile are out of the bottom three of goal difference and by one goal only. The good news for them is that they have a game in hand over Gillingham whilst three of their last four games are at home. So expect to see that northern town again next season ... not a nice thought to end with really!
Report from FootyMad
Cardiff manager Lennie Lawrence brought on Andy Campbell in the 75th minute and the former Middlesbrough striker turned the game in City's favour.
Within seconds of taking the field, for the ineffective Robert Earnshaw, Campbell won a penalty after being felled in the box by Burnley's Mark McGregor.
Richard Langley eased City's nerves by dispatching the spot kick to give the Bluebirds a 77th minute lead.
Two minutes later, Campbell finished off a move started in Cardiff's own area by firing low into the corner of the net to put the result beyond doubt.
"Sometimes substitutions have no effect but today it worked out," said Lawrence.
"Our second goal was an excellent counter-attack and probably the best worked goal we have scored for some time.
"I felt we were better than them in the first half but had nothing to show for it. Paul Parry has done very well for us since coming from non-league football and John Robinson produced quite a few moments of quality, but until that penalty, we were not looking like scoring.
"I'm very pleased for Andy Campbell as in the 15 minutes he was on the field, he showed what a good player he is."Clarets boss Stan Ternent was disappointed his side ended with nothing.
"We deserved a point and although we were anxious we were doing alright until the penalty. It's been a frustrating afternoon and this now means that our next two games are massive for us.
"If we win our next match we will have 50 points and a game in hand and one more victory should see us safe.