Lee Bullock’s late headed winner and Gillingham’s subsequent penalty miss awarded the Bluebirds all three points.
A visit to one of those grounds that we’ve all been to many, many times. It was my fourth visit there, after seeing us play Brighton there twice in the 90’s and the dreadful night in May 2000 when we were relegated to division 3 by the Gills 4-1 win. The old away terrace has now gone to be replaced by temporary seating, in line with division 1 ground requirements. Around 1000 City fans made the long trip to Kent and were in fairly vociferous mood despite the blustery showers.
Just one team change from the side which beat Sheffield United at Ninian Park last week, with Parry returning from injury to replace Willie Boland. This required a re-shuffle of the midfield four, with Robinson moving to the right, Parry out on the left, and Langley and Whalley playing in the centre. City turned out in the “third kit” of fluorescent orange shirts, white shorts and orange socks, with Gillingham in their blue and black hoops.
The game started with the home side in the ascendancy, attacking City from the off. Collins was forced into making tackles on a number of occasions as the Gills pressed for an early goal. Ex-Swansea man Sidebe making himself a nuisance, and debutant Gary Wales heading a chance wide early on.
Just when it looked like we were going to be in for a bad day, a ball played forward to Lee saw the Irish international hauled down in the box and the referee called a penalty. Robert Earnshaw did not look confident and played the ball low to the goalkeeper’s left and in the end it was a comfortable save for Banks in the Gillingham goal.
Fortunately for City and for Earnie within fifteen minutes of the penalty miss, City were ahead. A ball down the channels for Paul Parry saw the Gills keeper making a mad dash out of his goal. Parry managed to touch the ball past the keeper on the left and play the ball in towards goal. ROBERT EARNSHAW in the right place as ever, was there to head the ball past the defender into the empty net. 1-0 to Cardiff and that was the way the game stayed as we went in at half time, despite Robinson’s best efforts with a shot that flashed away from goal.
The second half started with an injury to Daniel Gabbidon, and City were forced into a reshuffle at the back. Chris Barker came on to play left back, and Vidmar was moved into the middle to partner Collins. The game in the second half was poor, City were on the back foot, and a succession of corners for the home side, finally saw the ball headed home by CHRIS HOPE on the hour. This was the time for digging in and avoiding a capitulation to the pressure exerted by the Kent side. We did exactly that, but it wasn’t pretty, until the late drama the second half was very poor fare.
Lawrence did his best to change the game, taking off the tiring Parry and putting on Campbell to change our formation to 4-3-3 in an attempt to win the game. Gillingham had far more of the play in the second half and had a number of close things in and around the City goal, but couldn’t find the killer touch to get the winner. Lee Bullock was brought on with ten minutes to go for Robinson.
Just when it looked like the game was fading out into a draw, another error from the Gills goalkeeper saw Langley with the ball on the right, his whipped cross to the near post saw LEE BULLOCK head home easily to make it 2-1 to the Bluebirds, with only four minutes remaining. Bullock was straight into the City fans behind the goal, and celebrated by doing the ayatollah when he was finally free of the melee.
The City fans had barely finished jumping up and down after the goal when Tony Vidmar pulled down Gary Wales in the box, and the second penalty of the day was awarded. This time Poulter set himself to take it. His run up saw him come outside the penalty area and the “D” and Richard Langley deliberately stood in his way. I’m sure this contributed to putting the Gills man off, as his penalty was pulled well wide, and was cue for the maddest celebration of the day on the away end.
City held out the remaining minutes to claim a hard fought win and inevitably with a five point gap to the 6th spot and a place in the playoffs, people will start talking about it again. Personally I think it’s still too far away, but five wins from the last seven games will probably do it, and as long as City keep on putting in the effort no Cardiff fan can be unhappy with how the season is currently looking as we come into the closing stages.
The Bluebirds now look forward to three games in six days with visits to FA Cup finalists Millwall, old rivals Wigan Athletic and a home game against Crystal Palace over the Easter weekend.
Report from FootyMad
Robert Earnshaw tasted the highs and lows of life as a striker as Cardiff City sealed a third win in a row which keeps them on the fringe of the first division play-offs.
Earnshaw netted the winner for Wales in the 2-1 victory over Hungary in midweek but missed a penalty, on his way to scoring his 26th goal of the season.
He said: "It's been a great week for me and I hope it continues. The game at Millwall is massive and we have just got to go again there and hope that we can keep our good form going."Earnshaw spurned his chance from the spot after 18 minutes. Leon Johnson was adjudged to have pulled back Alan Lee in the box and Suffolk referee Michael Thorpe pointed to the spot.
However, Earnshaw could only watch as Gillingham keeper Steve Banks dived to his left to keep out the effort and keep the hosts in the game.
Earnshaw netted four when Cardiff hammered the Gills 5-0 at Ninian Park earlier in the season, and he was on target again nine minutes before half time.
Banks lost a 50-50 race to the ball with Paul Parry whose precise left-wing cross was glanced in by Earnshaw.
He and John Robinson went close in first-half stoppage time to increasing Cardiff's lead, but the second half proved a far different story.
Gillingham, who had Alan Pouton and Nicky Southall booked, also saw player-manager Andy Hessenthaler booked in the tunnel by Mr Thorpe after the two exchanged words as the players left the pitch.
Hessenthaler and assistant Wayne Jones rallied the home side and they went out and had their best spell of the game.
Cardiff had to replace the injured Daniel Gabbidon soon after the break and then Gillingham got back on level terms when Chris Hope headed in Nicky Southall's corner.
New boy Gary Wales, making his full debut, also did well and was inches away from giving Gillingham the lead.
Lennie Lawrence then sent on loan substitute Lee Bullock and he headed in the winner four minutes from time.
However, there was still a sting in the tail as Cardiff skipper Tony Vidmar brought down Wales in the box, only for Pouton to blaze the spot kick wide as Gillingham's misery from the spot continues. This was their fourth miss from eight attempts this season.
Wales On Sunday