Cardiff 2-1 Nottingham Forest: Neil Warnock's side two wins from promotion
By Dan Long
Last Updated: 21/04/18 10:27pm
Cardiff continued their quest for automatic promotion from the Sky Bet Championship on Saturday evening, with a 2-1 victory over Nottingham Forest at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Despite Aitor Karanka's men creating the better chances, the Bluebirds edged themselves in front 10 minutes before the break when skipper Sean Morrison headed a corner past Forest's debutant 'keeper Stefanos Kapino.
Liam Bridcutt scored his first goal since April 2011 to level proceedings inside the first five minutes of the second half, before Aron Gunnarsson acrobatically netted what proved to be the winner after Sol Bamba's knockdown.
The result means Cardiff elbow Fulham back into third, requiring just two wins from their remaining three fixtures to secure a return to the Premier League. Forest, meanwhile, stay 17th with three to play.
Cardiff: Etheridge (6), Peltier (6), Morrison (9), Manga (6), Bennett (6), Ralls (6), Gunnarsson (7), Bryson (6), Mendez-Laing (5), Zohore (6), Hoilett (6)
Subs: Bamba (6), Wildschut (n/a), Paterson (n/a)
Nottingham Forest: Kapino (5), Lichaj (6), Figueiredo (5), Fox (6), Osborn (7), Colback (6), Watson (5), Bridcutt (6), Lolley (6), Brereton (5), Cash (5)
Subs: Mancienne (5), Guedioura (n/a), Vellios (n/a)
Man of the match: Sean Morrison
With a two-game advantage over second-placed Fulham, Neil Warnock's men began on the back foot in south Wales and could quite feasibly have been behind inside 10 minutes.
The energetic Joe Lolley rocketed goalwards from midfield and picked up a lucky bounce from Bruno Manga's midriff, before firing inches over the bar and not long after, he squared for Bridcutt, who forced a smart low save from the onrushing Neil Etheridge.
Though Cardiff were struggling to force themselves on the game, Gunnarsson's long throws were becoming troubling for Forest, whose defensive unit was disorganised at times, and the opener laid their frailties bare when the unmarked Morrison nodded home Joe Ralls' corner.
The Bluebirds flew out of the traps after the break and Kenneth Zohore's dink was somehow kept from crossing the line when it hit the post, but despite their defensive mishaps, it was Forest who struck next.
Neil Warnock made three changes from the side that beat Norwich 2-0 last time out as Kenneth Zohore, Bruno Manga and Joe Ralls replaced Loic Damour, Sol Bamba and Gary Madine.
There were also four changes for Forest - Eric Lichaj, Ben Osborn and Matty Cash started in place of Tendayi Darikwa, Adlene Guedioura and Lee Tomlin, who couldn't appear against his parent club. Meanwhile Stefanos Kapino made his first Forest start between the sticks in place of Costel Pantilimon.
Ben Osborn delivered a sumptuous ball into the area and Bridcutt displayed the composure of a seasoned goalscorer to turn the ball home with a first-time connection.
The set-pieces continued to prove a danger to Forest, and though there was a robust strategy of keeping Morrison at bay, Junior Hoilett's deep free-kick proved the source of the winner as Bamba headed the delivery into the path of Gunnarsson who leapt off the ground to arrow home.
Man of the match - Sean Morrison
With an unnatural number of touches in Forest's half on Saturday, it was quite unbelievable that the Cardiff skipper didn't score more than once in the victory. The visitors tendency to hand smaller players the responsibility of marking the defender perhaps didn't help matters, but his goal was well-taken and his performance commanding on the whole.
Neil Warnock: "We could've made it simple really, with the chances that we've made, Morrison should've had a hat-trick by half-time. That's the Championship, you just never know, but we don't give in. There were one or two things I was disappointed with tonight.
"The fans made a noise when I asked them to in the last five minutes, I thought they were magnificent. We've got a team like Fulham, 22 games unbeaten and they must think 'What's going on with that team' because they can't get rid of us. I thought we deserved that tonight."
Aitor Karanka: "I think it's a game we could've won 2 or 3-1, but we've lost 2-1 so we've had the best chances to score and conceded two goals from set pieces and it's another game to learn, another game to study. Again a side competing for promotion, we've played at least like them and sometimes better than them.
"For the first goal I've seen we were not aggressive enough at set-pieces, but we know they are strong from set-pieces. This is the kind of things we have to fix for the following season because now we are safe, but the following season we don't want to make the same mistakes."
Both sides are in action on Tuesday night as Forest welcome Barnsley to the City Ground and Cardiff travel to Derby in a game that could play a part in deciding the Championship play-off candidates.
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