Alan Smith on key relegation battle fixtures on Saturday Night Football - Match Choice
Cardiff profited against a poor Fulham side on a crucial day in the relegation battle, says Alan Smith.
Last Updated: 09/03/14 10:37am
In the battle of the bottom two Cardiff came out on top in the Welsh capital and are now level on points with fourth-placed West Brom.
However, Crystal Palace's home defeat to Southampton has left Tony Pulis' side looking over their shoulder - they're just two points clear of the drop zone now, while Norwich and Stoke's 1-1 draw at Carrow Road leaves both of those sides with plenty of work to do between now and the end of the season.
Here, Sky Sports expert Smith analyses Saturday's battles.
Cardiff 3-1 Fulham
Cardiff deserved to win this one overall - they were nice and positive, kept the ball better than they have been and they beat a poor Fulham side. To concede three goals against a Cardiff side that hasn't been amongst the goals speaks volumes for Fulham's season.
Steven Caulker got two and I think he's the best signing they've made in the last 12 months. At £8m he was a steal and now he's in the England squad.
For his first goal he stayed up after a corner, took his chance after a little deflection and he scored a strikers goal to get them on the road. Cardiff were loose for Fulham's equaliser, giving the opposition a needless leg-up. However, Maarten Stekelenburg mis-read the path of the ball for Caulker's second goal and that was a big mistake from him.
The way Fulham are defending at the moment - they've conceded 65, 15 more than anyone else - all of their remaining fixtures look difficult. If they're still in with a chance, with their last three home games against Norwich, Hull and Crystal Palace, who knows, but they really have to address those defensive issues.
That victory will do Cardiff a lot of good but it's whether they can take it on and continue with that momentum.
Norwich 1-1 Stoke
Bradley Johnson got a run on Ryan Shawcross for the opener - it was one of those zonal marking issues. But I can understand why the referee gave the penalty for Stoke's equaliser. It was an unnecessary challenge from Sebastien Bassong. John Guidetti was going nowhere and it was clumsy from the defender. Then it was a good, emphatic penalty from Jonathan Walters to level it up.
I then had a bit of sympathy for Walters when he got sent-off. It wasn't a malicious challenge on Alex Tettey; the ball was bouncing and you instinctively go for it. Both players' feet were up, but his foot got there a bit later and caught the lad's knee. It's so hard to pull out of those challenges. I thought he was a bit unlucky.
Norwich are now four points clear of the bottom three but when you look at their final games your eyes are immediately drawn to their last four - against Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal. However, before then they've got Sunderland and West Brom at home and Fulham away - matches they'd earmark.
For Chris Hughton it seems one step forward, one step back. They beat Spurs, got thumped at Aston Villa and this was a bit in between, although maybe he'll go away from the ground thinking it was two points dropped.
I think teams will need less than normal to stay up this season though. We normally say 40 but 36, 37 may see you safe this season, given the way the teams at the bottom are.
Crystal Palace 0-1 Southampton
The winner was really untidy from Palace's point of view. From Palace's own corner Southampton broke away. There was a hoof out and mistake from Jason Puncheon but Howard Webb, the referee, was the first back to defend for Palace! He was calling for the square ball to tap it in! There was good pace from Jay Rodriguez but it was a gift in the end and a kick in the teeth for Tony Pulis. He's obviously had an effect since he went there but that was another opportunity to pick up points and move away from the mire and they missed out.
Palace have got some big games before the end of the season - Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool, Everton - and, after having the bounce after the new manager came in they need a second bounce now. However, Pulis has never been relegated and he'll be hoping that continues.