Whittingham heads Cardiff to win, Clarke out of a job

Posted by Michael Morris

Peter Whittingham is mobbed after scoring for Cardiff against West Brom.GettyImagesPeter Whittingham is mobbed after scoring for Cardiff against West Brom.

Cardiff City secured a much-needed win with a 1-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion on Saturday. The Baggies' loss, their fourth in a row, was the final straw as the club sacked Steve Clarke.

This was a game between managers under pressure to earn points in the race for Premier League survival, and it was Malky Mackay who came out on top with Clarke paying the ultimate price.

Peter Whittingham's brave leap to meet Craig Noone's 66th-minute cross brought Cardiff their first goal in over 5 1/2 hours of football.

Mackay, who you feel could always be just one game away from the sack himself, gave Noone his first Premier League start and he didn't disappoint. Noone offered an outlet when City were on the attack and he made more crosses Saturday than City have managed collectively for weeks.

Andrew Taylor returned to the side after injury and former Albion striker Peter Oedemwingie started with Fraiser Campbell in a more attack-minded City side.

Cardiff were on the front foot from the kickoff and until the later stages were the most likely team to score.

Boaz Myhill saved well from a free kick that appeared to be hit by Whittingham and Oedemwingie at the same time. Even after seeing a replay I cannot tell who took it. Gary Medel saw his effort from distance fly just over. Cardiff had possession, attacking intent and a crowd appreciating the positive performance.

On the other hand, Albion were very poor. Their only weapon was the ball over the top to the always-offside Shane Long. When he's playing well Long is a decent striker. Against Cardiff he was a lone figure up front until the second half when Albion became more adventurous as they chased an equaliser.

Before being substituted, Long made a dramatic effort to get a penalty but his dive fooled no one although inconsistent referee Howard Webb didn't punish him with a card.

Webb and his officials were picky all game and a reasonably good game of football was interrupted too many times for silly free kicks. Oedemwingie, booed by the visiting fans, left most aggrieved when he felt he was pulled back in the box. Replays show he had a very good claim.

With the game still 1-0, Albion looked for an equaliser. The final 15 minutes saw Cardiff start to get pushed back as the pressure mounted. On another day, Steve Clarke's side may have rescued a point but some wayward finishing, unlucky breaks and a stunning save from David Marshall kept them out.

As the rain poured, Cardiff saw out the four minutes of added time to record a crucial victory. Defeats for Palace and Fulham and a draw between West Ham and Sunderland made the points even more valuable.

The win for Cardiff opens up a four-point gap over the relegation places and keeps the side part of the group of teams battling for a mid-table place. There are three more games before the midway point. If the Bluebirds can end 2013 on 20 points or more it will have represented a decent return for the first half of the club's first Premier League campaign.

Next week, Cardiff face a daunting trip to Liverpool before back-to-back Christmas home games against Southampton and Sunderland. After seeing Liverpool put five past Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday afternoon, it would take a brave man to predict anything other than a home win for LFC. It’s the games against Southampton and especially Sunderland where Cardiff will feel they can get a win that will take the club through the 20-point barrier.

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