Winning run continues
Cardiff won a sixth successive match in the Championship to strengthen their grip on an automatic promotion spot.
But Birmingham City’s relegation fears will increase after this defeat, the second under new boss Garry Monk. They have now lost eight matches in a row.
First-half goals from Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, Craig Bryson and Callum Paterson put Cardiff firmly in control.
Birmingham did battle hard after the break and Craig Gardner’s penalty and Maxime Colin’s finish gave them late hope.
Cardiff remain second and Birmingham are still 22nd, two points adrift of safety.
A tough task for Monk
Birmingham had already beaten Cardiff once this season, 1-0 at St Andrews in previous boss Steve Cotterill’s first game in charge in October. However, Monk has inherited a side now in the Championship relegation zone.
Monk’s first game as a manager, for Swansea City in February 2014, was against Cardiff City – and his side won 3-0. But he has not beaten Neil Warnock as a manager in four attempts, with four different clubs, and if he is not sure about the size of the task facing him to keep Blues in the division, he will be now.
Cardiff are now unbeaten in five home league matches against Birmingham City since September 2008, but they will rarely have had it so easy as they did in the first half.
Their breakthrough came on 12 minutes when Mendez-Laing cut inside and fired home his first goal since August.
Bryson doubled the lead on 24 minutes with a finish from close range after Joe Bennett and Callum Paterson combined.
Striker Kenneth Zohore then missed a golden chance to extend the lead just before the interval, before Paterson thought he had made the game safe by heading home at the far post. It would have been a perfect half for Cardiff had Bryson not limped off injured.
Cardiff looking strong in promotion fight
Cardiff have won now eight and drawn one of their nine home Championship matches against sides in the bottom half of the table as they continue to show they will contend for more than the play-off berth their manager is targeting.
Warnock might have been forgiven for fearing this contest could prove a banana skin for his side.
The veteran manager had failed to win any of his last seven league matches against Birmingham, with the last win coming as Sheffield United manager back in November 2001.
Warnock would have hoped Cardiff’s three goals in the first half meant he was not going to be the latest victim of the supposed manager of the month curse, but Birmingham did improve dramatically in the second period.
Just as in midweek against Barnsley, the Bluebirds faithful were made to sweat victory somewhat after seemingly being comfortable.
First, Gardner converted from the spot after the referee spotted a tug on Harlee Dean, with the home fans’ frustrations compounded when Junior Hoilett had a penalty claim turned down.
Things might have got even worse for Cardiff, but Neil Etheridge made an amazing close range save to deny Birmingham skipper Michael Morrison, while sub Che Adams also came close before Colin lashed home a second goal deep into injury time.
However, the Bluebirds could also have added to their tally in the second half and are gaining momentum in their bid to finish in the Championship’s top two.
Cardiff City boss Neil Warnock:
“We don’t think about promotion, today’s target has been met for the play-offs and we’re there.
“We don’t look at it, the other teams are still winning. We just have 10 games. We could have made it easier, but we never do that. Hopefully we’ve saved up the goals we missed until we need them.”
“The penalty was for nothing, you wouldn’t have anything happen to you if you did something like that in a shopping centre. It could have cost us promotion. There was no reason to give it.”
Birmingham City manager Garry Monk:
“The first half was one of those times where we didn’t play too badly but we didn’t defend well enough in the three situations.
“I was very interested to see how we reacted in the second half because the capabilities of the squad was a reason why I came here, and that was exactly what we should be doing.
“We defended better and created chances. We had a great chance to make it 3-2 with 20 minutes to go which would have made it really interesting.
“The lesson has to be learned that we can’t give periods away, we have to do what we did in the second half right from the start, and that begins today, not before kick-off against Hull next week. We have to change now.”
Damour 6.5 (37 mins Bryson)
Morrison 6.5 (74 mins Peltier)
Halford 6.5 (81 mins Mendez-Laing)