Cardiff City 2 1 Nottingham Forest
Saturday 21st April at 7.45pm
Cardiff City Stadium
Championship

Super Gunnar secures the points

Cardiff City took a big step towards promotion to the Premier League as Aron Gunnarsson’s first goal in a year ensured victory over Nottingham Forest.

Forest looked to have frustrated Cardiff as a rare Liam Bridcutt strike cancelled out Sean Morrison’s first-half opener.

But Gunnarsson, 28, drove home with 16 minutes left, leaving Cardiff needing six points from three games to go up.

Defeat meant Forest’s hopes of a top-half finish finally disappearing.

The win moved the Bluebirds into second, one point ahead of third-placed Fulham and they play their game in hand away to Derby on Tuesday, 24 April.

Forest will again be reminded of the work needed if they are to challenge under Aitor Karanka next season.

Though they broke their run of six games without a goal in last weekend’s win over Ipswich, they will rue some of the missed chances and poor set-piece defence that undermined some encouraging football in the Welsh capital.

Forest’s Joe Lolley broke clear nine minutes in, but smashed his shot over the bar from inside the area while Cardiff goalkeeper Neil Etheridge was able to smother the danger when Bridcutt attempted to finish a threatening counter on 23 minutes.

Morrison lost possession in the build up to that chance following an uncharacteristic error, though he responded in familiar style from a set-piece.

His 35th minute goal from Joe Ralls’ corner was his fifth of the season, each of them headers.

Forest’s set-piece weakness

It exposed another Forest weakness; the goal was the 13th conceded from a corner this season and the 25th from a set-piece, the most in the Championship.

The visitors were inches away from conceding a second three minutes after the restart, Kenneth Zohore racing onto Gunnarsson’s through ball only for his clipped shot to hit the post and bounce along the line when it seemed the Dane had scored.

And it proved costly just moments later when Cardiff’s defence was breached, substitute Sol Bamba being caught out and Bridcutt left free to direct home Ben Osborn’s cross, scoring his first goal in seven years in the process.

Cardiff had shouts for a penalty turned down, but eventually they found their breakthrough when, from another set-piece, Bamba nodded down and allowed Gunnarsson to lash home from close range.

It was the Iceland international’s first goal since the same fixture at this time in 2017, though his effort in blocking a Jack Colback shot with five minutes remaining was just as important.

Cardiff go to Derby on Tuesday knowing victory could be enough for promotion if Fulham lose at home to relegated Sunderland on Friday.

Bluebirds boss Neil Warnock:

“We always make it interesting – that’s why TV love us because there’s never a dull game.

“We haven’t played as well as we can, but it’s all about getting a result, especially playing last, late on a Saturday.

“The goal gave us a jolt, [Forest are[ playing with freedom with nothing at stake. All credit to boys, they don’t know when they’re beat. They’re an amazing group of players, I’m ever so proud of them.”

Forest manager Aitor Karanka:

“It’s a game we could have win 2-1 or 3-1. It’s frustrating for me.

“It is something we need to address. It is impossible to win games if you don’t take your chances.

“We have improved, but we need to score when we create.

“Nobody expected Cardiff to be in this position, but they deserve to be there.”

Player ratings

Etheridge   7

Peltier   6

Morrison   8

Manga   6.5

Bennett   7

Mendez Laing   5.5

Ralls   6.5

Gunnarsson   9

Bryson   7

Hoilett   6.5

Zohore   7

Subs

Bamba   6 (HT Peltier)

Wildschut   7 (71 mins Mendez Laing)

Paterson   6.5 (87mins Bryson)