A game featuring a referee’s change of heart over a controversial penalty award, a player booked for twice kissing an opponent and two headed goals from Chris Wood was never dull. If it was a little bad-tempered at times it probably reflected the tension of a relegation six-pointer that ended with Burnley all but mathematically safe and Cardiff travelling to a freefalling Brighton on Tuesday knowing victory could still boost their slim hopes of staying in the Premier League.
“If Brighton beat us it’s probably all over,” said a surprisingly sanguine Neil Warnock who had turned incandescent when his Cardiff side were awarded a penalty after a linesman spotted a handball by Ben Mee, only for the referee, Mike Dean, to change his mind.
“But I think we’re going to be inundated with luck in our final five games.”
The visitors had only themselves to blame for a poor first half and the game had barely begun when Wood hit the post after making a headed connection with a whipped-in free-kick from Burnley’s highly promising winger, Dwight McNeil.
The 19-year-old’s dead-ball delivery and crossing posed Cardiff a litany of problems and he created both Wood’s goals. The first came from a McNeil corner met by the unmarked New Zealand striker whose perfectly timed advance encountered zero resistance from a slapdash visiting defence. Wood glanced his header beyond Neil Etheridge and nudged Cardiff closer to the Championship.
The loss of Sol Bamba, their best defender, to a season-ending injury has hit them hard and their backline reverted to papier-mache mode again as Ashley Westwood found himself clean through with only Etheridge to beat. The goalkeeper, partly assisted by the distraction offered by a desperately backpedaling Sean Morrison, did well to come off his line and make an important save but he should never have been placed in that position.
A series of tetchy sub-plots was unfolding involving assorted warring players. The most notable involved Joe Bennett clashing with Ashley Barnes and both players were booked shortly before half-time, Cardiff’s left-back for fouling the home forward and Barnes for appearing to kiss Bennett twice on the nose in mischievous response.