Cardiff City signed off their final game at home this season with a toughly-fought 1-1 draw against Birmingham City.
Jeremie Bela opened the scoring in the first half before Will Vaulks hit back late on through a well-struck penalty, the Bluebirds’ first spot-kick of the season.
Here, we run you through a few things you might have missed from the Championship clash…
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Pre-match guard of honour
There was a real end-of-season feel to proceedings at Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday. From the mellow buzz from the crowd to open nature of the match and the balmy weather.
But it was almost a reunion party pitchside before the match. All the fringe players, some of whom have been away training with the under-23s and other various bits and bobs in previous weeks, were all on the touchline watching their team-mates during the warm-up.
Neil Etheridge even made a beeline for the likes of Alex Smithies and Isaac Vassell to embrace them before the match – it had that type of atmosphere.
Even when the players strolled back down the tunnel after the warm-up, the likes of Marlon Pack, Leandro Bacuna, Vassell, Smithies, Joe Ralls and others, some of whom we’ve not seen for months, lined up and clapped the players off the pitch ahead of the match. Yeah, it was that kind of day…
Wintle’s tummy troubles
When the team emerged for the second half, there was an eyebrow or two raised when Ryan Wintle, an everpresent in Steve Morison’s side since returning in January, was whipped off.
Both he and Eli King were brought off at the break as Cardiff opted to change tack by adding Max Watters and Rubin Colwill to the fray.
But while a more attacking change might have been coming anyway, Morison’s hand was forced when a bout of illness struck Wintle during the half-time interval.
In the post-match press conference, Morison said the midfielder had an “upset tummy” and left it at that. I think we can all come to our own conclusions as to what that means…
Tommy Doyle played on with a dead leg, it later emerged, while it was always the plan to take Eli King out at half-time, given how little senior football he has played.
Drameh rams Etheridge
While much of the day had the feeling of it being after the Lord Mayor’s show, the second half certainly sparked into life. There were a series of crunching challenges and confrontations which whipped the crowd up into a little more of a frenzy.
Mark McGuinness produced an X-rated challenge on Onel Hernandez straight after the break which seemed to stir up a bit of atmosphere from both fans inside the stadium.
Cody Drameh’s enthusiastic remonstrations towards referee John Busby earned him a yellow card, too, showing there was still fight in the old dog yet. Minutes later, the Leeds United loanee was fortunate not receive his marching orders.
As Etheridge shepherded a ball out of play, Drameh, quite naughtily it must be said, rammed him into the advertising hoardings rather forcefully from behind. It was a cheap shot and one which could really have caused Etheridge a lot of damage. Etheridge escaped unscathed, unfortunately the same couldn’t be said for the electronic advertising hoarding, which was hit with such force it stopped working…
New roles for players
It was a hectic end to the match as Cardiff chased an equaliser. With Cardiff having made all of their substitutions, the formation at the end of the match was difficult to decipher.
What was certain, though, is that Perry Ng was operating as a central midfielder and Mark Harris had switched to a left wing-back role.
It’s testament to Ng that he looked so comfortable in the middle of the park. He had a very good game against Birmingham City and when he is on song like that, he can play anywhere.
And Harris at wing-back? Yes, it was a horses-for-courses approach, but it’s not the worst idea in the world, all things considered. We’ve seen the likes of Jacob Murphy convert to that sort of role at Newcastle United. Harris has struggled to find that clinical edge in front of goal since coming into the first team, might a longer-term role at wing-back be an option? Food for thought, potentially…
The fans love Uche
It can be easy to forget Uche Ikpeazu’s impact in Cardiff’s fight for safety this season. When the Bluebirds were staring at a rather precarious position, the big striker delivered.
Match-winning goals against Barnsley and Derby County, both of which were extremely well taken, when Cardiff really needed results helped to propel the Bluebirds away from the bottom three. He started only one match, away at Hull City, but was warmly welcomed the other 12 times he was brought off the bench.
He quickly endeared himself to City fans. That was aided when Wintle revealed that he even practices the Ayatollah at the training ground!
But the fans had their opportunity to show him their love after the match. When the whole squad, including injured captain Sean Morrison, joined in for a lap of appreciation inside Cardiff City Stadium after the match, joined by wives, girlfriends and kids, Ikpeazu was receiving special praise for the City faithful.
In front of the Canton Stand, supporters began a chorus of: “Ole, ole, ole, ole, Uche, Uche!” Needless to say, as shown in the video below, Uche loved it! A real character and one who will doubtless endear himself to a new set of fans next season, should he leave Middlesbrough.