Cardiff City started the game against Preston North End with an altered formation. Although still 4-4-2, Trevor Sinclair was played as a right back to lend attacking support to Paul Parry, switched to the right flank. Ross Turnbull was replaced in goal by the experienced Michael Oakes – his first league start.
Preston, aside from an early Gallagher shot, posed little attacking threat in the first half. The first clear cut opportunity fell to Joe Ledley, a deflected cross finding the midfielder at the far post who guided a powerful header goalwards – only for Lonergan to fling himself to save, colliding with the post in the process.
On the half hour, Cardiff deservedly took the lead. A clever Sinclair pass found Ledley on the right and his pinpoint cross was headed home by ROBBIE FOWLER for his first Cardiff City goal. The right-footed cross was excellent, while Fowler did exceptionally well to steal in front of Mawene and get the touch.
Rae and Hasselbaink both shot over, with a Johnson header saved by Lonergan as Cardiff looked to extend their advantage against a lacklustre Preston. Parry and Ledley well causing problems, well supported on the wings by Sinclair and Capaldi. The visitors picked up three first half bookings, awarded by a picky referee and the flow was constantly disrupted by free-kicks awarded by the over-zealous Andy Hall.
HT: Cardiff City 1-0 Preston North End
Preston could have counted themselves lucky to have still been in the game at half time, but re-emerged with a renewed sense of purpose and belief. The Lilywhites looked a different side and forced an early corner, equalising minutes later courtesy of a low strike from Callum Davidson after Cardiff failed to get distance on their clearance.
A scrappy period ensued, with little action, although Hasselbaink was becoming more involved and saw a powerful effort blocked. However, Cardiff regained the lead on the hour mark. A Ledley corner was intended for Gavin Rae, who was not able to climb high enough but Fowler somehow read it and stooped to head low into the corner – cue celebrations and the ‘ayatollah` in celebration of his double.
Preston tried to come back, but Johnson and McNaughton stood tall – repeatedly clearing their lines and making the PNE strikers look ineffective. Hasselbaink created space well but shot straight at Lonergan with Fowler un-marked at the far post, JFH protesting he didn`t see the ex-Liverpool man, on for a hat-trick.
The game looked to be heading towards a tame ending, with Preston unable to carve any serious shooting chances. That is until McPhail was penalised on 90 minutes for grabbing at Carter, there looked little danger with the wall formed and plenty of distance to cover but the three standing over the ball squared to the onrushing Davidson who cracked a superb thunderbolt into the bottom corner. It was a great strike, Oakes looked to hesitate after the ball was moved but the strike was excellent.
To add insult to injury, Johnson and Whittingham who moved to clock the shot collided, sending Johnson tumbling into the onrushing Davidson after striking the ball. He knee collided hard with Johnson`s head, knocking the defender (who has a very good game) unconscious – he was stretched off after several minutes.
It was Preston who had the late chance to win it after City, with no centre-backs on the field, allowed a corner to bounce but Preston failed to connect and both sides had to settle for a point.
FT: Cardiff City 2-2 Preston North End
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