Cardiff City lost to Middlesbrough and flattered to deceive in a 1-1 draw with Burnley as the season ended with disappointment despite the creditable achievement of securing a place in this seasons play-offs. Our rivals Swansea had no such meek ending, beating Millwall and then already relegated Sheffield United. That meant the Swans leapfrogged us and took 3rd place and a trip to Nottingham Forest on Thursday. With the FA confirming pre-match that QPR would face no points deduction, any possibility of automatic promotion had already ended so with the Swans heavy favourites to win at home, anything less than a win meant City would finish fourth.
And so it proved after a lacklustre showing against Burnley. Perhaps the QPR announcement deflated our players, perhaps the hangover from the Middlesbrough shambles was continuing – either way it was pedestrian, poor quality and extremely frustrating.
In terms of chances, Bellamy nearly collected a couple of through balls, while Burke shot wildly over and Paul Quinn`s scuffed low effect was easily saved. As the game entered the final moments, and Swansea City 4-0 up – there was little to play for for Cardiff City. Only a win would have meant any material change in the standings. However, the late goal meant we finished equal with Swansea City, losing out on goal difference – slightly more palatable than amassing fewer points.
Far more significant however was the fact we scored. Burnley were already on their summer break when Steve McPhail lofted a ball over the defence allowing Bellamy to race through and poke over Jensen. It was an opportunist goal which changed the result, but far more importantly the mood. To go into the play offs having not scored in 180 minutes would have been scary – especially for a team so heavily reliant on our striking riches. It wasn`t a defeat, it was a draw and we scored a late goal a la Norwich City.
After missing a glut of chances against Boro, we created virtually nothing at Burnley. The late goal that made little difference to the Championship standings, and no difference to the play-off fixtures – could yet make all the difference as we approach the semi-final away leg at Reading with renewed optimism rather than the downbeat attitude we`d have had after successive defeats. Nice one Craig Bellamy!
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