By Kasey Rees
Reduced to 10 men in a game full of drama, Neil Warnock was rightly pleased after his Cardiff City team got their Championship campaign back on track by beating Birmingham City 4-2 on Saturday.
Danny Ward picked up the first red card of the match, for a clumsy foul on Kerim Mrabti – leaving his side to defend their 2-1 lead, which they extended to 3-1 before Birmingham’s Harlee Dean was also shown a red card for elbowing hat-trick hero Joe Ralls.
Ralls was fantastic, showing fans a glimpse of what he and Cardiff can really do, despite the midfielder having to play through the game with a leg injury.
Warnock – who heard the chants of “Warnock, Warnock – Sort it out!” when his team were in danger of going 2-0 down – said: “I am tremendously proud of the lads today. I know we were nervous to start and conceded a goal, but we played good football at times and didn’t panic like last week.
“With 30 minutes to go and a man down, we worked well. We knew that Birmingham would start off well because they have had a good run, but we blunted their strengths and created more chances, and, to be honest, I think we played better with 10 men.
“It was one of the best wins I have had since I have been at the club.
“It just shows how confident we were, we got a grip straight away and I am delighted for the lads that we scored some good goals and came away with a good result.”
Birmingham were first on the scoresheet through Kristian Pedersen after a dominating the first half.
But Cardiff came from behind with a penalty from Joe Ralls and then Curtis Nelson’s close range effort. Ralls then struck after Ward had been dismissed and although Ivan Sunjic made it 3-2, another late Ralls penalty was enough to see off the visitors.
It was a match full of incident, but rather than sit back and park the bus after losing a man, the Bluebirds took the game to Birmingham with 10 men. They kept pressing Birmingham’s defence and earned their reward.
After a disappointing first half, Cardiff played with flair and passion, putting their dismal display against Swansea behind them and proving that they can play on the front foot.
Cardiff could have scored more, despite having to dig deep for most of the second half.
It was an impressive and entertaining display from Warnock’s side and the incidents kept sparking with a mass shoving and pushing contest involving players from both sides late on.
But the Bluebirds did enough to keep their cool and fought hard to keep their lead.
Cardiff remain undefeated at home, winning five and drawing two, proving that their own stadium is still a fortress to play at.
It’s their away form that has hampered them so far in this campaign as they are still to win a single game on their travels.
Birmingham looked dangerous for much of the game and their manager Pep Clotet said: “There were a lot of emotions and intensity for us. We feel that we leave Cardiff without receiving what we deserve.
“Because there was big difference between both teams when it came to transforming those chances.
“We knew Cardiff was a tough place to come to and we knew it would be a difficult game for us, but we managed to score two goals.
“Unfortunately, we were unlucky today, but in the first half that I saw the way we all want Birmingham City to play.”
There were plenty of positives that Cardiff can take from this victory as they now look ahead to another derby – at home to Bristol City on Sunday.