By Gareth James
Sabri Lamouchi admitted he would have settled beforehand for the priceless point Cardiff City earned from their 1-1 draw at home to West Bromwich Albion.
The point stretched the Bluebirds’ safety buffer between themselves and the relegation zone to four points with nine matches remaining.
It was a reward that looked all the more vital after Huddersfield picked up a point at home to Norwich City, to move off the bottom of the table.
Daryl Dike celebrated his return to the United States squad with a composed 17th-minute finish that gave Albion optimism they could end a run of five straight away defeats with a win.
But Cardiff underlined their improvement under Lamouchi, their third manager of the season, when substitute Sory Kaba headed an equaliser 25 minutes from time.
Cardiff City 1-1 West Brom: Sory Kaba header earns Bluebirds first draw under Sabri Lamouchi https://t.co/6OQo7yiyHj
— Cardiff City Online (@CardiffCityLive) March 15, 2023
The result left West Brom in eighth and five points adrift of Millwall in the final play-off spot, with 21st-placed Cardiff four points above the relegation zone.
“To be honest I would have signed for a point before the game,” said Lamouchi.
“The attitude and performance in the second half, we tried to disturb them. We missed too much against a good team, but one more lovely goal from Kaba.
“It’s an important point for us, especially against a good team. They are playing for a different target, probably the play-off.
“We changed many things – systems, players, many tired in the second half – but we never gave up and that is a positive.”
West Brom Head Coach Carlos Corberan Disappointed with Missed Target Despite Early Goal
West Brom head coach Carlos Corberan said: “We feel like we didn’t achieve the target we set out to achieve today, especially when we score one goal at the beginning of the game.
“The key for us it to analyse why we didn’t use enough of the possibilities we had in the first half and second half why we were defending more than we wanted to be defending.
“The dressing room now feels like one point is not enough. When we play again, we have to recover that feeling – that we are only happy and proud when we win the three points.
“We need to come back after the international break stronger and achieve the targets we have.”
Albion might have been ahead inside two minutes when on-loan Leicester wideman Marc Albrighton delivered a cross of genuine Premier League quality.
The ball was just inches too high for the unmarked Dike as Cardiff breathed an early sigh of relief.
Sheyi Ojo and Jaden Philogene were wide of mark as the Bluebirds stirred, but West Brom soon hit the front.
Jed Wallace was allowed space on the right to pick a cross that Dike volleyed home smartly at the near post, just hours after he had been called into the USA’s CONCACAF Nations League squad.
The omens were bad for a Cardiff side who had not recovered from a goal down to win a game for 11 months.
But Cardiff were almost level five minutes later when Callum O’Dowda’s shot deflected off Dara O’Shea and flew across the penalty area.
Isaak Davies was waiting at the far post, but the striker had to stretch for the ball and was unable to test Josh Griffiths in the visitors’ goal.
John Swift passed up an opportunity to double the visitors’ lead as he floated a free-kick from a promising position over the Cardiff crossbar.
The half ended with O’Shea in the right place to head over Ryan Wintle’s powerful drive and West Brom started the second half in lively fashion.
Okay Yokuslu and Jayson Molumby combined for Wallace to force Ryan Allsop into a spectacular stop.
Adam Reach replaced Dike just before the hour mark and he immediately headed over.
Cardiff equalised after 65 minutes as substitute Kaba, sent on at half-time for Davies, met Wintle’s cross with enough power to beat Griffiths.
The Albion goalkeeper got a hand to it, but the ball trickled over line for the Guinea striker’s third goal since his January deadline-day move from Danish club Midtjylland.
Albion replied instantly with a Swift effort from distance that Allsop pushed back in to the path of Reach, who finished well but was clearly in an offside position.
Philogene saw an effort well saved and Wallace toed a shot wide at the other end as both sides failed to find a winner that would have meant so much.