BARNSLEY 1 (Shackell 63)
CARDIFF CITY 2 (Bellamy 42, Olofinjana 68)
IN big games you need the big decision to be made correctly. Barnsley paid the ultimate price for that at Oakwell as Cardiff ran out controversial winners.
Reds boss Mark Robins welcomed back Garry O'Connor and Jay McEveley for the visit of high-flying Cardiff City and the Scottish pair were right back in the thick of the action from the start. Bobby Hassell failed to shake off the effects of the groin injury which forced him out of the action at Scunthorpe in midweek and was replaced at right back by Kieran Trippier while Chris Wood and Hugo Colace also returned. Luke Potter, Jacob Butterfield, Goran Lovre and Andy Gray missed out.
After a week of speculation, rumour and bluffing, Cardiff City did have Craig Bellamy in their starting eleven for the game following his recent knee troubles. It wasn't much of a surprise as all the signals from South Wales pointed to the Manchester City man being involved in some capacity and this was confirmed in the build up to kick off when his shirt was hanging in the Cardiff dressing room.
Referee Trevor Kettle stamped his authority on the game in the opening seconds by giving a soft foul against Colace for a challenge on Seyi Olofinjana. Peter Whittingham curled a decent free kick inches over the top of the bar.
Cardiff were causing their own problems at the back as Olofinjana and Mark Hudson spectacularly clashed in the air as both went for Jim O'Brien's hanging cross. Hudson came off worse.
The Reds were getting into some great positions in the opening exchanged but the final cross was lacking as both McEveley and Trippier blazed over the bar. Still, at least the officials were giving Cardiff a helping hand as more and more went against the Reds in the first 15 minutes, not least when the ball was clearly played off Bellamy and out for a goal kick. Thankfully Whittingham could not make his mark on the game when the Reds struggled to deal with the resulting controversial corner.
At the other end Diego Arismendi lashed one wide of the mark on 17 minutes as the Reds finally found another gear. The midfielder saw a fine effort deflect away and just over three minutes later as Cardiff struggled to clear their lines.
Adam Hammill had Oakwell on its feet on 25 minutes with a thrilling run into the heart of the Cardiff defence only to be hacked down by Chris Burke. The ball squirmed through to Wood, who was denied a clear shot on target by the linesman's flag.
Clear chances were few and far between although O'Connor went close on 35 minutes with an improvised back header from Trippier's cross but the ball flew over the top of Tom Heaton's bar.
Jason Shackell had Cardiff scrambling on 38 minutes as he got his head to McEveley's corner but Hudson was in the right place to clear from inside his own six yard box as Stephen Foster looked to pounce.
Wood and O'Brien then combined well to open up Cardiff from Luke Steele's long kick but the Kiwi striker could only shoot high over the top from a great position in the area.
Barnsley were undone by a moment of quality from what had really been a poor Cardiff side in the opening half. Bothroyd picked out a fine pass to Whittingham at the back post and the midfielder rolled the ball back for Bellamy to place past Steele. It was the only thing Cardiff had done in the first half.
Hammill was determined not to be outshone by the Welshman and brought a fine save from Heaton moments later with a rasping free kick that the Cardiff keeper did well to hold.
Bellamy then showed the other side of his game with a ridiculous elbow on Hammill on half way that left the winger in agony. It was an ugly moment for the Manchester City star, who really should have been shown some sort of card by the referee. Perhaps unsurprisingly Bellamy got away with a lecture from Trevor Kettle.
Hammill though was shown a yellow card in stoppage time for a frustrated lunge through Burke on the touchline.
Cardiff were threatening at the start of the second half and Steele had to make his first save of the afternoon on 54 minutes as he did well to palm Bothroyd's free kick over the bar. It was a routine stop for the Reds' number one.
City had the ball in the back of the net again seconds later as Bothroyd netted from Bellamy's corner but the striker was denied by the officials' flag. Cardiff were finally looking a decent side and Bellamy almost put a goal on a plate for Burke on 56 minutes but the winger missed his kick horribly from 16 yards and the ball flew wide.
Barnsley finally came on strong on the hour mark as Shackell nodded McEveley's free kick down into the six yard box but Cardiff somehow managed to clear. The danger had not gone and Foster was inches away from a goal as he met Colace's fine cross seconds later but his header looped over the top.
The Reds were level on 63 minutes when O'Brien's short corner caused absolute chaos in the Cardiff area. Arismendi and Foster both had swings at the ball but it was eventually scrambled home by skipper Shackell through a crowd of players.
Referee Kettle then stamped his mark on the game at Oakwell by awarding a very, very controversial penalty to Cardiff less than two minutes later for a handball in the area after Foster had been blatantly wrestled away from Whittingham's corner. It was a very controversial decision but Steele was magnificent in turning Whittingham's superbly struck kick away.
Cardiff did snatch the lead again seconds later - and again there was controversy - as Whittingham prodded Bellamy's corner back goalward for Olofinjana to turn in on the line. He was miles offside.
McEveley almost embarrassed the Reds on 70 minutes as he hacked Lee Naylor's cross over his own bar. Cardiff went agonisingly close again from Whittingham's corner as Olofinjana rose unchallenged but planted his header against the upright.
Barnsley were almost level seconds later as O'Brien met Trippier's pass but hit the sidenetting at full tilt. At the other end Bothroyd put a header in the sidenetting on 73 minutes after fine play down the right by Bellamy.
The big chance came on 77 minutes as McEveley's superb free kick from the left caught out the Cardiff City defence but Foster nodded over from six yards with the goal gaping.
Gray went close from another fine McEveley cross on 80 minutes before Cardiff were reduced to ten men seconds later after Blake needlessly tripped Hammill. It was about the only thing the referee got right in the second half although he really had no choice but the dismiss the midfielder.
Hammill tested Heaton on 82 minutes while Arismendi was booked a minute later for barging through Olofinjana. Hammill continued his duel with Heaton on 88 minutes with an outstanding left footed effort from the edge of the box that brought an even better save from the Cardiff keeper.
BARNSLEY: Steele, Trippier, Foster, Shackell, McEveley, Hammill, Colace, Arismendi (Butterfield 89), O'Brien, Wood (Gray 57), O'Connor.
Subs: Preece, Doyle, Lovre, Neumann, Potter.
CARDIFF CITY: Heaton, McNaughton, Naylor, Blake, Hudson, Gyepes, Olofinjana, Bothroyd, Whittingham, Burke, Bellamy.
Subs: Marshall, Quinn, McPhail, Rae, Koumas, Keogh, Wildig.
House Of Fraser Man Of The Match: Hugo Colace
Trevor Kettle (Rutland)
Paul Curry (Northumberland) and Nick Greenhalgh (Lancashire)
David Plowright (Nottinghamshire)
Away Attendance: 778
Match Report by Rob Knowles.
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