Gunnerson shines as the Bluebirds begin 2012 with an emphatic win over Reading!

By Yousef Haider - Radio Cardiff Sports Presenter

Hello and welcome to 2012. I hope you all had a Merry Christmas, and what better way to start the year than to get three points against a team that caused so much pain in 2011.

It was Reading who put an end to Cardiff's play-off dreams last season, but this year we are a much different team. 

There were a few points of interest in the team selection. 

Joe Mason partnered Miller up front. Since Earnshaw's injury, Miller has been playing the lone striker role so this fairly adventurous from MacKay.

Darcy Blake stepped in at right back, with massive boots to fill as McNaughton has been outstanding all season.

Finally, Joe Ralls started another match, this time on the left wing, which was the first time I would get to see him play there.

Looking around the ground, it had to be commented on that Readings away fans was the best turnout I have seen for a long time. It looked an absolute sell-out for them and as many away fans as I can remember seeing here.

10 minutes into the match, not long after Mark Hudson made the most important challenge of the match, Joe Mason broke into the box and the roar of the crowd may have put him off as he slipped and slid on the wet pitch, however he kept his balance, and didn't go over. This may have caused the defence to lose concentration and Mason fired home to score Cardiff’s first goal of 2012 and put the home side 1-0 up.

After 18 minutes, a Whittingham corner curled into the box and Gunnerson met it at the near post and scored his 5th goal of the season to put City 2-0 up. This was looking all too easy for Cardiff. The score line did flatter slightly as Reading looked confident going forward but looked sloppy at the back.

Twenty minutes into the game, the heavens opened, and showered us with the gift of water. The rain was pouring down worse than I remember seeing. 

A long ball over the top saw Kenny Miller chase and put the lone reading defender under considerable pressure, he passed back to his keeper, who Miller continued to pressure, but he managed to clutch the ball to safety, and keep hold of it when Miller knocked him over.

Malky Mackay was then summoned to do his usual ‘Ayatollah’, which he braved the wet weather to do, and then gave his poor hands a little shake before returning them to his pocket.

Joe Ralls was having one of the best games of his short career. He has often shown flashes of brilliance, but failed to have a real influence on a match, however today was different. 

On 27 minutes he put Miller through on goal. Miller tried to go round his man, who got a touch on the ball, the touch favoured Miller, who again tried to round another defender, who again, got a touch on the ball, and yet again the touch favoured Miller, as was the type of luck we were getting, however all luck comes to end sometimes and the chance came to nothing. 

Some fantastic passing and movement was coming from the Cardiff players, and they looked like a great team. Confidently switching the play long and short, lots of fluid movement with people roaming forward and someone else taking over their defensive duties, and on 30 minutes, Ralls was involved again, this time it was his turn to be put through on goal. He had an age to decide how best to finish this chance, however it was on his left foot, which clearly is not his best, and the shot which was less than tame trickled towards the keeper.

On 36 minutes, the ball was being built up the pitch slowly. Darcy Blake involved many times, he passed it in field to Peter Whittingham. Whitts played it straight back to him and surveyed the pitch. He demanded the ball back immediately which he got, and without hesitation he instantly played an absolutely divine pass through the middle of the defence which Miller ran onto and finished with aplomb. 

It was a superb goal, and the crowd sang Kenny Millers name. Kenny's run was excellent, but I couldn't help but feel sorry for Whittingham who was the real mastermind of this goal. Words cannot do justice to his reading of the game at that moment, and how perfect the pass was. It wasn't an obvious pass at all, there didn't look like there was anything on, but he absolutely screamed for the ball, I thought he fancied a shot, but he had seen the goal in his mind, before he even got the ball. Magnificent. 3-0 Cardiff.

Just before half time, as thoughts turned to getting warmed up, out of nowhere, Reading managed to get a goal, from a Cardiff old boy no less, Jobi McAnuff and the considerable Reading away fans could be heard singing "4-3....were gonna win 4-3" was definitely funny, but as the whistle blew for half time, we would have to wait and see whether it came true.

But at half time it was Cardiff 3-1 Reading.

The second half began in better weather, and a better performance from Reading. They must have had some clear instructions at half time, and if I was in charge, a serious dressing down as well, because they seemed a bit toothless in the first half. For all the good work Cardiff did, Reading rolled over with little fight, but this half they seemed to be trying much harder.

The first 20 minutes were pretty much all Reading, culminating in a penalty claim on 64 minutes and then an unmarked player skying a volley over the bar. 

If they could get a goal now, the three goal advantage that Cardiff built up at one point would be distant memory. Someone needed to step up.

While reading passed it around in their own half, it was Joe Ralls who nipped in and intercepted the ball. He dribbled intelligently, holding up the ball and allowing his team mates to get involved, he found the run of Mason who tried to manoeuvre, got nowhere, but managed to lay it back, again to Joe Ralls who had taken up a good position. Joe Ralls shot, with his left again, however this time a much better shot curled towards the top left corner bringing out the best from the Reading goal keeper who saved the ball and knocked it out for a corner.

On 70 minutes plus, Joe Mason made way for Rudy Gestede, as the second half failed to live up to the enthralling first.

Lots of passing and no end product although In the 79th, a brilliant exchange of passes found Ralls out wide who knocked a low pass into the box which caused confusion and a goal mouth scramble which somehow the Reading goalkeeper came out of with the ball, and his life.

Miller nearly doubled his tally as we got into the last 10 minutes however a good save from the keeper denied him, and moments later, another good move ended up in a cross from Darcy Blake found Rudy Gestede who rose beautifully and headed on target, from point blank range, only to be denied again by the keeper with what really was as good a save as you will ever see, and in a match that had plenty of magical moments, THAT save was as good as any of them. 

The final 10 minutes of this match had really exploded into action and was a joy to watch.

Cardiff looked exciting breaking forward as Reading continued to try and make the score at least more respectable, mostly from the dribbling of Kebe down the right.

4 minutes of normal time and Kenny Miller and Ben Turner left the pitch so that Anthony Gerrard and Stephen McPhail could get in on the action.

3 minutes of added time were announced, and an energetic Rudy Gestede was released by a long ball. He held his man off, and attempted an audacious shot from out wide, which flew wide, but only just, and would have been goal of the season but for a few inches.

He seemed keen to show he was fully fit and in the short time he had been on the pitch, he managed to put in a good shift.

The match drew to a close and the three points belonged to the bluebirds.

Kenny Miller was named Man of the Match by the sponsors and Gunnerson by the fans, but in reality, there were at least another three or four players who were in with a shout. Including the visiting goal keeper, without whom, the score could have been much higher than Cardiff 3-1 Reading.


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