Robin Lovegrove’s late deflection kept Cardiff’s promotion hopes alive and condemned Southgate to relegation in this Now: Pensions Promotion Playoff. The Welsh side must wait and see what the outcome of Wimbledon vs Sheffield Hallam is, but have done all they can. For Southgate, there is to be no reprieve.
The game started off as an understandably cagey affair. Chances in the first half were few and far between, but Southgate managed to convert their best chance. Talismanic captain Dan Shingles fired a lovely pass into the D which was guided into the bottom corner by John Sterlini.
Cardiff’s best chance of the half was a turn and shot on the edge of the D by Morgan Harries. Southgate, having got their noses in front looked content to take the sting out of Cardiff’s attacks. This meant the game reached half time without too much incident.
Shortly after the break Shingles was forced to leave the field with what appeared to be a head injury. It was a huge loss which was to be reflected in Southgate’s performance for the rest of the game. Cardiff began to exert more and more pressure, Rich Howson saw a decent chance fly over the bar from a Henry Eriksson cross and then Howson delayed his shot too long when clean through, allowing the defender to get a block in.
Southgate seemed to be struggling to get out of their half, sitting deeper and deeper, inviting pressure from Cardiff’s waves of attacks. Liam Brignull deflected a cross just wide, but you sensed the goal was coming. Minutes later, that’s exactly what happened. Mark Whatling drilled a cross in from outside the 25 a few inches off the ground, Howson got a feint touch which was enough to guide the ball into the corner.
Southgate thought they’d re-taken the lead just seconds later, but after a conversation between the two umpires the goal was overturned due to the ball striking an attacker’s body.
With time running out, Cardiff struck what proved to be a winner. Whatling did brilliantly to collect an aerial on the right-hand side, with the ball almost out of play he cut it back and found Robin Lovegrove who calmly slotted the ball home first time past the diving Chris Hibbert.
Southgate pushed hard to try and conjure an equaliser but it was too little, too late.
Cardiff moved to four points and face an anxious wait to see if the result of the Sheffield Hallam vs Wimbledon game goes in their favour. Once again, the promotion playoffs are going down to the wire.