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Capital losses for sad Smith

THE second division's Welsh derby went to form at Ninian Park last night as Cardiff City edged into the play-off spots for the first time this season and increased Wrexham's relegation fears.

THE second division's Welsh derby went to form at Ninian Park last night as Cardiff City edged into the play-off spots for the first time this season and increased Wrexham's relegation fears.

But, like the outcome of last week's match at Northampton, which was harsh on the Dragons, the scoreline barely reflected a 90 minutes dominated by the home side for long periods of the game.

Starting with the line-up that put seven goals past Oldham Athletic last weekend, City applied pressure from the opening minute with full-back Andy Legg twice having opportunities to bomb his long throw-in into the Wrexham penalty area.

And the full-back produced a mazy run in the sixth minute before finding Leo Fortune-West who, despite the close attentions of Dennis Lawrence, got a shot off, which was saved by Marius Rovde.

Dragons boss Denis Smith had Dan Bennett playing just in front of the back four, presumably to curtail Graham Kavanagh's creative skills, but the early signs were not good as the City man simply dropped deeper and drew his opponent further away from the Wrexham defence.

Wayne Phillips and Jim Whitley were booked in quick succession in their desperation to stem the tide but Cardiff were not to be denied and took control of the match with two goals in three minutes.

The opener came in the 14th minute when Kavanagh's freekick was met by Fortune-West, whose header was turned into the net by Scott Young, his effort ricocheting down from the crossbar to cross the line.

Trundle became the third Wrexham man to be cautioned for a challenge born out of frustration and after 17 minutes it was 2-0. On-loan Middlesbrough striker Andy Campbell found himself in space on the right and his cross was met by the unmarked Peter Thorne for a simple finish.

It might have been worse for the visitors save that the former Stoke City man then missed his kick in front of goal following more good work by Campbell. And Wrexham made the most of their fortune to briefly threaten through Trundle, whose shot was comfortably held by Alexander.

Wrexham's defence simply looked out of their depth and they had another let-off after 27 minutes when Fortune-West, looking suspiciously offside, flicked the ball forward for Campbell whose volley struck a post.

So dominant were City that the home crowd were stunned into silence when the Dragons pulled a goal back after 34 minutes. Legg's foul on Trundle was seized upon by Darren Ferguson and his quickly-taken free-kick was met at the far post by the diving Craig Faulconbridge for a header which flew past Alexander.

The home defence suddenly looked vulnerable and Faulconbridge twice caused havoc in the penalty area as City defenders struggled to clear but it left Wrexham susceptible to the counter-attack and Shaun Pejic picked up his side's fourth yellow card when he bundled over the breaking Campbell.

The visitors needed a solid start to the second half but they had not reckoned with Welsh under-21 international defender Danny Gabbidon, who surged forward after 47 minutes to score a superb solo effort from the edge of the penalty area and Rovde had to make a fine save from Legg just seconds later.

And Wrexham did not help their cause with some wayward passing, although the introduction of Carlos Edwards for Phillips after 57 minutes injected some pace into their attempts to take the game to their opponents.

Trundle won a free-kick on 64 minutes and when Paul Barrett's shot was blocked, Pejic drove the rebound just over the Cardiff bar but it was all too disjointed for the Dragons, who simply could not keep possession long enough to build any momentum.

But Ferguson, always his side's most creative outlet, did his best to lead by example, while Bennett began to push up more as the minutes ticked away, and City had to defend more often. Alexander, though, was rarely troubled as Gabbidon, Spencer Prior and Young soaked up everything that came their way and Wrexham could not afford to make any mistakes at the back with the eager Campbell looking to punish their every slip.

And the visitors were rewarded for their never-saydie attitude with a consolation goal two minutes from time when substitute Hector Sam took a superb pass from Ferguson to curl a wonderful effort past Alexander.

Cardiff endured a nervous four minutes of added time as Sam again went close and Wrexham forced a succession of corners that left the home crowd whistling for the conclusion.

CARDIFF CITY: Alexander; Weston (Collins 74), Prior, Gabbidon, Young, Legg; Boland, Kavanagh, Thorne (Brayson 82); Campbell (Simpkins 90), Fortune-West. Subs: Walton, Jones.

WREXHAM: Rovde; Whitley, Lawrence, Pejic, Holmes; Bennett (Sam 86), Barrett, Phillips (Edwards 57), Ferguson; Faulconbridge, Trundle. Subs: Walsh, Carey, Sharp.

BOOKINGS: Wrexham's Phillips, Whitley, Trundle, Pejic

REFEREE: Peter Walton (Northants). ATT: 15,702.


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
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