United end Elland Road run against the Bluebirds...
UNITED 1 (Mowatt 63), CARDIFF 0
United team: Silvestri, Wootton, Cooper, Bellusci, Berardi, Dallas (Byram 82), Murphy, Cook, Mowatt (Phillips 87), Antenucci (Doukara 90+2), Wood. Subs: Horton, Sloth, Buckley, Botaka.
Cardiff team: Marshall, Peltier, Morrison, Connolly, Malone, Ralls, Gunnarsson, Whittingham (Pilkington 77), Noone (Ameobi 60), Revell (Jones 67), Mason. Subs: John, Tamas, Moore, O'Keefe.
Referee: Carl Boyeson
Booked: Bellusci (United), Whittingham (Cardiff)
Att: 17,914 (184 Cardiff)
The midweek visit of Cardiff City saw United head coach Steve Evans make three changes from the home defeat to Blackburn Rovers five days earlier.
Two of those were enforced, with Giuseppe Bellusci replacing the suspended Sol Bamba in defence, while Alex Mowatt came in for on-loan Tom Adeyemi who was ineligible to face his parent club. Elsewhere, Scott Wootton was handed a start at right back in place of Sam Byram.
The hosts made a solid if unspectacular start at Elland Road, controlling possession without truly testing the Cardiff defence inside the opening 15 minutes.
Mirco Antenucci had an early penalty appeal waved away after going down under pressure from former United captain Lee Peltier, before Cardiff had their first sight of goal at the opposite end as Alex Revell – a player who worked under Evans during his time at Rotheram – lashed a speculative half-volley high and wide from range.
Final balls were once again proving to be a source of frustration for Evans’ side, with a number of deliveries towards the area easily dealt with by the Cardiff defence.
United’s first effort on goal came after 29 minutes, though, as the lively Stuart Dallas burst forward before dragging a low 25-yard effort wide of David Marshall’s far post.
That appeared to lift the home crowd and their team, with Antenucci threatening moments later after Gaetano Berardi and Dallas had combined.
Berardi’s ball from deep was played back across goal by the outstretched leg of Dallas, but Antenucci, somewhat off-balance under pressure from two blue shirts, was just unable to turn the ball on target from a tight angle.
It signalled the start of a good period for United, with only some last-ditch Cardiff defending denying Mowatt from hammering home Dallas’ low cross, before the Northern Ireland winger called Marshall into action with a stinging strike after cutting inside from the right.
A strong end to the opening 45 minutes saw Lewis Cook smash over from distance before Chris Wood headed Bellusci’s deep cross wide as the sides went in level at the break.
A quiet start to the second period saw few chances for either team and the game was crying out for inspiration as we passed the hour mark.
But that duly came on 63 minutes through Mowatt’s first goal of the season, a thunderous 25-yard strike which left Marshall helpless as it whistled into the top corner.
It was just the lift Elland Road needed and United looked good for their lead.
Marco Silvestri did need to be alert at the opposite end, though, pushing away Joe Mason’s effort before clutching Sean Morrison’s header.
The visitors pushed men forward but struggled to carve out too many chances of note, with both Sammy Ameobi and Kenwyne Jones introduced in attack.
Evans brought Byram on in the closing stages, replacing Dallas on the right, and the youngster was involved almost immediately, skipping his way towards the byline before seeing his chipped cross held by Marshall in the air.
United came agonisingly close to putting the game to bed with six minutes remaining on the clock as Chris Wood seized upon a loose ball and rounded the onrushing Marshall. But the angle was tight for the striker, and he slammed into the side-netting with blue shirts covering on the line.
Evans' men then held firm during four minutes of added time to claim a first home win in 13 matches and a first victory over Cardiff for over 30 years.