Cardiff City 2-1 Southampton: Academy boy Cian Ashford the hero in dramatic Bluebirds win

Cian Ashford was the hero

By Callum Buckle

Academy product Cian Ashford snatched an injury-time winner to earn Cardiff City a memorable comeback victory and ruin Southampton’s chances of automatic promotion from the Championship.

The 19-year-old, in only his second senior appearance, picked up the ball on the left-hand side and was allowed time and space by the Southampton defence to drive infield and fire a shot into the bottom left corner of the net via a deflection off Jan Bednarek.

While Cardiff now only have the incentive of finishing as high up the table as possible, the goal sparked raucous celebrations among the home faithful, who revelled in the knowledge that victory meant the end of Saints’ charge for the top two – under former Swansea boss Russell Martin.

For the majority of the game the momentum was with the away side as they created chance after chance, especially in a completely dominant first-half display.

In the eighth minute the visitors struck the post, with Stuart Armstrong given time in the middle of the pitch to set himself and get his shot off with City stopper Ethan Horvath at full stretch.

Not long after the Saints made their breakthrough in the 14th minute courtesy of Joe Aribo, who finished low following Adam Armstrong’s shot which was parried into his path by Horvath.

The onslaught continued almost immediately, as two minutes later, an aerial back-pass from Alfie Tanner was met with a heavy touch from Horvath.

Armstrong was first to pounce and was challenged as the ball fell to Wales’ international winger David Brooks who faced an open-goal, but took too long to finish and allowed Horvath to recover.

The Bluebirds had a couple of chances in the first half which all involved winger Tanner with a few crossing opportunities. The most notable came in the 18th minute as Tanner crossed to find David Turnbull, whose header was straight at Saints ‘keeper Alex McCarthy.

More of the same Southampton control in the early parts of the first half followed.

But in the 68th minute Cardiff boss erol Bulut changed things as he introduced academy product Raheem Conte – who made an immediate impact.

An electrifying drive from Conte to the byline ended with a ball along the floor being helped along by Yakou Meite for Famara Diedhiou to tap home an equaliser.

A spirited Cardiff side pressed on. They had a penalty shout waved away by referee Oliver Langford and Meite went to ground twice following darting runs into the box only for penalty shouts to be ignored.

Nobody could have foreseen Ashford’s stunning intervention so deep into stoppage time, but the goal ensured a memorable moment in an otherwise unremarkable season for City.

The result put the brakes on a Saints surge courtesy of a three-game winning streak and results elsewhere going in their favour. The play-offs now look almost certain to be their route back to the top flight – if they can negotiate them.

As for Erol Bulut’s side, they have long known their fate for next season but questions around Bulut’s future are still being asked.

The Bluebirds are next in action back at the Cardiff City Stadium as they host Middlesborough next Saturday.