DCSIMG

Leaders beat illness hit Pool

Tom Ince battles for the ball

Tom Ince battles for the ball

TOMMY Smith fired Cardiff 10 points clear at the top of the Championship.

Smith, who has previously earned promotion to the top flight with Watford and QPR, came back from a hamstring injury with a substitute appearance against Ipswich last weekend and his deflected second-half volley - a maiden strike for the Bluebirds - proved enough to sink Blackpool in an even contest.

Sought-after winger Tom Ince spurned the hosts’ best opportunity in a first-half of few chances.

Pool goalkeeper Matt Gilks denied Smith on the stroke of half-time but he could do nothing when the attacking midfielder struck venomously goalwards in the 64th minute.

Four minutes earlier Blackpool’s Gary Taylor-Fletcher cancelled out Kim Bo-Kyung’s 53rd minute opener.

The managerless Seasiders are without a win in eight matches as the search for Michael Appleton’s successor continues.

Blackpool’s pre-match preparations under caretaker boss Steve Thompson were thrown into disarray by a sickness bug that sidelined skipper Alex Baptiste and fellow defenders Neal Eardley and Stephen Crainey, along with forward Nathan Eccleston.

Bob Harris, Craig Cathcart, Ludovic Sylvestre and Tiago Gomes came into Thompson’s XI with the versatile Chris Basham reverting from midfield to right-back.

Illness also ruled out Craig Bellamy for Cardiff, with Joe Mason and Smith leading a new-look attack, while centre-back Ben Turner’s hamstring problem meant a start for Kevin McNaughton and a defensive reshuffle.

Mason was denied a penalty as he went to ground under pressure in the opening stages and Smith fired wire from the edge of the area as Cardiff started brightly.

Ince’s intelligence of movement never allowed the reshaped Bluebirds defence to settle and visiting goalkeeper David Marshall did well to thwart him in the 19th minute after Taylor-Fletcher’s clever first-time pass sent the England Under-21 star clear.

Kim dragged a shot just past the far post in the 23rd minute having brought Craig Conway’s right-wing cross under control with an excellent first touch.

Smith might have given City the lead five minutes before half-time but he failed to find the decisive touch as another dangerous Conway centre flashed across goal.

Ince stole behind the visitor’s backline following a precise pass from Sylvestre only for the ball to run out for a goalkick as he looked to deceive Marshall.

In the final seconds of the half, Smith drew a sharp stop from Gilks - reacting first after Mark Hudson’s shot was blocked.

More confusion between Hudson and Connolly at the heart of Cardiff’s defence almost let Taylor-Fletcher slide home in the 53rd minute but the league leaders were soon ahead.

Bob Harris’ attempted clearance from Smith’s left-wing cross looped upwards, allowing Aron Gunnarson to thump a volley against the base of the post and leave Kim with a simple task from the rebound.

Taylor-Fletcher had Blackpool level with an hour played - a clever drag-back earned Gomes space to stand up a cross to the far post where the experienced forward barrelled past Andrew Taylor to force a header home.

It was three goals in 10 minutes when a counter attack launched by Kim ended with Smith’s emphatic volley from the left-hand corner of the box glancing off Cathcart and beyond Gilks - his fourth in seven appearances against Blackpool.

Ince twisted and turned past Taylor to test Marshall from 25 yards but Blackpool’s late endeavour did not result in clear-cut chances.

 

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