Wood double gives Burnley win over Cardiff in relegation scrap
BURNLEY, England,: Chris Wood scored twice as Burnley virtually assured Premier League safety with a 2-0 win over fellow strugglers Cardiff City on Saturday which left the Welsh club deep in relegation trouble and their manager Neil Warnock fuming.
Cardiff, occupying the final relegation slot in 18th place, are on 28 points, five behind 17th-placed Brighton with five games remaining. Burnley, who have won three in a row, move up to 14th place on 39 points – 11 ahead of Cardiff.
But for the large travelling Welsh support the game will be remembered for a second half penalty incident when, with the score at 1-0 to Burnley, referee Mike Dean changed his mind after initially pointing to the spot.
New Zealander Wood, who had struck the post in the second minute, put the Clarets in front in the 31st minute with a fine header from a Dwight McNeil corner.
Burnley then had several chances to add to their lead with Cardiff keeper Neil Etheridge twice doing well to keep out shots from Clarets midfielder Ashley Westwood.
Just before the break, Burnley’s Ashley Barnes was booked after a confrontation with Joe Bennett where he appeared to kiss the Cardiff defender on the nose.
Cardiff came out strongly after the interval and thought they had a great chance to level three minutes into the second half when they were initially awarded a penalty for a handball by Ben Mee.
The linesman’s flag was raised after Mee headed the ball at his own hand and Dean responded by pointing to the spot.
But after consulting with his assistant Darren Cann, Dean changed his mind, leading to angry protests from the Cardiff players and sighs of relief from the home crowd.
“Mike must have seen something to go over and we’re gutted really. I think Darren made the right decision and Mike has talked him out of it,” said Warnock.
Junior Hoilett then wasted a great chance for Cardiff, blasting high over the bar after being found unmarked inside the area.
Burnley made sure of the win in stoppage time when Wood added his second goal, nodding home from close range after a winding run from winger McNeil whose low cross was clipped into the air by the sliding Bruno Manga.
The win means Burnley could be mathematically safe before their next game at Chelsea on Easter Monday but manager Sean Dyche was wary of assuming survival was now guaranteed.
“I don’t think you talk about that because you want it factually. You can’t guarantee it but I think we’re in a very, very healthy position,” he said.
Warnock’s side now play Brighton, who on Saturday suffered a 5-0 thrashing at home to Bournemouth, on Tuesday in a match which looks like the last chance for them to find a path away from the drop.
(Reporting by Simon Evans; editing by Clare Fallon and Pritha Sarkar)