Attendance: 18, 403
It was a familiar story at Ninian Park as defensive lapses cost The Rams dear in a game they did not deserve to lose 4-1 but Cardiff were clinical in front of goal to claim three points that virtually secured them a play-off birth. A good opening 45 minutes were spoilt by a Roger Johnson header from a Whittingham free kick and, despite a number of chances for Derby, the game was killed off just after the hour mark with two goals in two minutes from Gavin Rae and Jay Bothroyd. Another lapse at the back allowed in Eddie Johnson for the fourth before the same player was credited with the last touch at the other end as the visitors claimed a late consolation but the game was long since over as a contest.
Mile Sterjovski and John Eustace returned to the starting line-up in place of Kris Commons and Stephen Pearson in the two changes to Nigel Clough`s side following the draw with Burnley. Barry Bannan played the free role off Rob Hulse and was involved early on as he won a free kick 25 yards from goal. Robbie Savage`s effort deflected off the wall and bobbled into the area where John Eustace appeared to be tugged back but only a corner was given and this was cleared to safety.
Ross McCormack put over a dangerous ball from a set-piece wide on the left but it passed through the area without anyone getting a touch and the next chance fell to The Rams in a bright opening. John Eustace controlled a McEveley cross and fired in a bicycle kick that was well saved by Stuart Taylor. Gary Teale`s corner was not dealt with by the Cardiff defence and Eustace`s effort beat Taylor before being cleared off the line by Mark Kennedy.
It was somewhat against the run of play that Cardiff took the lead on sixteen minutes when former Ram Peter Whittingham delivered a free kick into the area and Roger Johnson rose unchallenged to glance a header past Bywater. The home side visibly grew in confidence and Michael Chopra then had low shot that was grabbed by Bywater at the second attempt.
Barry Bannan was then involved again as his run and pass found Sterjovski well and the Australian`s touch was good but he flashed an effort just wide of the near post from a good position inside the area. The Rams were still on top and a number of promising positions were wasted when crosses were unable to pick out the Derby player as the visitor`s pushed Cardiff all the way but couldn`t find that vital equaliser their play deserved before the break.
John Eustace had the first effort of the second half but his header from another Gary Teale cross looped over and, after a more even opening to the half, Cardiff put the game out of site with two goals in two minutes just after the hour mark. Firstly, Jay Bothroyd`s knock down to Stephen McPhail allowed The Bluebird`s skipper to put Gavin Rae in on goal and he rounded Bywater to roll in the second before a Peter Whittingham corner was allowed to bounce in the area and Jay Bothroyd reacted quickest to stab home from close range.
Clough made changes with Kris Commons and Tito Villa coming off the bench for Rob Hulse and Barry Bannan between the two goals and Andy Todd then replaced Martin Albrecthsen after the third. The goals had virtually ended the game as a contest with Cardiff beginning to play some football for the first time on the night and Eddie Johnson replaced Jay Bothroyd. The American substitute was handed a fourth on a plate when Andy Todd`s loose touch allowed the Cardiff man to run clear on goal before slipping his shot past Bywater.
The Rams had the ball in the back of the net through Tito Villa but the whistle had gone for handball in the build-up. They did get a late consolation goal when a Gary Teale corner was sliced into his own net by Eddie Johnson but it was too little to late and another promising display had been undermined by Derby`s defensive frailties.