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Fulham 2-1 Cardiff Cham 41 1516- Wales on Line

last updated Monday 11th April 2016, 1:31 PM

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Phil Smith at Wales on Line

Fulham (0) 2-1 (1) Cardiff

In the end, it took less than thirty seconds to undo what has been months of good work.

Scott Parker will have scarcely believed his luck, running out of Craven Cottage tunnel to his starting spot, barely pausing for breath before one more surge took him into the Cardiff box unchallenged to put Fulham level.

Slade’s team never recovered from that sucker punch.

Whether they can do so in the coming week remains to be seen, as the heartache felt after the late winner here will be deep.

Their inability to track the run of Parker was all the more surprising and disappointing given how miserly they have been in recent times.

The threat of Ross McCormack and Moussa Dembele has been given great billing in the run up to this one, but they were marshalled so well in the first forty five.

Indeed, you wondered whether they would follow Andre Gray in becoming the latest much-hyped strikers to suffer at the hands of Manga and Marshall.

The main error here was not in allowing Fulham to score the winner, a cruel moment but always a possibility when the Bluebirds’ decided to go for all three points.

No, the main error was letting Fulham get back into it so soon after having them on the ropes and ripe for the knockout.

Russell Slade showed real bravery in playing with a front three for the final stages, with Saadi and Zohore tasked with reversing the momentum that was increasingly going the way of the Lilywhite’s.

It was the right time for such a show of ambition, but fortune was not to favour the brave on this occasion.

So where does this leave Cardiff City?

There remains a richly promising future if this team can be held together.

They had almost sealed this on the break, when Sean Morrison leapt to meet Peter Whittingham’s corner, desperately unlucky to see it bounce back off the past.

In the end, it may be those few inches that could end their play-off hopes.

Had they taken a two goal lead into the break, it would surely have been unassailable.

It would have sent the travelling fans into raptures, and that would have been no less than they deserved.

They were magnificent all afternoon, roaring their team on, loud and proud.

The Bluebirds’ support seem savvy enough to know that this is a hard-working side who are both talented and committed, their generous reception at the final whistle a nod too that.

But this truly is the cruelest of divisions. Slade’s team have navigated their way through a serious of challenges since the turn of the year, and they looked in rude health as the opening period ended.

That one lapse, the worst and most disappointing for a while, will be infuriating.

They have worked so hard to put themselves in the play-off picture.

After this, those hopes are very much in the balance.

We should be reaching a point now, whether Cardiff sneak into the top six or not, where planning for next season begins.

Yesterday reinforced that the core of this team is worth persevering with.

The Dutchman Lex Immers was serenaded by his adoring fans again, and he rewarded them not just with a goal but a determination to cover every blade of grass in search of a win.

It will be hard to keep him away from the admiring clutches of other teams, as will be the case with the likes of Manga and Marshall.

It will be a shame if the lack of a play-off place means their talents are lost, because they have proven in recent times that they will deliver more moments of joy than the heartbreak felt at the final whistle.

With his own contract situation up in arms, Slade’s late gamble was all the more creditable.

He will look at the energy, class and talent of Moussa Dembele and know he is one or two similar players away from a top Championship outfit.

If he does not get the chance to build it, how he will rue those thirty inexplicable seconds a the start of the second half.

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