Ledley lets Bluebirds take flight

SO the FA Cup proved to be a fleeting romance for Barnsley’s Kayode Odejayi. For Cardiff’s Joe Ledley, however, the competition is turning out to be an affair to remember.

Odejayi was the goal-scoring hero of Barnsley’s memorable quarter-final win over Chelsea, but he left Wembley yesterday as the villian of the piece after the miss that ended his side’s fairytale run.

Instead the glory goes to Ledley. The Wales midfielder produced a sublime first-half volley to send Cardiff to the final for the first time in 81 years, with Portsmouth lying in wait for Dave Jones’ Championship side on May 17.

The Bluebirds are the only non-English club ever to win the competition and it would be entirely in keeping with the unpredictable nature of the competition this season if they emulated that 1927 success against Arsenal when they return to Wembley next month.

“For Joe, because he has been brought up at the club, it’s magnificent,” Jones said. “It was a special goal and it would have graced any match, never mind a semi-final. It’s with him for the rest of his life, no-one can take it away from home.

“The final will be anyone’s game. It’s not about turning up and being a bit part. We want to win it and why shouldn’t we? I’ve said all season if we play to our potential we are a match for anyone.”

After Ledley’s ninth-minute goal, a hard-fought encounter turned when Odejayi galloped clear in the 67th minute. The Nigerian striker had only Cardiff goalkeeper Peter Enckleman to beat but shot tamely into the side-netting.

It was the decisive moment but Barnsley manager Simon Davey refused to blame Odejayi. “You are hoping he’s going to score the goal but I’ll never criticise my players in public,” he said.

“Kayode will come back from that. He is still improving as a player. Every player in that dressing room is disappointed, not just Kayode.

“The result is difficult to take. We’ve had a long journey. To come past Liverpool and Chelsea and get close to a Wembley final, it’s difficult to swallow. We just fell short at the end.”

That they did so was due to Ledley’s sublime goal. After Tony Capaldi’s long throw was only half-cleared, Rob Kozluk could only head towards Ledley and he hooked a superb dipping volley into the roof of Luke Steele’s net from just inside the penalty area.

Then Odejayi had that glorious chance in the 67th minute. It proved the key moment as the belief suddenly flooded out of Barnsley’s tiring players. Cardiff's journey, meanwhile, could yet lead to the UEFA Cup, after Europe's governing body confirmed last night that the club could be considered for a wild card entry into next season's tournament, despite being affiliated to the Welsh FA.

BARNSLEY (4-4-2): Steele 6, Van Homoet 5, Foster 6, Souza 7, Kozluk 5 (Butterfield 86, 5) , Devaney 6 (Leon 68, 5), Hassell 5, Howard 6, Campbell Ryce 5, Ferenczi 5 (Coulson 65, 5), Odejayi 5.

Subs Not Used: Togwell, Letheren.

CARDIFF (4-4-2): Enckleman 5, McNaughton 6 (Ramsey 48, 5), Loovens 6, Johnson 6, Capaldi 6, Whittingham 6, Rae 7, McPhail 7, Ledley 7, Sinclair 6 (Thompson 62, 5), Hasselbaink 5 (Scimeca 88, 5).

Subs Not Used: Purse, Oakes.

REFEREE: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire) 7: With so much at stake both teams were on their best behaviour and Wiley had few big decisions to make. Kept a lid on any potential flare-ups.

MATCH RATING: *** While the quality may not always have been the highest to grace Wembley, Cardiff’s return to the cup final is the kind of romantic the old competition has always thrived on.

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox