Cardiff City 3-0 Nottingham Forest, Saturday 13th April
The Bluebirds moved to within a point of clinching promotion to the Premier League as they dented the Reds’ own chances of reaching the play-offs when striker Heidar Helguson opened the scoring just before the half-hour mark.
And Forest were hit with another body blow three minutes before the interval when Darius Henderson was handed a straight red card for a flailing elbow in a clash with Helguson before Gestede netted twice in a rampant second period, sealing the win for the hosts.
Reds boss Billy Davies made two changes to the side that drew with Blackpool last week -with Dexter Blackstock and Lewis McGugan both finding a place in the starting line-up.
Cardiff sat comfortably at the top of the table before this game and they showed exactly why in the early exchanges as they immediately began to burden the Forest defence. Former Derby man Tommy Smith’s cross-cum-shot looked dangerous but Reds’ keeper Karl Darlow grasped it well at his far post.
At the other end the visitors nearly drew first blood themselves – Chris Cohen surged down the left before squaring the ball back to Algerian midfielder Adlene Guedioura whose low long range effort fizzed just wide of David Marshall’s goal.
And soon after it was former Arsenal midfielder Henri Lansbury who spurred the Forest fans into life once again, however, his effort from the edge of the box curled well wide of the target.
Yet, it was the league leaders who grabbed the advantage with 26 minutes on the clock. Greg Halford’s clumsy challenge granted a free-kick down the left and Welsh international Craig Bellamy stepped up to pick out Helguson, peeling away from the defence to head home from close range.
The City Ground men were not shaken by the opening goal and looked to get on terms instantly. A driven shot from Lansbury was stopped by Marshall before the midfielder somehow managed to get on the end of the rebound to put a diving header across goal for Blackstock, who failed to get on the end of the pass.
Forest continued to try and catch the home side on the counter-attack and McGugan nearly found the vital equaliser when his free-kick wide on the left looked to be heading for goal until Marshall stretched out an arm to make a worthy save.
However, before the break things turned sour for the Reds who found themselves down to ten men when Henderson was shown a red card by referee Andre Marriner after catching Helguson in the face with his arm.
As the teams retuned for the second period things only got worse for the visitors, who saw defender Halford stretchered off after just two minutes when he appeared to catch a boot in the face. He was replaced by Danny Collins.
Marcus Tudgay made his comeback from injury for Forest in the attack replacing Radi Majewski at the interval and he looked to get the Reds level with a shot from the edge of the area – however, his effort deflected into the arms of Marshall.
The hosts had brought on Gestede at the break to replace goal scorer Helguson, and it was a wise move by Malky MacKay as he grabbed Cardiff’s second of the game right on the hour-mark. Andrew Taylor found space down the left before delivering a ball for the frontman to power home.
The south Wales side grew in confidence following the cushion and six minutes later Gestede secured a brace to leave the Reds with no way back. The goal another header, this time after the lofty striker met a corner floated in towards the far post.
It was damage limitation for Forest following the third goal and they spent the remainder of the game preventing Cardiff from snatching a fourth. The Bluebirds came close but Bellamy fired into the side netting.
Cardiff City: Marshall, McNaughton, Taylor, Turner, Kim, Smith (Noone, 74), Gunnarsson, Mutch (Whittingham, 88), Helguson (Gestede, 45), Barnett, Bellamy.
Nottingham Forest: Darlow, Jara, Ward, Halford (Collins, 50), Cohen, Guedioura (Moussi, 75), Lansbury, McGugan, Majewski (Tudgay, 45), Henderson, Blackstock.
Man of the match (Forest): Marcus Tudgay
Referee: Andre Marriner