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Fairytale finish is perfect end to a surreal encounter.

Byline: By Steve Tucker Western Mail

Surreal is an over-used word, but when you're sat in the Molineux press room and Kevin Rowland of Dexy's Midnight Runners' fame walks in wearing a funny hat and starts telling you wistfully about his teenage days following Wolves and getting his head kicked in at Millwall, you know there's something strange in the air.

Yep, it sure was one of those days in the midlands. Perhaps it was the early kick-off. Or perhaps it was the fact Bluebirds supporters were banned, leading to the comical home chants when Seyi Olofinjana fired the Wolves equaliser of 'You're not singing any more!' and 'Is that all you take away?'

Perhaps it was the pitch invasion by a couple of advertising hoardings whipped up in the ferocious wind, or perhaps, in the end, the most peculiar sight was that of Cardiff finally registering a win and scoring some goals as they bounced back into the play-off positions.

They hadn't got a victory since beating Burnley back on November 11 and hadn't found the net since Boxing Day or more than eight hours of football to be precise.

Naturally the magic in the air was distilled by the fact the winner was slotted home with two minutes to go by new signing Jason Byrne.

Two months back, Byrne was firing them in for tiny Shelbourne in the Irish League. Forget the romance of the FA Cup (in fact forget the FA Cup all together this season) it was the romance of the Championship for the 28-year-old hotshot, who had arrived as a substitute just after the hour.

'I was just delighted to get on the pitch, to be honest, but it was a dream come true to score the winner,' said Byrne. 'Words can't explain how I feel. It's not just great for me, but for my family as well.

'I remember I played Chops (Michael Chopra) in and he tried to chip the keeper. It came back to him and I actually thought he was going to shoot again, but he pulled it back.

'I thought I'd missed it, I thought I'd put it over, but I was so happy it went in.

'We hadn't won or scored in a long time, but I thought the lads showed great commitment.

'Chops was absolutely fantastic. I've been talking to the lads and the No 1 priority here has always been promotion, and I don't see any reason why we shouldn't be up there come the end of the season.

'It was great to get the goal, but I really am miles away from starting a game. I hadn't played since November so I was just happy to come off the bench and show people a little of what I'm capable of. Now I want a few more games under my belt, some reserve games and up my training. Hopefully, after that, I'll be ready if I get a chance to start.

'Compared to the Irish League, I did notice a different pace to the match. There's better players against you as well, but the way I see it is that playing with better players helps to see you through.

'Looking forward, I don't see any reason why I can't forge an understanding with Chops. He's a top-quality goalscorer and I know I can score goals.

'I'm good in the air as well and I'm sure Chops could play off me. But, as I said, I'm a million miles away yet from starting a match.'

Ah, Chopra. An enigma wrapped in a mystery with a cheeky smile. The striker showed tremendous character after a long barren spell without a goal.

It would be easy for him to have started hiding in matches, but that's just not the Geordie lad's style.

Here at Wolves he was somewhere back to his best, full of running and stretching the home backline time and time again.

He might have had a hat-trick, but on 27 minutes he took his chance sweetly. Latching on to a long ball from Joe Ledley, a single bounce and lovely lob over the advancing Wolves keeper. No mean feat indeed, as Matt Murray is a man so tall he has his own weather system.

We had the Wolves equaliser (no Cardiff City game would be complete without adversity now, would it?) before Chopra's dogged determination saw him set up Byrne for that fairytale ending.

Cardiff boss Dave Jones later revealed he had been in contact with 12 strikers in the last week in an attempt to tempt them to Ninian Park. Reportedly a pounds 1.5m offer is on the table to sign another Irish frontman, Stephen Elliott, from Sunderland.

But, who knows, perhaps the Bluebirds already have their new striking hero in the form of Byrne. It would be typical Jones, one of the shrewdest operators in the transfer market around, if he'd gone to the relatively obscure Eircom League in Ireland, paid a paltry pounds 100,000 and unearthed a gem.

Of course, one win can't brush all the disappointment of recent months totally under the carpet. If Wolves had taken their chances here, they could have been out of sight by half-time.

They hit the post twice, but then again City did once, and in Craig Davies had a player who tormented the Bluebirds down the right flank for long periods of the game.

It is surely time to bring Davies back out of the Welsh international wilderness on this evidence, as he would appear to have a lot to offer.

But Cardiff stuck to their task and if they got some luck they have probably earned it with some displays in recent games that really, on a better day, might have warranted three points.

Jones acknowledged the fact himself after the game. 'It was a hard-earned win which really could have gone either way,' he said.

'Mick (McCarthy) won't be happy with his defence and I wasn't too happy with mine for long spells.

'Sometimes you need a little bit of luck, and we got that, but we've earned it. We kept plugging away.

'They had spells where they put us under pressure, but they're the home team so you expect that.

'But within that then we had chances ourselves. The lads did really well. We looked a bit nervous at times, a little apprehensive, but they're a young group and I do feel we're getting there.

'We've nicked the points A draw might have been a fair reflection of the whole game, but to come here and win is great. So is the six points we've taken off Wolves this season.'

So a strange, but ultimately satisfying afternoon. No away fans, a peaceful protest in the morning in Wolverhampton city centre getting the anger at the ban across in a dignified manner.

No airship floating over Molineux in the end, high winds apparently keeping enterprising City fans grounded.

And Kevin Rowland, munching on a spring roll in the press room and looking almost as unhappy as he did on Top of the Pops when they put that picture of darts player Jocky Wilson on the screen behind him rather than Jackie Wilson.

'We was robbed man,' he says, before disappearing to get more crisps. Yes, perhaps surreal is the word for it after all.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 22, 2007
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