Cardiff City booked their place in the second round of the Carabao Cup with an extra-time win over League One outfit Portsmouth.
The Bluebirds didn’t make things easy and found themselves a goal down at the break after captain Steve Morrison turned the ball into his own net.
In the second half, the home side were much improved and it took them less than five minutes to draw level.
Portsmouth did not drop their heads though. Kenny Jackett’s side matched the Championship outfit but could not find the same openings their opponents did.
Greg Halford’s late goal was enough to secure safe passage for the much-changed Cardiff side and avoid a penalty shootout.
Neil Warnock will have been disappointed it took extra-time to see off lower league opposition. First-team players Steve Morrison, Bruno Manga and Lee Tomlin will all need that little bit more recovery time as a result.
However, he will not be disappointed with the performances shown by some of the Bluebirds’ fringe players.
Matthew Kennedy was the game’s best player. His top-class performance will make Warnock think twice about sending the midfielder out on loan again.
Since his arrival in South Wales, the former Everton player has not had many chances to impress. Last season he was loaned out to Plymouth where he helped the Pilgrims secure promotion, alongside Portsmouth and Doncaster.
From the left, Kennedy caused Portsmouth’s defenders a whole host of problems, especially in the second half as he and Jazz Richards linked up beautifully.
His determination was epitomised by his run which led to Cardiff’s first goal. A loose ball looked destined to go out for a throw-in but Kennedy had other plans.
Not only did he keep the ball in play but he beat two defenders before squaring the ball to Nathaniel Mendez-Laing for the simplest of finishes.
He could have added his name to the scoresheet as well if it weren’t for a great save for Luke McGee in the Portsmouth goal and a missed header.
With extra-time looming, Warnock replaced Kennedy with Junior Hoilett, the standing ovation from the Cardiff fans said everything about the youngster’s performance.
It won’t come as a surprise to Bluebirds fans to see his name in the squad for upcoming matches, and if he continues to impress he could find himself in the starting eleven before long.
Summer signing Loic Damour was unknown to the vast majority of Cardiff City fans, and his arrival raised a few questions marks.
Those doubts were well and truly put to bed after Tuesday night. Damour, whose style of play is likened to N’golo Kante, dominated the midfield from start to finish.
The Frenchman looked as comfortable going forward as he did when defending. His vision helped create numerous chances whilst his ability to read the game cut out attack after attack.
What was perhaps most impressive about his performance was how visibly comfortable he was with the ball at his feet.
Damour never rushed a decision and at times, it seemed, every single pass found its target. That surety in possession is something few players at Cardiff currently possess.
Joe Ralls and Aron Gunnarsson appear to be Warnock’s first choice centre-midfielder partnership this season. However, Damour, as he proved with his assist against Burton, will be extremely important from the bench.
Against Portsmouth, if it weren’t for Kennedy’s performance, Damour would have been man of the match.
Another new recruit, Mendez-Laing, was the touch of inspiration Cardiff needed on Tuesday night.
Warnock opted to start Anthony Pilkington ahead of the former Rochdale player but substituted the Irishman at half time.
Mendez-Laing’s impact was almost instant. Within five minutes he had leveled the score and was a handful for the Pompey defence all night.
Despite his height and powerful physique, the winger has blistering acceleration and made the opposition look snail-paced at times.
On another day he could have had a hat-trick in the second half alone but good last-ditch defender prevented him from taking home the match ball.
Like Kennedy and Damour, Mendez-Laing will have a role to play for Cardiff this season. If the Bluebirds are to challenge for a play-off spot, all three will need to continue to impress throughout the next ten months.