Bluebirds soar over Shrimpers

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Cardiff soared clear at the top of The Championship with an impressive 3-0 win away at Southend United.

Dave Jones' Bluebirds have emerged as real title candidates in the early part of the season and secured their sixth win in nine games at Roots Hall.

Darren Purse, Riccardo Scimeca and Joe Ledley all netted in a performance that must have signalled to Jones his interests may be better served in Wales rather than West Bromwich after being linked with the vacant Baggies post.

Both sides adopted a positive mentality from the outset, and it made for entertaining fare with Shrimpers striker Billy Paynter hitting the crossbar after getting a glancing header to a Mark Gower cross after nine minutes.

Just two minutes later the visitors were in front and it was Purse, closely attended by two defenders, who bundled the ball home from a quickly-taken Stephen McPhail free-kick on the left hand side.

Cardiff were playing with a confidence borne out of their status as league leaders, and on-loan Arsenal youngster Kerrea Gilbert, surging forward from full-back, cut back to Michael Chopra who saw his effort blocked superbly by the sliding Peter Clarke.

Steve Tilson's hosts showed admirable spirit, and both Lewis Hunt and Gower called Neil Alexander into action before Paynter had a headed goal disallowed for offside.

However The Bluebirds ended the half firmly in charge when Chopra held up the ball superbly from a McPhail corner. The former Newcastle man dragged the ball back for Scimeca and the Cardiff star made no mistake from close range.

Cardiff continued to dominate after the break, although Southend did go close through efforts from Freddy Eastwood and Gower again.

For The Bluebirds Ledley should have done better after breaking through on goal, and Scimeca was unlucky to see his fierce shot fizz over the bar.

On 65 minutes however the highly-rated Ledley did find the net and he only had to tap-in from close range after Chopra broke down the right and played a perfect ball across goal.

There was a suspicion of own goal as Simon Francis slid in, but Ledley wheeled away to claim the credit for putting his side into an unassailable lead in Essex.

Their advantage could have been greater when Steve Thompson saw his neat turn and strike turned round the post and, with seconds to go, substitute Willo Flood drove forward and directed a shot just wide of Darryl Flahavan's upright.

Tilson's men could also have scored in injury time but Alexander pulled off a fine save to deny Gary Hooper and protect his clean sheet as Cardiff moved three points clear at the top of the table.