Missed chances galore saw the points shared between Cardiff and Stoke in a close-run affair in the Welsh capital.
Cardiff’s run of eleven games unbeaten came to a disappointing end in their previous match against Watford, after they lost 2-1 in the dying embers of the match.
They do still hold hopes of making the playoffs though, and Mick McCarthy rung the changes for this game against the Potters, as Marlon Pack, Sheyi Ojo, Tom Sang and Leandro Bacuna came in for Curtis Nelson, Joe Ralls, Harry Wilson and Josh Murphy.
Stoke have little to play for in the remainder of their games, but will still want to finish the season strongly. A 3-0 defeat at the hands of Middlesbrough before this contest was a stark reminder that they are far from the finished article.
Michael O’Neill made three changes from that game, with Adam Davies, Jordan Thompson and Danny Batth replacing Angus Gunn, Jack Clarke and Jacob Brown.
In the 𝗿𝗲𝗱 corner 💪
— Stoke City FC (@stokecity) March 16, 2021
Stoke had the first shot of the game on seven minutes, as Rhys Norrington-Davies’ effort skimmed wide of the post after a failed corner routine had fell to him.
Adam Davies was called into action just a minute later, getting down well to his left to deny Leandro Bacuna’s curling shot from the edge of the box.
Stoke should have found themselves in front with ten minutes gone, with Jordan Thompson’s shot being denied on the line by a Cardiff defender after Dillon Phillips had parried Steven Fletcher’s volley back into the goalmouth.
The Northern Irishman had the whole target to aim at, but spurned his side’s best chance instead of finding an opener.
Stoke grew into the game as the minutes passed by, and were passing it around with conviction and desire.
The away side wasted another huge opportunity after 20 minutes, this time Nick Powell the culprit.
Fletcher found himself in space in-between the Cardiff centre-backs and threaded through his teammate, but the 26-year-old went for placement over power and put his shot well wide of Phillips’ right post from a one-on-one situation.
The Scottish frontman was not to see much more of the game, going off five minutes later after clashing heads with Sean Morrison. Sam Vokes replaced him.
Cardiff did begin to enjoy more of the chances, as Bacuna again tested Davies but hit his low effort straight at the Welsh international.
The game petered out up to half time, with no real chances of note in the lead up to the break.
That was until Sean Morrison missed a golden opportunity to put his side ahead in added on time, with the centre-back unable to connect from six yards out after a dangerous free kick was put into the box.
The home side started the second 45 brightly by having numerous free kicks, but they were unable to convert them into clear-cut chances.
Stoke looked largely devoid of any fluidity in the final third as the second period commenced.
The Bluebirds saw one of their best chances go amiss with an hour gone, after a long throw caused panic within Stoke ranks, but Kieffer Moore blazed his shot from the second ball well over the bar.
Stoke were next to fashion some chances, but nobody was able to connect with a head after a number of good crosses were flighted into the box with 66 minutes played.
John Obi Mikel tested Phillips with fifteen minutes to go, but his shot was tame and an easy stop for the former Charlton keeper.
The best chance for the home side came on 80 minutes, as Moore raced clean through on goal. His touch was unusually heavy though, and Davies was able to rush out of his area and claim the ball on the edge of the box.
It was a great chance wasted by the usually prolific Welsh international, especially with his side crying out for a goal to win the game.
The 28-year-old was in behind yet again three minutes later, but was unable to find the bottom left corner with the ball bouncing awkwardly in front of him.
The Potters were allowing their hosts to create chances too easily into the last ten minutes, but the Welsh outfit were still unable to convert.
With six minutes to go, Michael O’Neill handed young striker Christian Phelps-Norton his debut in a Stoke shirt, as he replaced Nick Powell.
Hearts were in Stoke mouths with two minutes of normal time to go, after Davies fumbled a long throw and was left watching as the ball bounced across his goal line and inches wide of his far post.
Hearts then transferred to Cardiff mouths in the 91st minute, as Joe Allen saw his header hit the top of the crossbar after Norton had broken forward well and Smith had delivered a good cross.
It was a late and rare chance for Stoke in the second half, and time was called on the game a minute later.
FT: Cardiff City 0-0 Stoke City
MOTM: John Obi-Mikel
A game that lacked real quality saw both teams have their chances, but to no avail as their end product let them down.
Michael O’Neill will be the happier of the two managers, despite his team being unfortunate not to take the lead in the first half.
Mick McCarthy’s side will no doubt be relieved to have taken at least a point from the contest, but will know that they need more wins to break into the top six before the campaign end.
Stoke’s point keeps them in 11th place, as they face Derby County at home on Saturday. Cardiff now sit ninth, and they take on Swansea in the South Wales derby on Saturday evening.
Match report by Oliver Walton.