Angry Bluebirds fans, frustrated by a shocking first 20 minutes from the home team, were vocal and loud in their criticism of Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock.
By midway through the first half, many supporters were yelling ’Sort it out, Warnock’. That was fair enough because Birmingham City were completely on top and could have been three goals in front at that stage.
That was when the experience of Warnock, along with trusted lieutenant’s Kevin Blackwell and Ronnie Jepson, took decisive action and ‘sorted it out’.
They tweaked Cardiff’s playing formation in small ways and the result was that Birmingham were no longer able to dominate in the way they had for 20 minutes.
The visitors had been able to dominate through the middle, where they appeared to have extra players and major momentum, but Warnock moved Lee Peltier inside a little to help captain Marlon Pack, ensuring that midfield area was more congested and Birmingham could not find space easily.
Blues head coach Pep Clotel claimed Warnock’s Bluebirds had ‘all the luck’, but in my view, Cardiff impressed in the way they stormed back and took control, despite having striker Danny Ward sent off.
The three points are a tribute to the character and togetherness at Cardiff City, traits which are hallmark factors in Warnock teams.
Ralls (3) and Curtis Nelson, making his full debut, were the goalscorers for the Bluebirds in their first win for five matches.
“The lads were really nervous to start with and I am tremendously proud of the character they showed,” said Warnock.
“They knew how bad they were at Swansea. The only way to get the fans back in favour was to show how much it means to us and we did that.
”I was chanting with the fans ‘Warnock sort it out’ and thinking ‘come on, get a grip’.
“I am pleased I managed to sort it out as we have a great group of fans and you couldn’t blame them for being upset last week.
“When we play well there are not many better teams than us in the division. The season starts now really.
“It is one of the best wins since I have been at the club, under the circumstances. You could see how nervous the players were. We had to put a performance on for the fans and we did.
“They stayed and saluted us even though they must have been wet through. It makes me proud as a manager to see the lads put in a shift like that.”
Clotet was far from happy at the end and said: “The game had a little bit of everything, a lot of emotion and intensity.
“For us, we left Cardiff without receiving what we deserved.
“Cardiff had all the luck when it comes to transforming chances and we didn’t. We knew it was a difficult game for us, but we had 25 shots on goal and still only managed to two goals.
“I will watch the Harlee Dean red card again and consider an appeal.”
Both teams had a player sent off, although Birmingham’s Harlee Dean was not dismissed until injury time.
Kristian Pedersen put Birmingham ahead (3 minutes), while Cardiff were given a lifeline when they were awarded a controversial penalty and Ralls netted the equaliser on the half hour.
Dean was penalised for pulling Aden Flint’s shirt, a decision which angered Birmingham players.
Nelson (38) fired Cardiff ahead and Ralls struck again after 69 minutes, curling his shot home after excellent work by Nathaniel Mendez-Laing.
Ivan Šunjić pulled one back for the Blues (89) and at 3-2 the visitors had a glimmer of hope.
They were, though, down and out when they had Dean sent off three minutes into injury time and then Ralls fired home from his second penalty of the match.
Cardiff are 14th in the Championship and they know a win against Bristol City at home next Sunday could put them in touch with the play-off places.
Ralls was a key player in the victory against Birmingham and Warnock described the midfield man a ‘manager’s dream’ because he always takes responsibility.
“You could see the pain when he came off at full-time, but that will subside when he realises he’s scored his first hat-trick for many years here,” he said.
“The thing about Ralls is he’s the easiest player to criticise from the fans, but he never hides. He always wants the ball even when he’s not having a good time.
“It takes a lot of courage to play like he does, so it’s all credit to him when he has a day like this.
“He gives the ball away because he has it all the time. He always wants the ball even when he is being criticised. He never shirks – a manager’s dream.”