Saturday, September 17, 2005

Cardiff City 1 Crystal Palace 0

Cardiff City win their first back-to-back home games since early 2003.

A team who couldn't defend now get two clean sheets in a row and on-loan Michael Ricketts has gone from 2 years of bench warming and no league goals to cult hero with his second Bluebird first half winner in 5 days. Heady days by our standards and crazy but happy times so let's enjoy.
This was a good win too, over Iain Dowie's Premiership aiming Crystal Palace. The scoreline again 1-0 (should we start using Arsenal's song?) in a style so similar over the last four Championship games. City fight hard and play well (very well at times today) and get a lead in that style but unable to kill the game, it all changes into a tense heartstopper as they fall back and holding on under siege in the closing stages. If the club are urgently seeking more revenue and can't get bigger crowds then selling pacemakers to those of us who are there should make up the shortfall.
The midweek win over Leicester placed City towards mid-table, breathing space over the relegation spots for the first time in almost a year, it breeds confidence. There was a strong feeling the team would raise their game and get a result today, so it proved.
The team were again unchanged, it's very close to the stage where it picks itself. That's not to say it's looks balanced or right. It is improving and gelling, DJ has limited resources and he can't be faulted for what he's getting out of them with City now unbeaten in 5 and progressing. The side were Alexander, Weston-Purse-Loovens-Barker, Cooper-Ledley-Whitley-Koumas, Jerome-Ricketts. Subs were Margetson, Ardley, Cox Lee, Parry.
Today saw the Bluebirds and Palace in broadly similar positions. The last time it was this way was Autumn 2003. It's the in-between bit that could not have been more contrasting. Then, Lennie was at City, his old schoolfriend Steve Kember managed Palace. Neither were getting the best from their sides or heading anywhere but City opted to consolidate and stuck with LL, Palace twisted and came up trumps with Iain Dowie. As we hung one and lost money, Palace dramatically shot to the Premiership and almost survived too, unluckily being sent back to the Championship in the dying moments of the last game. It has however gave them the players and resources to aim for an immediate return.
They have hiccupped to date, losing their opening two games before recovering with 10 points off the next four but midweek reverses at Reading (after they were leading) and today have left them in mid-table. They're undoubtedly much better than that and will be in the final shake up this term barring absolute disasters. City will be grateful they played the Seagulls on a day their main man, England striker, Andy Johnson was missing with injury sustained in midweek.
Palace's side were Kiraly (the dodgy Hungarian keeper with the Primark trakkie bottoms, likely relative of Krusty the Clown) in goals, a back four of Butterfield-Fitz Hall-Darren Ward and Borrowdale. Darren Ward is the Robbie Savage lookalike who seemed to keep out City on his own in a controversial Ninian Park game whilst with Millwall last term. Their midfield were Watson-Riihilati (the player with the maddest personal website) and Michael Hughes (last seen in Cardiff heading down the Millennium Stadium tunnel with Savage) and the M&M strikeforce, that's Morrison and Macken.
The main talk leading into the game was City's disappointing midweek crowd of 9,261. The response was better today with 11,647 but that's playing against one of the more attractive sides the Championship will offer. There's a long way to go for City to attain a hoped-for 13,000 average, if indeed that is possible this term.
However those who were there were delighted with City's effort and particularly so in the opening period which was dominated by the Bluebirds from first whistle to last as well as the many whistles in between from fussy ref Phil Dowd.
The man Ricketts has found a new lease of life in a very short time with City and responded with an excellent display of how to lead the line by causing problems, holding the ball, talking and encouraging Cameron Jerome and giving City a target. He tested Kiraly inside the first three minutes with a far post shot, ten minutes later he was closer again having beaten the offside trap meeting a Rhys Weston chip ahead and unleashed a sizzler from 15 yards that cleared the bar by a fraction. That was topped by a vicious Jason Koumas free-kick from distance that Kiraly had to fingertip over.
The first cheer for a Palace player came from City fans and it was directed to Jobi McAnuff who was sub having just recovered from a knock. He weaved at City fans but refused ayatollah requests. Spoilsport.
Palace were playing poorly and City were exploiting it, the chances and play all heading towards the Grange End, Palace struggling to get over halfway and when they did, there wasn't even a cross or through ball to worry about. Jerome snatched one wide but, on 25 minutes, Ricketts pounced with a comedic goal.
Jerome was causing problems and did well to burst deep in the penalty area at an angle meeting a great diagonal ball from Purse. As he did, he smashed a ball at goal from a tight angle. It flew high to Kiraly, a keeper well remembered in these parts for his flapping and howlers against Wales earlier this year, and he didn't let us down this time either and he seemed to catch the ball comfortably but inexplicably drop it by his near post, Kevin Cooper reacted well, got between keeper and ball and nudged it out to MICHAEL RICKETTS who swept the ball across the empty goal from 5 yards and in off the far post. It was bedlam, City celebrated, Palace were holding an inquest, the keeper had he tired to put his face in his hands with embarrassment would probably have missed it.
It was 33 minutes before Palace managed to get down the City end and in a moment that summed up their half, Watson incurred the wrath of the Grandstand Block F at a corner kick as he appeared to have placed the ball outside the circle. The ref allowed him to take it but he miscued it low and into the side netting. Another one moments later was little better but caused flutters as it ricocheted into the centre before being blasted away.
City had one more moment of panic on 40 minutes after conceding a free-kick central and on the edge of the box but Palace only made us laugh again as Hughes hit the wall, Purse blocked a rebound effort. The last action of the half was Kevin Cooper putting a wide free kick over.
This was City's half without doubt, you could see Palace had quality but they were shockingly poor and unable to put anything together. Kiraly was probably glad to get away from the Grange End especially after being serenaded with, "does your mother buy your kit?".
Half-time: CITY 1 PALACE 0
City restarted the half-time entertainment of fans trying to score with a shot from halfway, it's good to see them trying things. Thanks also to Ali for playing a birthday request for Joe, a lifelong family friend who first too me to Ninian Park and through all my growing up years when my parents worked weekends. It's his fault! Nice one Joe, happy birthday.
The second half was a complete contrast but not before City missed two early chances to have doubled their lead. Within a couple of minutes, Michael Ricketts did well on the right meeting a downward punt with a directional header inside for Jeff Whitley who showed outstanding technique to volley first time from 25 yards as it dropped, his effort was fantastic and it was cruel to see Kiraly comprehensively beaten but the ball smack away off the foot of his post.
Within moments of that, an even better chance was missed. It was Ricketts again causing trouble, this time taking it down the right and sending over a low ball over which skidded off a Palace defender to Cameron Jerome free on 6 yards in front of goal. The ball was rising, Jerome maybe didn't expect it to get through but it was a shock to see him place it over the bar with the goal begging.
Ian Dowie was fuming, Palace were rocking but they were too good to lay down and weakly submit and what followed was a near 40 minute bombardment of City's goal. It wasn't pretty to watch if you were a City fan and probably frayed every blue-blooded nerve end. Admit it, how many times did you stare at the Big Screen clock willing its countdown from 35 minutes out to zero? I think I did it about 80 times!
The first warning shot came as Watson seemed destined to ram the ball home stretching to meet a Morrison low drilled cross with City in disarray, he hit the side netting. It started a steady stream of shots which flew just wide or just over, those that hit the target weren't their best efforts but were expertly taken by Alexander.
It was looking desperate as City feel far too deep with too many back as well. The midfield wasn't flowing or functioning properly as it was ugly at times but we clung on, fought and never gave up and you have to commend everyone for that. It was recognised by the support too who gave them great backing that improved as the game went on.
Palace made it much harder than Leicester because while the Foxes offered little quality and route one hoofing to chase an equaliser, Palace very much tried to get through City by stretching us, moving the ball and taking us on. It was tough work out there.
Dowie made it even tougher by throwing on subs. One was forced as Macken chased a through ball and pulled a hamstring, coming off was the only time I noticed him all game. The other caused City even more problems as Jobi replaced Riihilati on the hour and gave Rhys Weston 30 minutes of torment.
Within moments, City had an incredible escape as Watson burst forward again, his low shot was stopped by Alexander's fingertips, Soares looked certain to force home the loose ball but Alexander bravery saw him pounce at it and just fingetip the effort behind.
For all their relentless pressure, it was probably the only telling stop Alexander had to make on a day when nothing seemed to go right for the Eagles and I'm sure they went home wondering exactly how they lost. Weston didn't help himself, or City, by standing off his man and giving him room to play but he never hides and sticks to his task and got some touches when it mattered.
Another late sub saw Wayne Andrews came on to replace an injured player, Alexander kicking the ball out for treatment. As play resumed, Andrews first touch was to put the ball back out so City had to take a throw in locked deep in their own half when the ball should have been returned to Alexander as is the custom these days. It didn't go down well, there was jostling, Andrews was booked joining 4 of his team-mates who mainly got yellow cards out of frustration.
There were more escapes, Morrison headed wide, Alexander hada couple more stops, shots blazed high as Palace ended up having more the double the efforts at goal than City without having managed a single attempt until into the second half.
There were three minutes more added time, Palace had two more chances but it just wasn't to be and it was broad smiles and celebrations for us. Nice touch by Jobi McAnuff at the end to ayatollah and go to all parts of the ground to salute City fans.

Neil Alexander did very well today and was a justifiable contender for man of the match on a day when Tony Warner scored an own goal for Fulham. He was unlucky but it was still funny. Our defence are getting better with Purse and Loovens striking up an understanding. They coped very well with the onslaught. Rhys found it tougher but is a good help and outlet for City getting out and going forward, it shouldn't be ignored. However it looks a problem but maybe not as much as our midfield.
Jason Koumas can be brilliant or annoyingly uninvolved, today was the latter. He had a chance for glory when he burst through second half but as goal opened up, he put the ball out side instead. City need what he provides and he will be a hero for us. Jeff Whitley is not having a good time at present, he is working hard but just has not been influential enough, again Joe Ledley seemed to work double-time in central midfield to help out. As for Kevin Cooper, the man is an enigma, some maybe unfairly comparing him to Jeff Chandler or Pat Heard pre-game. If you remember them, you'll know the point being made.
Jerome and Ricketts are bleeding into an excellent partnership. We were over relying on Cameron for goals and he needed help, Ricketts has made a huge impact and more. He looked absolutely shattered as DJ gambled in playing him for the entire 90 minutes, a brave choice that could have gone wrong but it was rewarded.
It's such a lovely feeling to go to the pub happy and I did it twice today so even better. Good to meet the London fans in town beforehand but better still in The Napier afterwards to celebrate and see us in the top half of the table. Few would have believed that at the start of the season, nobody would have believed it last term.
We've now beaten Leeds, Leicester and Palace at home and were within a whisker of doing that to Wolves as well. It's tough to watch but that's excellent with everything considered. Who knows? Mabe it'll convince a few more to come next time.
Ticket: £20
Programme: £ 3
Travel: £ 5
Food/Drink: £25
Total: £53
Season-to-Date: £560

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Cardiff City 1
Leicester City 0

After throwing away victory in the final minute against Wolves and at Burnley, it was third time lucky as CARDIFF CITY (just) clung onto an ugly 1-0 win against a poor Leicester City and a first as City (just) kept a clean sheet too.

On the pitch, the difference between the sides was Michael Ricketts clever glancing 8th minute header, his first league goal for 20 months. It was the only meaningful on target attempt by either side all night. The game was low on quality and thrills but City badly needed a win so it was mission accomplished.

Off it, talk will be about an embarrassing attendance of just 9,196, that's awful and just not right for Championship football. The club have urgently got to look how to improve it. Reasons will be strongly debated and will be many. Ultimately, thousands of lost season ticket holders inevitable means thousands of lost supporters. What caused that? Broken promises, player sales, the never ending trauma of a new stadium overshadowing the club, internal politics and wrangling all take their toll and caused the ‘buzz’ to go and an apathy to return.

The bulk of the support can now pick and choose their games and that is what they are doing. All helped by the club are also paying the price for ‘assuming’ support, ignoring countless suggestions, failing to show imagination, marketing and general fun about the place. Let's face it, the brand of football hasn't been exciting or winning at Ninian Park during the past couple of years. And to top it all, there is the harsh reality and economics about the cost of watching City play 3 times at home in 8 days.

With the club making it as difficult as possible for "pay on the dayers" with limited facilities and kiosks to get tickets at the ground, a refusal to accept payment at any turnstile and charging £3 extra for the privilege of this, it's hardly going to pull them in. If City were filling the ground, fair enough, but Ninian Park is half empty with plenty of match day staff and turnstile operators.
Where's the sense?

Anyway, let's deal with the football and City were unchanged. The side went into the game unbeaten in three but inexcusably throwing away victory in the last minute of their past two Championship games. I don't think there were any strong arguments for change but better performances were needed from our defence in general and Rhys Weston, Jeff Whitley and Kevin Cooper in particular from their displays at Burnley. Cooper has become the playing equivalent of a Director of Football – what exactly does he do? It was a home debut for loanee Michael Ricketts. The side were Alexander, Weston-Purse-Loovens-Barker, Cooper-Whitley-Ledley-Koumas, Jerome-Ricketts. Subs were Margetson-Ardley-Cox-Lee-Parry.

When Leicester somehow escaped Ninian Park with a draw a year ago after being battered and having their post hit 4 times, Craig Levein was watching in the stands having been appointed manager the evening before. The side were playing poorly and just above the relegation zone. One year on, virtually the whole side have been replaced, fans talk of things getting better but evidence is sparse. They remain around the same position and their display tonight was very poor indeed until the final minutes.

The came to Ninian in 14th place with an average record of wins over Stoke and Sheffield Wednesday, draws with Hull, Ipswich and Crewe plus bad defeats at Sheffield United and home to Luton. Hardly a team to fear.

Their side were Rab Douglas (ex-Celtic) in goals, a back four of Maybury-Dion Dublin-Johansson-Peter Gilbert (Welsh international), in midfield were Kisnorbo-Hughes-Williams-Gudjonsson and forwards were Marc De Vries and Elvis Hammond. They looked a big and physical side, they hardly ever made that count.

City started strongly and brightly and showed intent as Rhys Weston went on a 60 yard dash down and then across the pitch, exchanging passes with Koumas before finding himself in unfamiliar territory on the left wing. It told, his cross was aimless and went into the Grange End.
I can't say I enjoyed or understood why City chose to have 9 men defending inside the 6 yard box when the first corner was conceded, that seemed extreme. An early booking came for Cameron Jerome as he chased Stephen Hughes near the touchline on halfway. Hughes appeared to dramatise the challenge, the Bob Bank crowd unhappy with ref K Stroud's decision, it was to become a familiar sight and sound.

A minute later however and City were ahead. After winning their first corner of the night, Jason Koumas sent over a perfect cross evading everyone on the near side of goal but dropping perfectly for MICHAEL RICKETTS to send a just as perfect glancing downward header home from 6 yards.

Ricketts was chuffed and no wonder. The last time he scored was in the Premiership for Middlesborough in January 2004 at Leeds. That was a last minute penalty with his side already winning 2-0. Since then, he had been on a run drier than your average petrol forecourt - he had gone 46 league games without a goal, the majority admittedly as a substitute.

The confidence and lift it gave him was noticeable as within a minute of the restart he showed brilliant skill to take the ball with his back to goal under pressure, turn, flick and send Cameron Jerome racing clear on goal but the teenager looking to score for the 6th consecutive game went for power without direction and sliced into the Grange End.

Another strong opportunity came on 12 minutes when Kevin Cooper playing on the right and always cutting inside for his left foot sent over his sole cross for the night, a delicious far post curler. Ricketts got there but couldn't guide it on target and went narrowly wide.

That was pretty much the pick of the opening action. City had a couple more efforts but none to be excited about. Leicester managed just one as Hammond hit a powerful shot on the turn which flew over the bar.

The biggest scares came from City's defending. Lack of communication embarrassed them once more as a simple ball in saw Alexander and his defenders and become motionless and leave it to each other with the ball bouncing around just a couple of feet from goal, Loovens toe-poked it behind and then they all started shouting at each other. I swear the only time they talk to each other is after something has gone wrong. On half-time, again with a lack of authority at the back, Darren Purse handled a ball that spun wickedly at him right on the edge of the area. Gudjohsson wasted the opportunity by firing straight into the wall.

As the half progressed, the poorer the game became. City although hardly in trouble were struggling with Dave Jones often shaking his head with some disbelief as we struggled to put two passes together. Particularly disappointing for me was Jeff Whitley who was hardly involved and looking laboured in central midfield, Joe Ledley having to do a lot of work to make up for him, he's going through a poor spell.

Half-time: CITY 1 LEICESTER 0

Unfortunately for football lovers, If the first half was short on class skill and entertainment, the second period was devoid of it.

Rare exceptions came through Jason Koumas' corner kicks which are brilliantly delivered and cause trouble every time. On three occasions, Leicester just about survived scrambles from them. They inswing, they outswing, they drop perfectly in the danger areas, they cause nightmares for goalkeepers and defenders. Koumas hit only one poor corner all night, a refreshing change from Kav who used to hit only one good one all night and that was when he was on form.

Until a frantic closing quarter of an hour, the only shot of any note was a half hearted chip by Rhys Weston making another strong forward line but it was never going to beat the tall Douglas who took it comfortably.

Leicester gave Cardiff no trouble at all but City continued to randomly trouble themselves at the back with Purse sometimes misdirecting headers, Loovens kicking when he should head and heading when he should kick, Alexander who stays on his line when play gets close to him getting a sudden bloodrush and charging out before realising he was out of his area and having to head. Each time we got away with it.

Entertainment of the wrong sort came on the hour after Jeff Whitley was fouled near the dugout, Kisnorbo chose to have afters and appeared to throw an elbow at Whitley which missed but sparked a 20 man game of chest beating, it would be too kind to call it a brawl. Kisnorbo was booked, a little lucky, many may have shown red.

And then came the panic finish to the game. Levein showed his intent by throwing on all three substitutes with more than a quarter of the game remaining. The crowd chuckling as Ali did an Elvis impression as Elvis Hammond came off, Elvis had left the building. The style continued to be route one, as was City's in large parts.

Cardiff needed that second goal but were struggling to create although Cameron Jerome did exceptionally well to take the ball, turn with three defenders around him and send a snapshot narrowly wide but which Douglas always had covered. Koumas provided occasional touches of inspiration but wasn't involved in the game enough and was a little daydreamy, he wasn't the only one out there.

Again, City only got into trouble through poor defending that would get punished by better sides than the Foxes. With the ref's decision making and continual whistling blowing infuriating everyone, City dropping back and being far too slow to come away - and that's if they bothered to do that - it was an agonising close with the whole crowd watching the clock count down.

A simple lofted ball to the far post dropping about 5 yards from goal had Neil Alexander written all over it but once more he hesitated as did his defenders, De Vries got between them all and missed touching home by a fraction. And yes, then they started talking and shouting at each other.

The biggest let off came on 81 minutes when a ball flew to the left and De Vries hit first time across goal, a shot that appeared to be flashing across goal which Neil Alexander helped push into the net. Leicester players, the bench and the fans all went mental in celebration, City hearts sunk and then we were rescued by an offside flag. Our turn to celebrate.

City subs came as Parry replaced Cooper, Lee replaced Ricketts, the latter who had again tired and faded out of the game and went off holding his hamstring, hopefully no more than a tweak. It was all in the City half and, after all that had happened in the past couple of weeks, I'm sure most expected history to repeat but we got away with it.

Jones pleased with players at their lack of brains to take the balls to corners to run down the clock. They wanted to atone for that and went out of their way to do it with Jerome starting things off with more than 6 minutes to go. He did however also produce two penalty appeals, both denied by the ref.

There were four minutes of added time which produced one final scare as Chris Barker missed a header from a ball belted his way and handled on the edge of the area. The free kick in and a couple of crosses after it were desperately sent away.

This was not the beautiful game but it was a beautiful result. Four games unbeaten, a clean sheet at last, the club rising to 16th - one point and one place behind Leicester - and with a game in hand over most sides. What a difference three points make, it was very evident in the relief and celebrations at the close.

Hopefully City can go on from here, the confidence needed with a tough test against Crystal Palace at Ninian Park this weekend. To those stayaways, please come and give the lads some support. We've beaten Leeds and Leicester at home, we were within a whisker of doing that to Wolves, maybe it's time you give them a chance. Come on.


Ticket: £20
Programme: £ 3
New TBL Fanzine: £ 1
Travel: £ 3
Food/Drink: £ 6

Total: £33

Season-to-Date: £507

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Aaaarrrghhhh, the 90th minute hoodoo strikes again

Burnley 3 Cardiff City 3
Match Reportby NigelBlues

CARDIFF CITY collected their first away point of the season but threw away victory in an entertaining, topsy turvy 3-3 encounter at Burnley's Turf Moor.

It was an encounter that ran through the emotions. There was good play, great play, bad play, pitiful play, well taken goals, chances you couldn't believe were missed, any shot on target seemed to fly in and both sides at times seemed intent on a mini competition of whose defence was worst, first half especially.
Twice in that dramatic opening period, City showed the character and fight to hit back after falling behind, the first time after just 45 seconds. Having composed themselves at the interval, a much quieter but more controlled second period saw City finally get ahead in the final quarter and look destined for victory but for the second successive Championship match, the Bluebirds lacked the guile to close the game and succumbed to the agony of a last minute equaliser and then, incredibly, had to hang on for the point.
This was a long day after an even longer night before for me. I was lucky enough to party and stay at Celtic Manor. A free bar meant guaranteed abuse and very little sleep (as if I would decline that!) so Mike Morris picked me up after a couple of hours kip for City's first trip of the season oop north.
It's a 225 mile trip, long enough as it is, but made worse as sun and a bright start in South Wales turned to light grey on the M50 and then dark grey to black skies and lashing rain on the M5. So bad was the weather that motorway lanes around Birmingham were closed with flooding and traffic was nearly stood still.
We took diversions along the M6 and then a new toll road to get to the other side of the Midlands only to be stuck in more jams due to accidents. Our plans to arrive in good time for lunch were shelved but we made Burnley with 40 minutes to spare, parked at the adjoining cricket ground, had a swift pre-match bevvy (very much 'hair of the dog' in my case) and got to the ground for kick-off.
Burnley could not have lived up to the stereotypical image of a northern outpost if it tried. Grey skies, the town of endless terraced houses in a valley. Not really any chimney stacks and factories dominating the sky line anymore but few signs of major modernisation either. The football ground very much a focal part of the community. They even had a copper on a platform box in the middle of the road directing traffic outside the stadium. It was tempting to hit the box as we drove past him. Didn't see too many whippets at the match though. The home fans haven't been too welcoming over the years to Cardiff fans but there was no problems this time, everything in the bars and on the streets was very cordial, good to see.
There was a surprisingly healthy turn out of around 500 City fans making all the noise from start to finish in the crowd of 10,431. We were housed in a large stand behind one of the goals. Turf Moor has developed two new stands in recent times, the Bob Lord stand occupying one side of the pitch has barely changed over the years.
As for the teams, City went 4-4-2 but surprisingly started with new loan signing Michael Ricketts in place of Alan Lee who had performed reasonably well in the last outing against Wolves. It would seem that DJ is not a great fan of Lee having overlooked him for Paul Parry as a makeshift forward, then leaving Jerome isolated and, now, preferring a loan man. The team were Alexander, Weston-Loovens-Purse-Barker, Ledley-Koumas-Whitley-Cooper, Jerome-Ricketts. Ricketts so tall that he looked like he should be on a basketball court instead of a football pitch. On the bench were Margetson, Ardley, Cox, Lee and Parry.
The Clarets were Welsh keeper Danny Coyne in goals, Duff-McGreal and ex-Chelsea boys Frank Sinclair and Jon Harley in defence, midfield were James O'Connor-Hyde-Elliott-Branch and forwards were Ade Akinbiyi with Gifton Noel-Williams.
Famously, City have not kept a clean sheet in the Championship this season and only one (at Colchester) in 12 friendlies, league and cup games so far. Any chance of change was gone in just 45 seconds.
In the worst possible start, a defensive cock up at the back incredibly put the home side ahead before anyone had sat down. Akinbiyi's low cross wasn't cleared, the ball rolled to Joe Ledley deep inside the penalty area but instead of wellying away, he passed along the floor only to send the ball straight to WADE ELLIOTT. The ex-Bournemouth player hardly believed his luck as he simply and accurately guided a low shot past Alexander. His first goal for his new club induce 500 agonising shouts from the City end behind the goal varying between "f***", "f***ing hell", "what the f*** was that!?!?" and the less subtle, "f***, f***, f*** it!". Someone must have said, "oh no" or "I don't believe it" but I never heard it.
City's response to that calamity was admirable as they overwhelmed and battered the home side in response as they levelled after 8 minutes but created but missed enough chances to have won the game inside quarter of an hour.
The first chance and miss increased our angst as Koumas flicked a ball over the top opf the Burnley defence which Ricketts challenged for with Coyne just inside the area, the ball deflected wide to Jerome facing an unguarded net but he blazed high and wide into row ZZ top with the goal gaping, an awful miss that he would have scored that 9 times out of 10.
Two minutes after that from City's first corner of the game, Glen Loovens headed over from 8 yards when he met the ball unchallenged in the centre of goal but on 8 minutes, CAMERON JEROME atoned for his bad miss with a wonderfully taken equaliser. Placed in by Ricketts after quick play through the middle, Jerome burned off a defender for pace and shot emphatically across Coyne and inside his far post.
"Jerome, there's only one Jerome" sang the City fans breaking off from most chants of the first 20 minutes forgetting Wales' recent results in favour of singing "let's all laugh at England", "Sven Goran Erikson la la la la la", "Northern Ireland" and more.
On the pitch, Burnley couldn't handle City's intensity. Their defence looking a complete mess every time Koumas and City went at him and we were relentless in a show of one way domination.
After Ricketts was booked, he missed an outstanding opportunity to put City ahead as Jason Koumas advanced, brilliantly flicked a ball wide of the last defender putting Ricketts one on one albeit slightly wide of goal but he fired over. Then after a Burnley raid was quickly quelled, Koumas electrified the afternoon with a 50 yard dash to goal on a three on two break. With Jerome and Ricketts tying up defenders, Koumas went it alone, went outside a defender, shot across Coyne but just as a goal looked inevitable, McGreal scrambled back to clear off the line, his effort almost going in for an own goal.
With City dominating so much, Burnley finally starting hitting back. When they did, suddenly it was the turn of City's defence to not look so clever. I think we are using the best duo in central defence with Purse and Loovens but they need to get more commanding than they are, Akinbiyi and Noel-Williams were out-muscling them a little too easy.
As a unit, the defence have to sort out communication as arguments started between them, none more so than when a routine lofted ball to City's 6 yard box which that should have been such an easy take for Alexander. I can't understand how his mind told him to stay glued to his line, defenders stood still and Akinbiyi was left with a free shot in front of goal which, fortunately, he fired over. Weston was turned inside out inside his own area, the clipped ball unconvincingly scrambled away.
After all their good work, City found themselves behind again on 23 minutes but, at that point, they had got themselves into a mess for 5 minutes and you couldn't say it wasn't coming. The goal not a good defensive one again as Harley skipped down the side, Weston was not there to cut out a cross which skimmed off Purse's head and found ELLIOTT unmarked across the area. His finishing was outstanding though as he guided the ball back across and over Alexander high into the net for his and Burnley's 2nd goal.
Burnley were now overrunning us and threatening to go further ahead with a series of corners and raids and very little coming back from City but they eventually rode the storm, not before Akinbiyi and McGreal were guilty of close range misses, our defenders just not near them.
Cardiff composed themselves and heading to the interval were now having the lion's share of possession and territory but without doing much with it. Chants from the City end had now turned to supportive ones for the side with Dave Jones Barmy Army and Super Jason Koumas getting good airings as well as chants paying homage to Strongbow and also vodka for those who had enjoyed quite a bit of it.
We hoped City would level by half-time and that's exactly what they did. Joe Ledley ghosted past defenders on the left but was brought down. The resulting free-kick headed behind as Purse challenged. Koumas' corner was brilliantly executed, outswinging but finding LOOVENS on 6 yards in acres of space as Burnley's defence went AWOL, his free downward header was guided well past Coyne for his first City goal.
A quite incredible first half. All predictions were of a dour, tight game, how wrong could we have been. The players tunnel and dressing rooms were underneath our stand, Jones and his players were warmly applauded off before we disappeared for half-time pies and Thwaites. Those who stayed in the ground however were "entertained" by the balding hippy that is Mr Safestyle - surely the worst ad on tv but so annoying, it's memorable. As he walked to the City end, he was greeted with chants of "you bah one, you get one free". He loved it.
Half-time: BURNLEY 2 CITY 2
After both sides were no doubt praised for their good attacking play and rollocked for their defensive chaos in the opening half, it was no real surprise that the second period was an entirely different affair. More cagey, measured football replaced what had gone on before as both teams worked hard to establish control. Chances were at a premium but City always looked the livelier and more threatening particularly through Koumas playing unbelievably well getting forward and Jerome who is so hard to handle.
The first chances of the half didn't come until almost the hour mark but fell to City and, being critical, we really should have gone ahead. Joe Ledley did well as he came inside, made room and drove from the edge of the area, the ball deflected high and wide for a corner but I don't think his shot was on target anyway, Burnley arguing it was a goal kick. Kevin Cooper's corner also found Ledley, this time completely unmarked by the near post. Had he headed straight ahead or angled it, it surely would have flown in. The target really shot have been hit but Joe's contact was too strong and off the wrong part of his forehead, the ball flew a few feet wide of the near post.
Koumas, City's sole creator and attacking dimension in midfield, was in outstanding form. Time after time, he created space, skipped past Burnley players as if they weren't there, the home side having to resort to hacking him down to stop him. Two were booked for it, it could have been more as at least two more were spoken to by referee Walton. One mesmerising run saw Jason beat two players down the touchline, dance inside, get into the area and hit a brilliant low cross off the outside of his boot which LOOVENS just failed to reach at the far post. It was magical football, he was clearly several classes ahead of anyone on the field and having gained full fitness, he genuinely is so exciting to watch.
One big mistake of Dave Jones was his failure to replace Michael Ricketts who hadn't started as the most mobile of players but was now struggling to make any impact. He has been consigned to sub outings with Leeds and maybe isn't at full fitness himself. As balls were played to him, he tended to stand still waiting for it, Burnley players found it too easy to get in front and nip it away leaving Jerome to run attack on his own.
It was crying out for Alan Lee's introduction for more pace, aggression and movement up front, it was left to too late. Partly because Ricketts redeemed himself a little by a couple of his very few touches in the second half winning a back post flicked header which nobody could capitalise on then meeting a free kick but sending his header well over from close range when, perhaps, he had an excellent chance to hit target.
However all that was forgotten on 71 minutes when City forged ahead for the first time in the match with their third goal. It was all about Cameron Jerome again as he met a through ball, burst away, got into the area and forced Frank Sinclair into a desperate lunging tackle as he prepared to shoot, Jerome knew what he was doing and went straight down, the penalty inevitable.
Up stepped DARREN PURSE and after a lengthy delay, his spot kick was emphatic, drilled low and hard inside the corner. Coyne wouldn't have got to it had he gone the right way but he did an Alexander. 3-2 City, Purse and the players all celebrating behind the goal with us, the City end in raptures and three points seemed to be in sight but Burnley offering very little all half.
Five minutes after the goal, Sinclair was carded for another lunge on Jerome as he threatened to bust away. Which begs the question, why wasn't he booked when the penalty was awarded?
Burnley were trying to raise the pressure but City were withstanding. Jones still held off any changes and, I believe, left it a little too late.
Parry replaced Cooper who, once more, had occasional but nowhere near enough good moments with 6 minutes remaining, two minutes afterwards Alan Lee finally replaced the completely knackered Michael Ricketts who walked off with City chanting for him to ayatollah, the whole Cardiff bench showing him what to do and he responded. With the changes, City switched to 4-5-1 but Burnley were now being invited onto them and Cardiff just don't appear to have the defensive know how to survive in those conditions and also failed to kill and close the game by knocking balls into space and corners, doping anything to run down the clock.
Corners came, let offs arrived as Noel-Williams fired well over at the far post and City were being pushed and moved around, their control and grip on the match completely gone. We prayed they would hang on but with one minute remaining, Burnley were deep into City's half, moved the ball side to side before crosses came over and the inevitable happened as O'CONNOR was in space as a ball was flicked on and guided a looped header over Alexander who was helpless.
With three minutes added time, City were now in a mess and hanging on. They just about did that, surviving a few anxious moments with crosses and corners, unable to get the ball away, waste time or create anything themselves. The ref looked at his whistle, put the whistle in his mouth but seemed to wait until a final Burnley attack had taken place. The ball pumped into City's box saw McGreal nod over and only then did Walton blow up.
For the second successive game, City lost a winning position and two points in the last minute, unable to close a game out and that's so deeply disappointing. Three goals away, generally the better team but only a point to show for it. They fell a place and are now only one point and one spot outside the relegation zone although, for what it's worth, with a game in hand on just about everyone around them. Had they held on against Wolves and today, they'd be comfortably in mid-table, those are lost points to regret.
There are reasons for hope, City showed character, flair although almost solely through Koumas and three goals away is always a good sign but with a defence continuing to leak goals and not looking clever at all, only Burnley themselves and Millwall stranded in bottom have conceded more, it could have a long season and continue struggle if that can't be sorted out. Leicester at home on Tuesday presents a good chance of a win and we need one fast, take it boys.
Thanks to Mike for being my chauffeur today. I'm not sure I was the best of company coming home as the night before took its toll but I'm glad I made the effort. Whoever said following City week to week was easy? It's meant in more ways than one.
The Cost of Being A City Fan
Match Ticket (with booking fee) £19
Programme: £2.50
Petrol share: £15
Food and Drink £25
Total cost for game: £61.50
Total cost for season to date: £471
* Total includes £23 for the last match - Wolves home - which I couldn't make but it still cost on my season ticket and a programme too.