Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Monday, November 28, 2005
CARDIFF CITY (1) 2 Ricketts 30, Koumas 90
IPSWICH TOWN (0) 1 Juan 85
Ipswich support: 250
Weather: Chilly, just above freezing - getting warmer then!
Atmosphere: Very good noise and passion but this was about the diehards.
The Bluebirds are back in the Championship play-offs after Jason Koumas grabbed a 90th minute winner clinching a 2-1 victory over Ipswich Town on a night when we, once more, saw the best and worst of this Cardiff City side who, if nothing else, showed on a night of high drama that they certainly know how to raise blood pressure, severely test heartbeats, wring emotions and fray nerves. You need to be relatively fit to watch them, let alone play for them.
Cardiff should have won so very comfortably and by a large margin. Ipswich conceded a penalty and were down to 10 men inside 15 minutes. Yet an appalling penalty miss give the visitors a lifeline until Michael Ricketts atoned with a goal before half-hour. That should have set City on their way but once more, they over-relaxed once ahead and looked second best against 10 men.
When they woke up in the 2nd half, they missed enough clear cut chances to have won three or four games - some of it due to the brilliance of Ipswich's Welsh keeper Lewis Price but much due to very poor finishing - before somewhat inevitably allowing Ipswich an 87th minute equaliser. City never win late do they? Yet in an amazing finale, they time they did. Mass depression turned to extreme elation and relief as Jason Koumas fell over, got up and smashed home a 90th minute winner.
This was a Championship game moved from Saturday to Sunday so it didn't clash with an egg chasing friendly at Millennium Stadium and then moved again from Sunday to Monday night to be shown live on Sky tv. City fans had the choice of paying between £15 and £26 to be at freezing Ninian Park on a work night with Christmas coming up or watch it on the cheap and in the warm at home or down the pub.
Twenty one games into the season and three times you could watch it all live on tv, two of them at Ninian Park. The options were plenty. For £2, you could watch it live on the internet. For nothing, you could listen to it on Radio Wales. For a small monthly fee, the official website offers full match commentary plus upto 15 minutes of video highlights next day. Am I alone in thinking it's made too easy for supporters to stay away?
Obviously not judging by the Grange End's chants of "Are you watching armchair fans?" and chants of where they could stick their sofas but with us freezing our 'nads off on wood, plastic or concrete at the ground for the cost we pay, who really had the last laugh?
The crowd of just 8,724 including 250 or so from Suffolk was Ninian's poorest league crowd since we played Bury in February 2002, that game at a lower level of football. I suppose I should make some comment or defence or criticism but no doubt others will have plenty to say so I'll leave it to you. I'll just salute those in attendance who made the effort for City.
The delayed game still came too early for Kevin Cooper, not fully recovered from keyhole knee surgery whilst captain and huge influence Darren Purse served a 1 game ban after 5 yellow cards, the veteran Neil Cox having to step in. Purse's partner Glenn Loovens, whilst not 100% fit. averted a major cental defensive crisis by making himself available and Michael Ricketts was available too as City’s sought the win to take them from 11th to 6th and a play-off spot.
Ipswich are well set on the journey to mid-table obscurity, the Horses at times playing like Donkeys, with some starting to think manager Joe Royle should be sent to graze. It's not good by their high standards but understandable given they have £36M of debt (quite possibly more than us!), lost four major players to the Premiership, have had bad luck with injuries and, like City, are having to get by with lesser quality players and some over-reliance on youngsters.
Poor results and no consistency tends to be what you get and that's how it's been with 4 wins and 4 draws at home in 10 games whilst 10 awaydays before tonight produced 2 wins, 4 draws and 4 defeats. Their last outing was a 3-0 home trouncing by Reading and they have won just 1 of their last 9. Their only joy is that they were one place above rivals Norwich in 15th but knew a win tonight would have taken them just a point behind us in a congested Championship table.
They started the night with problems and soon had more. Sam Parkin, their target man striker and big summer buy from Swindon, broke an ankle in training last week, key midfielder Ian Westlake is injured again after only just returning from a 10 week lay off and, similar to City, a couple of other players were used whilst not at 100% fitness due to small squad size giving limited options.
The side were Price, Wilnis-Sito-De Vos-McEveley, Magilton-Richards-Juan-Williams, Forster-Naylor. Experience came in the shape of Jason De Vos who chose Ipswich over City last season, 35 yr old Fabian Wilnis and 36 yr old Jim Magilton. The Canadian, Dutchman and Irishman were joined in the Foreign Legion by Spanish defender and grandly named Castro Sito and French midfielder Jimmy Juan. Juan is on loan (from Monaco) as was Jay McEveley (from Blackburn) with local boy and Bluebirds fan Gavin Williams (from West Ham).
Before the action, there was one minute applause in the memory of the genius of George Best who died over the weekend. It's far, far better and feels more fitting to pay tribute this way to a footballer than one minute silence whilst, at the same, time, it felt slightly corny. One minute's continuous clapping does feel strange on the hands. Let's be fair, we're just not used to giving so much applause down the City. Still, I'm sure Bestie, given his lifestyle, would have smiled at being given a send off with the clap.
Finally, we were underway and it was a quiet start with City not firing on all cylinders and looking a mix between nervous and being over-elaborate with live cameras whilst Ipswich are also a good passing and movement side, no matter who plays for them. But it did flow with Ipswich winning two corners in the opening moments, one of them causing danger, then City doing likewise inside the first 10 whilst Ricketts met a Weston cross but directed a weak straight at Lewis. Putting efforts on goal directly at the keeper was to become a theme.
On 12 minutes, the first real drama of the night unfolded. City attacked, Ipswich cleared but defender McEveley remained on the ground deep inside his area playing everyone onside. As City returned the ball, Jerome cleverly got behind the last standing defender so when Koumas played a ball over them, Wilnis could not quite intercept and Jerome was away on goal. As he closed down on goal, Wilnis tagged him, maybe not the strongest pull but one that ensures all strikers go to ground in that position, Jerome was no different. Penalty to City, red card to Wilnis and Ipswich lost a second defender as McEveley was unable to continue.
The moment that penalty was awarded, I swear I've never seen Michael Ricketts move so fast. He charged to the ball, claiming it and wanting to take the kick. I honestly never knew he had that sort of pace, amazing. Contrast that however to the Michael Ricketts who then took a truly dreadful penalty. As he started his run up, he stuttered, skipped from side to side and by the time he got to the ball, he was motionless. The kick was straight at Price at a perfect height and was beaten away. It was the second worst penalty miss I've seen in my life. Nothing matches Andy Campbell's miskick against Leeds last year and Earnie had an embarrassing miss or two when he did similar to Ricketts on this occasion. Had we gone one up when Ipswich in disarray so early, we could have registered a comfortable win but that's not our way.
Kevin Horlock replaced McEveley, Richard Naylor who had played defence most of the season but started in attack to help his club's problems returned to his natural role. Ipswich still looked decidedly dodgy at the back as they seemed to make mistakes at regular intervals and Lewis Price may be a great shot stopper but his kicking was as bad as the average half-time challenger but we struggled to take advantage.
Ricketts nearly made up for his horror miss by stroking a 20 yard shot inches wide and then cushioned another header straight at Price before they almost shocked City, Forster's drive was tipped over the bar and Horlock was not far wide.
Salvation finally arrived on the half-hour. Yet again Ipswich made a defensive calamity, Naylor
playing the ball straight to Joe Ledley in a dangerous position and they were finally duly punished, Joe's curling ball behind their remaining defenders saw RICKETTS clear and he smashed the ball home inside the near post. Relief all around.
Then, oops, they did it again. In control of a game with an extra man, we just stopped playing and allowed Ipswich to run over and around us, you started to wonder who had the extra man. Paul Parry put tow headers wide in breaks but Ipswich had a couple of efforts at goal, one of them - a point blank effort from Sito - bringing out the very best in Neil Alexander who got down at his near post to push behind, a superb stop. Boy, did they need another half-time rollicking.
Half-time: CITY 1 IPSWICH 0
The interval saw City presented with £20,000 by Network Rail, I'm not sure why, it sounded like a crime initiative? With £60k, I believe, from Sky, it may have been a small crowd but it was decent income. The half-time challengers was the usual standard - none as good as me! - and that included Ipswich sub Darren Currie and a good touch by Ali to play New Order's Blue Monday. Had we lost, would he had played Boomtown Rats' I Don't Like Mondays?
What followed in the second half, even by City's frequent inconsistent and frustrating ways, will take some beating. They dominated the half but often looked second best on the ball. The chances came in abundant numbers, they were wasted. Guinness Book of Records are probably checking out whether the number of times Jerome's and Rickett's sloppiness left them offside is a new standard. Sometimes, the passing was good, sometimes pitiful, sometimes we looked fast and electric, sometimes we were plain lazy, sometimes we were committed, other times we watched players go by and then there were those missed chances.
Ipswich tried to push on us but regularly seemed to leave themselves vulnerable and exposed at the back, the fact they also had a makeshift defence meant they were there for the taking. City had more chances than when we walloped Crewe and had we shown the same standards in front of goal, they could have matched or beaten it.
Ricketts (twice at least), Parry (twice at least), Whitley, Jerome (three times) didn't just have good chances but were all one on one against Price but they missed the lot by either blasting over the bar or shooting and heading directly at the Welsh keeper who was exceptional but we made him look good too. There were at least half a dozen other efforts blocked or put wide from half chances too as they boys didn't seem to realise the objective was to shoot around or past the keeper. It was infuriating, Dave Jones looked on in agonies from the dugout looking very much like an undertaker in his thick overcoat and I reckon he probably wanted to bury one or two of them judging by his reactions.
There were moments when City lost the plot. Joe Ledley trying to beat 5 men on the edge of his area, Michael Ricketts demanding Rhys Weston played him a ball down the channel and then stopping as Rhys hit it, the crowd giving Weston stick when Ricketts let him down, the sideways and backwards passing and with both forwards looking out of sorts and tired, Ricketts in particular, it was crying out for fresh legs and momentum from Alan Lee but Jones resisted for reasons I suspect only he knows. I thought we'd moved on from that style of management, it was a mistake.
Ipswich surely couldn't believe they were still in the game but they could sense they could nick a result and so could most of the crowd watching City's faltering and wasteful display. With 25 to go, Joe Royle threw on 17 yr old prospect Billy Clarke for a debut and he gave City's defence some long overdue problems but it was still one way traffic even going into the final few minutes.
In the last 10 minutes, City wasted one opportunity too many and were finally punished but it was self-inflicted as usual. Clarke took the ball, twisted and turned away from City defenders but was now going wide and nowhere when Jeff Whitley, otherwise City's man of the match, hacked him down, that was stupid. He got booked for the 8th time this season but it set up Ipswich for a free shot on goal.
City got everyone back, put 6 or 7 in the wall and you knew that as long it the kick went over them, we were in trouble. Sure enough, JIMMY JUAN did exactly that, Alexander got across goal but couldn't reach the effort which flew in towards his nearside top corner.
Unbelievable, farce and complete agony, many of the crowd took that as their cue to leave. Moans turned to highly audible groans as Dave Jones now decided to take off Ricketts for Lee giving him 100 seconds plus added time to change the game. Royle took off Clarke for Currie, time wasting without doubt.
City missed another outstanding opportunity as Parry was placed clear on goal but fired straight at Lewis again from just in the area when he had time and space to run in on goal. Those who hadn't pulled their hair out were now grey and ageing fast as what they were seeing.
It looked a hopeless cause but cometh the hour, cometh the man. Jason Koumas, in a match devoid with excitement but devoid of great quality, was the only one providing any and it finally told. So many great passes, brilliant ball control and through balls that we failed to capitalise on, he needed to do it by himself. It was Neil Cox, an unlikely hero, who launched the ball forward. KOUMAS, an inevitable hero, got into the area, made sure the ball was his, the rest was pure Koumas theatre and drama.
He side-stepped the final defender cutting in towards goal before, set to shoot, he stumbled and fell. It looked gone but he got back up, steadied himself, took a touch to send him a little wider and then smashed a rising drive past Price. Let's go effing mental. A superb finish but I do believe our two goals were the only occasions all night we put shots to either side of Price.
And it still wasn't over. Seconds before at 1-1, everyone was speculating that there would be 3 to 4 minutes of added time. Moments later, at 2-1, when 4 minutes were shown, there were howls of derision and looks of disbelief. You got to laugh at us sometimes.
We almost messed it up too. Another edge of area free-kick was conceded but thankfully, it was sent over the bar and a final shot was well taken on his line by Alexander as an attacker boot missed diverting it by inches.
So we're back in the play-offs but, as importantly, 12 points above relegation and only needing 19 more to survive. We won ugly but we won and you have to salute the spirit of our players if nothing else. Who'd have ever believed that would be the case just before halfway going into December? Congratulations to Dave Jones and the boys.
Next up is Hull away this weekend and a great opportunity for more points but, for me, that's it until after Christmas as a combination of competing priorities at this time of year means that I miss the next three matches home and away. I think I need a rest after watching that anyway!
Although it's early, a Merry Xmas to you and yours. It hasn't always been pretty or entertaining this season but we're only in the play-offs we have to enjoy and celebrate that. Let's hope next game at home, the stayaways show their appreciation and give the boys deserved support from the stands and terraces rather than their tv's and radios. It's time they did.
THE COST OF BEING A CITY FAN:
Programme: £ 3
Food/Drink: £ 4
Travel: £ 3
Total for game: £30
Total for season-to-date: £1,510
Friday, November 25, 2005
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
CARDIFF CITY (0) 1 Lee 58
BRIGHTON (0) 1 Kazim-Richards 74
Brighton support: 250
Weather: Chilly although above freezing for a recent change, hard to think it was only 5 weeks ago we were getting tans at Withdean.
Atmosphere: Like the team, better than mid-table, not quite play-offs .
Another frustrating Ninian Park night, another missed opportunity, another game where City failed to kill off a game, another late equaliser conceded, another two points lost, another game where City failed to perform for 90 minutes, another game where City scored first and then coasted so got punished and, yet, in this curious season, we're still banging on the door of the Premiership play-offs. As Toyah would lisp, "it's a mys-ter-wee to me".
In a more entertaining game than I expected, City opened the scoring through Alan Lee just before the hour and Jason Koumas produced some creative magic. They should have gone on to record a morale boosting much needed victory but, as has often happened this term, they got lazy and were punished by a stunning 30 yard strike by sub Kazim-Richards. Had it not been for a couple of superb Alexander stops, it could easily have been defeat too.
It now appears to be compulsory when mentioning Cardiff City not to talk about football but crowds instead. The skipper does it, the manager does it, the papers do it, the radio does it, the message boards do it, the crowds do it - "How many do you think it is then?". Rhys Weston was pleased, abuse of him took second place for a change.
So let's get it out of the way first. It was 9,595, only a couple fo hundred of whom came from the South Coast. Disappointing but maybe better than some expected in advance too. The club lost almost 40% of their season ticket holders over the summer (that's about 3,500) so how anyone expected 13,000 average crowds – more than we achieved last term with 9,000 season tickets – is truly beyond me.
Out come the excuses – it’s cold, there’s Champions League football on telly, prices are too high, City don’t know how to promote themselves, I don’t trust Sam anymore, the stadium is dragging on and on, we’ve sold our best players, yet again we have no home game for a while and then it's two or three in a week, results are fine but the quality of football at home isn't, Christmas is coming and more. There’s no doubt Dave Jones and the players deserve better support as they’re not to blame for all of this but it has to be said that all of these "excuses" have truth to them and cannot simply be ignored.
Personally, I don't know why anybody's complaining. I didn't leave Barry until nearly 20 minutes before kick-off, managed to park on the street and be in my seat well before the game started. There's no queues in the toilets or bars. The programmes don't sell out and, if you prefer, you can even spread your arse cheeks over two seats. It's not all bad, you know. Right, it's done, now for the footie.
City were looking to recover from the poor display and weekend beating at Preston. Kevin Cooper remains absent as he recovers from keyhole knee surgery, Michael Ricketts was absent again (this time, due to a weekend knock) but other pre-game doubts Jeff Whitley and Alan Lee were available as was Cameron Jerome after a one game suspension and Dave Jones opted for the pace and directness of Paul Parry on the left and the expense of the pedestrianism but good crossing of Neil Ardley.
It was therefore Alexander, Barker-Purse-Lovenns-Weston, Koumas-Whitley-Ledley-Parry, Lee-Jerome. Such is City's meagre squad that they weren't able to name a forward on the bench for a home game where they were going for victory, it consisted of Margetson-the ABC of Ardley-Boland-Cox and Phil Mulryne. That appears to be the only 16 available to City other than the kids plus the impression that Darlington and Koskela just don't form part of the squad.
Brighton visited Parc Nin just two days after a 3-2 home loss to arch-rivals Crystal Palace (thanks to ex-City star Jobi McAnuff’s 94th minute clincher), a result that left them in 23rd spot. Two wins in 20 Championship games this term is awful but doesn’t reveal how the Seagulls are tough opposition on the road. This was their 10th away game, only two have been lost but this was their 7th draw, the sole away victory being a shock win at Palace.
Manager Mark McGhee also had problems. Defender Gary Hart was absent after a weekend red card, ex-City star Richard Chippy Carpenter is amongst a couple of players injured and before half-time, he lost two more players to injury forcing him to turn to his subs with an average age of 20. His starting line-up were Blayney, Reid-Dodd-Butters-McShane, Oatway-Hammond-Carole-Frutos, Knight-McPhee. The crèche on the bench were Chaigneau, El-Abd, Kazim-Richards, Nicholas and Robinson.
The opening spell with City attacking towards the Canton Stand was very entertaining, the only surprise after the first half-hour was that it was still nil-nil. Cardiff were looking the more incisive, playing the more composed and better quality football and chances were coming. Jason Koumas was close twice in the opening 12 minutes as a trademark free-kick went around the wall and had to be pushed away by Blayney but from a sparkling move starting with Glenn Loovens making an important interception on the edge of City's box, three quick passes sent Koumas on a run from inside his own half before his low 25 yard drive was fingertipped by Blayney onto the inside of the post, across the face of goal and then behind. Whitley fired over and Brighton were having to pack their area to make blocks and clearances.
However The Seagulls were no slouches either. With the tricky and unpredictable midget that is Leon Knight leading their line, it was predictable that they would spend a lot of the game belting balls for him to chase down but he was well supported in the first half at least. Alexander was forced into tow smart saves with distance efforts from ex-Bluebird jailbird Charlie Oatway and Knight before Knight, taking the ball 30 yards out, instinctively unleashed a drive that Alexander seem to have covered if it was under the bar but it was still a close shave as it smashed off the top of his crossbar.
Back came City as a glorious opportunity was wasted. A though ball sent Cameron Jerome one-on-one with the kpeer charging to the edge of his area. The players collided, the ball fell loose, Jerome gathered himself quickest and rolled the ball to an unmarked Alan Lee who had the time to control the ball, look up and shoot but he still managed to direct it onto the head of the last man standing on the goalline. I know it's sometimes more difficult than it loos but you expect Championship strikers to produce in that situation more often than not, Alan Lee seems to defy those odds.
Brighton were forced into changes. Veteran right back turned centre-half Jason Dodd came off worse in a tangle with Jerome and was gone before 16 minutes and on 35 minutes, Manchester United loanee Paul McShane was also out of the action, Alexis Nicolas (who sounds like he should be running a Brighton seafront kebab shop) was on in his place. What was apparent was that Brighton must then have been the smallest side we could possibly play but, somehow, we completely failed to take advantage of them in the air.
The rest of the half didn't quite match the frantic opening. City had the territory and possession but not the intensity about them that they started with. One plus however was Paul Parry who was, at last, showing glimpses of what he can be. He was using his pace, taking on players and putting good balls across, something he has largely failed to produce in his showings this term. Unfortunately, the one time that he was placed clear behind Brighton's defence, he hesitated over whether to shoot or fire the ball across goal and did something in-between. Brighton had now dropped back and in numbers after their losses leaving Knight more isolated but, while City were playing patient football, they were also guilty of not committing enough men into the area, too often it was Jerome and Lee against 7 or 8 defenders as balls were fired over but there were some blocks, a drive into side netting and a couple of near missed efforts.
Half-time: CITY 0 BRIGHTON 0
The half-time halfway line competition started with Brighton sub Jake Robinson, a striker,
having a go - he missed. His effort was better than the rest but there was a touching moment when 8 year old Chandler Jones who suffered with the e-coli bug that, tragically, claimed the life of his younger brother last month took the final kick and scored, albeit from 6 yards out to receive a terrific reception watched on by 50 of his schoolmates. A nice touch by City.
The early stages of the second half was much in the vein as the opening period finished. City had plenty of the ball but appeared to have dropped a gear, they were not showing enough movement and were over-elaborate. As a consequence, Brighton's makeshift defence and withdrawn midfield were encountering few problems, goalkeeper Blayney was having nothing to get excited about.
It needed a moment of magic and it duly arrived. Once again, he was crowd pleasing to watch but, once again, his best moments were in areas of the pitch were he couldn't cause too much damage until City moved the ball from deep and right to left finding Joe Ledley 35 yards out where he switched play again with a diagonal ball behind the last defender.
Jason Koumas seized the opportunity but the way he collected the ball, controlled it and fired low across goal out of reach of the keeper in a split second in no space was something nobody else in the side could produce and few at this level. His ball across the face of goal was turned home from a couple of feet by a delighted ALAN LEE. In truth, the assist was so good that David Blunkett could have scored that one without a bell in the ball or his dog to guide him.
For Lee, it was his second of the season, both coming against Brighton. I wonder if he'll dedicate that goal to someone he can't declare in case he gets in trouble for it?
From that point, City really should have gone on to kill the game but I'm afraid it became a familiar story as, instead, with opposition there to be beaten, they played well within themselves, took the sparkle out of the match and appeared happy enough to try and coast home. The team have done exceptionally well this term but I don't understand why they do this to themselves.
Just past the hour, Glen Loovens limped off, I didn't see the knock that caused it to be replaced by Neil Cox but, initially, he had little to do as the action was largely at the other end but there was nothing much to get excited about.
Jeff Whitley put one wide, Paul Parry almost doubled the lead as he ran at players had deserved luck as a couple of ricochets sent the ball back to him, keeper Blayney had to save his low shot and then a defender just put the ball behind as Parry almost had an open goal and the ban nearly fell his way again. Then, in a moment that largely summed up his evening, the pitch opened up for Jerome but he scuffed wide. Jerome had a strange night. One moment he'd show a good touch and look committed, the next totally lethargic and a poor touch. He wasn't the only one you could say that about.
Then came the agony as City were punished for their failings. Sub Kazim-Richards had only been on the pitch for 2 minutes, his brief to get nearer Knight and give him some overdue support. The ball broke loose on halfway and City were just nowhere to be seen, KAZIM-RICHARDS took it and hit a stunning powerful low 30 yard strike with little backlift that surprised everyone, it hit the back of the net in the corner before Alexander was halfway through his dive for it. It was a quality strike, the type you hit once every couple of years if you're lucky.
Incredibly, City went ragged, midfield went missing for both sides as it appeared they were having a contest of attack v defence with each other and the 50 yard patch in the middle of the pitch was a no-go area. Cardiff were making Brighton look a good side when you could fully see why they are where they are.
Brighton had the better of it, Alexander had to make two superb stops to deny Carole and Knight at his near post as swift movement and, in Knight's case, turning Barker and Cox completely inside out made glorious chances which were, thankfully, brilliantly denied.
Having lost their focus, City were just unable to find it again. Parry brought a simple save out of Blayney but other than that, it was a succession of stuttering moves that broke down. Dave Jones alternated from still numbness to frustration to anger at what he was watching. One injury stoppage saw several players go to the touchline for water, Jonesy remained motionless standing in front of the dugout, obviously feeling that whatever he said would make little difference at this stage.
He did however appear to make Rhys Weston a scapegoat for the final three minutes normal plus four minutes added time and replace him with Neil Ardley in what appeared to be a straight swap rather than a tactical last throw to 3-5-2. Not for the first time, Rhys got the most vocal and critical flak for all the ills out there but Joe Ledley (who looks like he needs a rest from the engine room), Alan Lee (goal apart, he was poor) or Cameron Jerome could have been taken off and nobody could have complained.
Darren Purse won man of the match on a night he had little pressure but won everything and looked so cool and confident in everything he did. Neil Alexander's save prevented defeat so he would have been a good shout. Chris Barker seems to be having a dip at the moment. Jason Koumas, as often happens, flits in and out but is indispensable, take him out of that midfield and we have nothing. It was good to see Paul Parry showing welcome signs of finding form but fans walked away knowing City had thrown two points away against very limited opposition and feeling frustrated by the performance which was too average and too poor in too many spells.
Incredibly, City actually rose two places to 8th with that point and only 1 win with 6 points in their last 6 Championship games. It says so much about this division this season. We're only two points off play-off places but, there again, we're also only 2 points from dropping into the bottom half of the table. It says so much about this average division this season where anyone can beat anyone except the top two who both are on course to be promoted to the Premiership well before Easter at this rate. The rest are also rans.
Right, that's the football out of the way. With the next game at home next Monday night against Ipswich being shown live on tv, no doubt the next week will be spent discussing crowds again and how many we'll have for that game. I think I'll hibernate until then!
THE COST OF BEING A CITY FAN:
Programme: £ 3
Food/Drink: £ 4
Travel: £ 3
Total for game: £30
Total for season-to-date: £1,480
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Friday, November 18, 2005
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Ok, it was a friendly, in the grand scheme of things, as meaninglesss as they come too. Wales had several stars absent - Giggs, Davies, Delaney, Collins and more - and even had we won handsomely, it wouldn't have stayed in the memory long or mean the future was healthy but none of those can be offered as excuses for one of the most inept Welsh performances I've ever had to endure. The only blessing for me was that I watched it from home instead of being there and I was able to change channels (frequently!) or get up and do other things.
The stats said it all. Cyprus 22 shots, 13 on target. Wales just 1 shot off target and that came at the very end. Wales Man of the Match was rookie keeper Lewis Price who made at least 4 excellent saves, especially in the final half-hour when the Cypriots were getting through, around and past us almost at will and queuing up for pot shots. Tosh was forthright when he commented that Price was the only Welsh player who performed, the rest did nothing.
The crowd was pitiful but Welsh outnumbered the locals by 3 to 1. We had enough know how, experience, Premiership players and star quality to perform against one of the poorer sides of Europe.
Instead it was a farce. Danny Gabbidon should have been brimming with pride and passion with his first night as Welsh captain. Great player, can be an inspiration with his football but no leader of men and it showed. His casual, laidback way rubbed off on others. Robert Page - credit to him for helping Wales but why is he still in the set up?
Midfield was dreadful. The Cypriots showed commitment, the Welsh boys didn't and, in strolling around without urgency, they were shown up by their counterparts. Up front, Bellamy tried but had nil service, the sole tactic was to find Hartson but, yet again, he failed to deliver. I'm afraid that's becoming the 'norm' with Big John.
On came Earnie for the final 20 but what's happened to they boy. I've never seen him look more out of condition. Were his shorts fitted with padding or has his arse ballooned out of recognition to baboon size? He showed one glimpse of what he can be - a move, turn and shot that missed by a whisker - and that was the sum total of Wales' "effort" too. It was just as well Earnie didn't score, he'd have landed on that arse had he somersaulted. Thinking Wales would go for it, we actually succeeded in getting worse.
For those who went to Cyprus, tickets cost what seemed to be a bargain of £5. I only hope the players refunded them all at least £4.99 of that from their appearance money because, believe me, they didn't appear tonight.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
After The Tubes in Brizzle on the Friday, if it's Saturday, it must be Athlete in Newport. A gigging weekend for me and thoroughly enjoyable it was too.
Athlete are a million miles away from what The Tubes are about, both musically and in live show performance, but both are brilliant at what they do.
For Athlete, it was the last night of their Autumn 2005 UK tour. and the end to a major year for the boys with Wires being their biggest hit and the difficult second album proving easy as the more melodic Tourist was a major success and took them to another level.
Last time I saw Athlete, it was a converted church hall at a private gig for 200 in Cardiff. This was in Newport Centre, a leisure centre where the main hall is converted for gigs. I think this was the first there for some time, it's not used as extensively as it used to be - possibly due to the emergence of larger venues in Cardiff. It wasn't sold out but it wasn't far away and, as usual, while unreserved, the front half of the venue was standing and the rear half was seated. It's a pity they use so many seats and it takes something from the gig.
As for the performance, once again, it was immense. Athlete seem to find it effortless to replicate huge album sounds into the live environment. The gig was nearly cancelled, Carey the bass player who normally jumps and sways everywhere, was both unwell and dislocated a shoulder that wouldn't go back in so was seated all night. Credit to him and the group for going ahead.
The 90 minute set covered all bar a couple of tracks from the two albums and a 'b' side for the new 24 Hours single. I love the quirkiness of Athlete, the way their songs always take an unexpected diversion. They are infectious, there's just something about them and their songs that make you feel happy and smile.
The set was very clever too. Petrol pumps providing lighting, a dazzling techie show including maps of Newport for Street Maps, a crowd cam on the final number and the lighting changing to suit the mood of every song.
How they're not as well, or better regarded, than Coldplay probably boils down to the group not being as photogenic or mixing at high profile events - good on them for that.
Not that they should be compared to anybody - love them in their own right and for what they are.
I'm sure they're one of those groups that, even if you don't get what they're about, once seen live, you soon find out and will appreciate them.
Friday, November 11, 2005
Still Crazy after all these years
Had a jaunt to Wurzle-land to see The Tubes play @ Bristol Carling Academy. The boys are now confirmed as playing Cardiff on December 1st but it wasn't enough to prevent a mini-Welsh invasion as, perhaps, a quarter of the audience were Welsh ... good to see some old gig faces in attendance and a fair-sized audience it was as well. We weren't let down.
Having played these shores and pretty much the same venues less than 11 months ago, we wondered if we were in for a repeat performance. We should have known better. Out went the Wild West theme, in came a vaudeville-style set. Out went more than half of the 2004 set, in came some oldies not played for over 20 years, a few old favourites and a couple of covers plus, of course, those classic songs and anthems that will forever form a Tubes set.
The acoustics were very good allowing The Tubes to showcase, for all of Fee's stage antics, just what great musicians they are. Every song was brilliantly played, add in some duelling guitars with Gary and Roger and a couple of fantastic Prairie drum solos and it was evident both the group and the crowd were loving it.
There was a new addition to the 'line-up' this time, a Tubes dancer, who appeared at regular intervals in various states of dress/undress and who also enables Don't Touch Me There and Prime Time to be added to the set list. She proved very popular ... amongst the males in attendance anyway and one or two of the group.
I won't list all the songs but it was great to hear Poland Whole/Madam I'm Adam. It was good to see Smoke (la vie en fumer) performed live again, first time I've seen them do that for some years. As they turned it up another gear, in came half of The Completions Backwards Principle with Mr. Hate and Sushi Girl getting great receptions. They added a couple of excellent covers to the set, Tom Jones' It's Not Unusual guaranteed to get 100% participation.
The only downside of the evening was that the gig had a 10pm curfew for a student disco to start afterwards. After two and a quarter hours, the boys weren't ready to stop and had to cut a couple of songs. It did however mean they produced a blistering finish to fit in all the anthems at the end, White Punks on Dope still hits you from the opening chord, Fee as brilliant as ever as Quay Lude turned Sherlock Holmes and ably assisted by his "nurse".
It's just genius, puts you on such a buzz and high. As usual, more than a few were watching their first Tubes gig and were completely blown away. Met Fee, Roger and Gary afterwards and, being a Welshman, I was chuffed to hear them remark how much they're looking forward to playing Wales. Fee even remebered the last time it happened - the Remote Control tour - and, safe to say, we're in for a special time.
Roll on The Tubes in Cardiff on December 1. Can't wait!!
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
CHAMPIONSHIP @ Hillsborough
SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY (0) 1 Eagles 65
5th PLACED CARDIFF CITY (3) 3 Koumas 9, Jerome 30 and 38
City support: 600
Weather: Warm and snug in my house, looked dry and clear in South Yorkshire
Atmosphere: Epic at home - almost ran out of beer.
Epic at Hillsborough too - only our 600 were heard all night.
Say it loud, say it proud and enjoy the moment - Cardiff City are in the Championship play-offs after 18 games. A spectacularly brilliant first-half demolition of Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough, all shown live on Sky tv, sent City into a 3-0 interval lead and it should have been more. The 2nd period saw City close it out for an eventual 3-1 victory propelling the Bluebirds into 5th spot, our highest league placing since 1983. Celebrate it!
I so wished I was there. Watching on in envy, I was gutted that I wasn't. However with the game live on Sky and having to conduct a day's interviewing at work, the choice was made for me. At this point, can I thank the lads from the Barry, Lansdowne and Muni bus for calling me at work on the way up from the coach, in the pub singing every City chant of the past 25 years or so it seemed and, later, as they were leaving it which I was stuck in the usual jams between Cardiff Gate and Coryton. Much appreciated, not.
So I watched it at home in Barry, had some friends and family round, get the beers and a Chinese in, may well have been cheaper to the game anyway. The one good thing about the game being on Sky was that I didn't have to suffer the 1940's Pathe News stylee commentary of Richard Sheperd or the Radio Wales waffle were they have the unerring habit of talking about anything except the action in front of their eyes, often at key moments. Not sure who commented on Sky but I thought he did a good job and Steve Claridge's summarising was excellent too. Thankfully, playing away from South Wales meant Sky did not wheel out the likes of Bobby Gould to talk about us.
The tv build up was minimal, just 15 minutes before the 7:45pm kick-off and most shots showed a largely empty ground so the crowd announcement of 20,324 probably came as a surprise to most viewers, it was 6,000 down on their average - great support. They showed regular shots of Wednesday fans suffering, enjoyable though that was, only two City fans were shown at half-time, one of them wearing a shirt from a couple of seasons ago and a distant shot of our boys in darkness at the end.
One thing that was undeniable however was our singing. Taking 600 fans so far north in midweek for a game that is live on tv is incredible support and I salute every one who made the journey, well done boys and I'm glad you were rewarded. For some, the attraction of a "new ground" as it was City's first visit to Hillsborough, ironically for 22 years, was a motivator.
Onto the game and City were unchanged from the side that started against Coventry last Sunday. Michael Ricketts has passed a fitness test but still wasn't 100% so took his place on the bench with Ferretti making way. Therefore, it was Alexander, Weston-Purse-Loovens-Barker, Cooper-Ledley-Whitley-Koumas, Lee-Jerome and a bench of Margetson-Ardley-Cox-Parry-Ricketts.
Sheffield Wednesday arrived in the Championship with play-off victory over Hartlepool last season. Under Paul Sturrock, consolidation is the aim for this term and after a poor start, they're now acquitting themselves well, starting the evening in 16th spot with only 1 defeat in 7.
Whilst City, for once, are thankfully having an injury-free season, Wednesday have had the opposite in fortunes. Some have been absent for a while and their problems got worse when regular keeper David Lucas was injured last week forcing to take Man City's Nicky Weaver on loan, defender John Hills broke a rib in a car crash causing fatalities 48 hours before the match and forward Lee Peacock reported to Hillsborough pre-game with a virus and was sent straight home.
However the Wednesdayites still seemed chirpy enough and were talking up before kick-off how a win would take them to within 3 points of a play-off spot ... so close but so far away eh boys? Their starting line-up was Weaver, Heckingbotham-Lee-Wood-Simek, Whelan-O'Brien-Brunt-Eagles, Corr-Graham.
The first half was dazzling for City and a choker for Wednesday as City mullered their opponents, our key men showing the full extent of their quality and making the teams look a couple of divisions apart, not just a class. Had it been boxing it would have been stopped. As it was, City unbelievably lead 3-0 at the interval and must have wondered how it wasn't five instead as they walked off. Stunning.
The signs were there early on. Koumas was pulling the strings and City were getting at Wednesday with their pace and counter-attacking movement. Wednesday started slowly and, by comparison, got slower as they were shocked and stunned by the Bluebird Blitz.
After a couple of ohh ahh moments as City threatened to break through but didn't quite, the opener arrived inside 10 minutes with counter-attacking excellence. A ball from Barker to Purse, Purse knocked it right, Jerome took it away from a defender into a corner, turned it into the path of Weston whose first time out swinging cross was perfection but bettered by JASON KOUMAS' 12 yard angled downward header finding the corner of the net past Weaver's futile dive. Yes, that's right, Koumas with a header. He had concussion, apparently from a clash of heads with a Wednesday defender as he scored but I suspect it was more to do with the shock of heading the ball. It was his 6th goal for City.
Within 3 minutes, it really should have been 2-0, Glen Loovens intercepting the ball deep in defence, bringing it out through the middle and then sending Jerome away with a through ball. 20 yards out with defenders left at least 5 yards behind him, Jerome's shot beat Weaver but cannoned of the top of the crossbar.
City were so on to, they were able to laugh at their misfortunes. Having won a corner, they probably took the worst one of all time, Koumas appearing to try to take a short one abut knocked it sideways and straight out.
After hitting the bar, it was now Jerome's turn to hit the post. Another sweeping move was taken to another level by a brilliant low curled Koumas cross behind the defence, Jerome's downward diving header gave Weaver no chance but rebounded off the inside of the far post, Cooper's follow up effort well blocked when he looked set to score.
It was however third time lucky for JEROME who made it 3-0, taking his season's tally into double figures and his first for 5 matches, his longest drought this season. Once again, the architect was Koumas, a superb inswinging far post cross, porky boy Weaver showed he doesn't play first team football by losing its flight and being left stranded on the near post, Jerome nodding home under pressure at the far post into the unguarded top corner from 5 yards.
And on 38 minutes, game over, thank you very much. It was near Fantasy Football as JEROME made it 3-0. It was far too easy as Purse knocked a ball over the top, JEROME played off the shoulder of the last defender and blistered them for pace, buying himself 5 yards inside 10 yards and was away. One touch to control and whoosh, slammed low past the hapless Weaver just as he was looking forward to his half-time pie. It was Jerome's 11th of the season and his 3rd brace. It made him equal leading scorer in the Championship and earning him all the talk and plaudits on Sky, He has truly arrived.
The City support and singing all night was truly excellent. Only our fans could be heard including the mocking, "It's just like being in church". They must be the only Owls who don't hoot at night! I wished we didn't resort to the "are you watching Jack B8stards" chant after each goal however and other moments in the game. I can't remember the last time we used that one but with tv cameras present, we did. It made us sound like we're bothered about a team and club that we're just not these days.
Wednesday's efforts at goal were more suited to Comic Relief than a football match as they peppered their fans behind the goal with distant efforts, I think the closest attempt was 15 yards over and 20 yards wide apart from a distance Eagles hit that flew straight into Alexander's midriff.
What a 45 minutes but, amazingly, it wasn't the first time we'd done it this season, we also lead 3-0 at Stoke at half-time, Jerome hitting a double that night. Deja vu.
H/T: Sheff Weds 0 City 3
Gorging on a cracking Chinese takeaway and refreshed by several celebratory ales, we settled down expecting more of the same but got the exact opposite. The job was done but it was disappointing to see us drop a few gears and our intensity but close the game out. With a small squad who have looked a little jaded recently and a few players carrying knocks, perhaps it was no surprise. In addition, Wednesday were playing for pride.
Our defence continue to look rock solid though and eased us home even though it was rarely comfortable. Wednesday attacked and pushed on us, it was a surprise to see us incapable of hitting them on the break but City did a 'same old, same old' of falling deep, in numbers and not coming out. It wasn't pretty but Weston, Purse and, in particular, Loovens, were playing very well and Alexander is in supreme confidence.
There was a spell when City played keep ball, including one two minute spell going nowhere but every pass was cheered by our fans singing that it's just like watching Brazil and when Wednesday got it, the boos went up until they shot wide restarting the cheers..
On the hour, Wednesday press-ganged bulky Scottish defender Lee Bullen into attack and it made it more difficult. Alexander had been tested a couple of times and made one or two fine stops, his best in pushing a vicious swirling Brunt drive onto a post. For me, Wednesday's Chris Brunt was an excellent attacking left footed player and had it not been for Koumas' and Jerome's first half magic, he may have been man of the match.
A goal came on 65. With our midfield failing to keep control and shape and Wednesday pushing through, a through ball was stopped by Loovens at full stretch but ran loose to EAGLES, about to be taken off, with a good low drive past Alexander.
The last 25 were anxious. How many of us were watching the Sky clock counting down in the corner of our screens more than the game itself? It was also dull, I bet some found interest waning.
Under pressure, City had some needless cautions. Whitley had his 7th yellow card of the season for tapping the ball away after a free-kick award, an arguably harsh call by ref Kettle who never had to worry about the game boiling over. Minutes later, Jerome was booked too for being a bit silly and running across a player in an area of no danger. That was more costly, his 5th card means he is out of the next game at Preston on Saturday week.
But City got home. Alexander made a couple more stops, one of them quite brilliant to turn away Partridge's close range flick which had goal written all over it. For City as an attacking force, it was non-existent but Alan Lee produced a couple of good moments which came to nought, Koumas hit a distant shot straight at Weaver and Jerome was sent away in the last minute with an outstanding hat-trick opportunity but stalled on the edge of the area and was denied by a last gasp tackle.
It was however a thoroughly professional job and an outstanding result. The league table says it all and, right now, it means everything. Let's large it, days like these don't come around that often and when it's unexpected, as this season has been, doesn't it feel better still?
THE COST OF BEING A CITY FAN:
Tickets: £0 (Armchair Fans'R'Us!)
Programme: £3 (Someone at the game got me one)
Food/Drink: £28 (Great Chinese set meal and those ales tasted so good with the goals)
Travel: £0 (Stay at home, stay at home, stay at home)
Total for game: £31
Total for season-to-date: £1,376
Monday, November 07, 2005
LENNIE OFFICIALLY LOSES IT - HE'S NOW A WURZEL!!
Oooooh aaah, Oooooh aaaah aaaayLennie's on the way
of The Simpsons
Football reels with the news that Lennie Lawrence is still not properly involved with football ... he's joined the carrot crunchers of Brizzle Roverzzz as Director of Football (but what do they do?).
Lennie has reportedly told the Tractor Drivers that he is not interested in becoming their manager exactly as he did when he took the role at Ninian Park before becoming manager here a few weeks later.
This blog would officially like to wish Lennie Lawrence and Bristol Rovers the best of luck with each other - I've got a feeling both of them are certainly going to need it!
CARDIFF CITY 0
COVENTRY CITY 0
Cov support: 300
Weather: Wet, wet, wet in the morning but sunny and mild in the afternoon
Atmosphere: Like student housing ... flat
The battle of the CCFC's produced the stalest of stalemates, a 0-0 scoreline, a dire affair. Had they played until midweek, it would still have been 0-0. City had the possession and territory but produce one, maybe two, notable efforts on goal, Coventry didn't produce any at all. Coventry showed why they're fighting relegation but Cardiff sank to that level. Dreadful and forgettable, the only consolation is that bad for City these days is a 0-0 draw, not a defeat. There's a lot to be said for that.
It's happened for a few years but I can't quite get use to Sunday afternoon games. It's all too civil, it doesn't feel right. Sunday dinners, no Soccer AM or Soccer Saturday doesn't give you the same feeling at home or down the pub. In fact, I didn't even get to the pub. I had to watch City sober, it wasn't good.
The Sunday game, of course. was arranged to allow us bitter South Wales football fans the opportunity to watch the Welsh egg chasers' bubble exploded with the grandest 41-3 slamming by the All Blacks the day before. Those of us going to Ninian Park from the Vale of Glamorgan may have spotted the All Blacks on a coach heading to the airport, some City fans tooted and waved to them for services rendered.
A Sunday 3pm kick-off probably wasn't the wisest choice with the alternative home or pub attraction of ailing Man United v Chelsea on telly but 11,424 made it to Ninian Park, Coventry fans laughed at their figure but where were they? An easy 2 hour trip but less than 300 of them, bothered, that's more of a joke.
One advantage City enjoyed was knowing what a win would do for them, the incentive couldn't have been greater. Back in 12th after Saturday results, a win would put them in the play-off positions - quite incredible - what more incentive could there be? Amazingly, it didn't seem to motivate them.
Pre-game rumours concerned almost half the team suffering virus or injury but just Michael Ricketts was absent, failing a late fitness test, making Dave Jones change his eleven for just the second time in 11 Championship games. It was Alexander, Weston-Purse-Loovens-Barker, Cooper-Ledley-Whitley-Koumas, Lee-Jerome. With Lee starting, Ferretti was added to the subs with Margetson-Ardley-Cox-Parry.
Coventry are struggling big time. A proud history in the top tier suddenly seems long ago. They were surprising relegation candidates last term but only to outsiders. Amongst Sky Blues fans, Peter Reid was as popular with his decisions and tactics as Lennie was with us. Promptly sacked in January, in came, Micky Adams and ex-Bluebird boss Alan Cork. They survived only to find themselves right back in the brown stuff this term. Adams has now only won them 9 out of 37 Championship games, 3 in 18 attempts this season. They travelled to Ninian outside the relegation spots on goal difference only
Their new Ricoh Stadium has produced better but not as good as expected crowds, results have been ropey. On the road, they have now failed to win in 10 attempts but this was their 6th draw from those games. Cardiff were well below par but you could see exactly
why Coventry are where they are on their display.
Coventry starting line up were Fulop, Duffy-Page-Shaw-Heath, Hall-Hughes-Thornton-Nalis-Scowcroft, McSheffrey. Morten Fulop was a tall (6'5") Hungarian keeper on loan from Spurs, the defence were slow with ex-Bluebird Robert Page and Richard Shaw in its middle (combined age = 68). City, and particularly Jerome, should have exploited that but never did. Cov had 5 spread across midfield leaving Gary McSheffery in isolation up front. Subs included Dele Adebola and ex-Wrexham striker Andy Morrell.
The first half set the pattern for the entire game. Jerome fired over in the first 30 seconds and the game went downhill after that. City had all the possession and looked half decent until they got to the final third where they were clueless and punchless. The only enjoyment was in watching Jason Koumas put on a one man showboating routine with several pieces of extraordinary skill leaving the crowd gasping and applauding. The best for me was when he won a ball that he had no right to get to, dinked it over a defender's flying studs, accelerated past another as though he wasn't there with an audacious dummy but his cross just failed to reach Lee.
For all Koumas' brilliance however, none of it was in or around the penalty area and he was also being let down by others around him making poor passes or wrong selections. In attack, how did City only ever allow Jerome and Lee to get into Cov's penalty area? They have to be supported by runners, especially at home. Unfortunately, it also wasn't helped by Jerome probably having his worst game in a City shirt, he was a shadow of what he can be. To some fans, it appeared as if some Cardiff players had enjoyed their Saturday nights a bit too much, I'm sure it wasn't that way.
There were shots on goal but none to get excited about. A 6'5" keeper and every cross we put into the area was a high ball, he took them all. Every shot was from distance and at height, was it possible to make things any easier for Fulop?
The three best moments came when Jerome tried to curl a shot for top corner but Fulop snatched it quite comfortably as it turned out. Koumas bettered it with an edge of area side footed effort that Fulop did well to turn around the post but, again, it was the right height for him. The best move was when Weston was under pressure deep in his own half from McSheffery but, with his back to goal, he knocked the ball back over his head, turned McSheffery and left him for dead and tore down the right. Exchanging passes with Whitley, his cross was excellent for Lee but he wasted the chance in climbing above Page but heading harmlessly wide, the target had to be hit.
The strangest moment came when a though ball with Jerome at least 5 yards offside wasn't stopped, Jerome took it and was heading to goal when the lino, who must have been asleep, decided to flag several seconds later than he should have.
For those with an obsession with officials, ref Clive Penton, did your head in. He frustrated the mildest observer with over-fussy and inconsistent refereeing. The most jaw-dropping moment for me was when he wasted a minute in making Glen Loovens take a free-kick forward. Not in a dangerous position, but 75 to 80 yards from goal, what bloody difference did it make? I can understand them being taken back but brought forward? Four players were Cardiff, two from each side, including Lee and Whitley in quick succession in the second half. The ref didn't affect the game, it was bad enough anyway, or the result but he certainly didn't help the afternoon.
I've mentioned nothing about Coventry because there was precisely nothing to mention for them. They did well defensively, they got out in numbers but their only effort at goal was blocked. More than few City fans remarked how they were worse than Crewe because at least Alexandra had a go. Cov however would have been very pleased holding City, it was upto Cardiff to do something about it, we just weren't good enough for that to happen today.
H/T: CITY 0 COV 0
If the first half was poor, the second half was dire. Koumas went quiet so now there was nothing to appreciate. Cardiff were lost, awful Route One bang it downfield unimaginative football. Moves, when put together, lacked pace or a spark. Coventry were more than happy to take that.
The only threats came when Lee won a shooting distance free-kick for Koumas. Anticipation built up but Koumas' effort sailed over the bar. The closest we came was unlucky when, at last, we tested Fulop with a low shot, Alan Lee hit one on the turn, Fulop's fingertips just prevented it from finding the far corner. And that my friends, was it.
If Coventry managed any effort at goal, on target or off target, I apologise to them but I missed it or forgot it. City however were clueless about what to do and how to do it until the very final whistle and that, I have to say, included Dave Jones' decision making.
The only entertainment, if you wish to call it that way, was giving stick to ex-Jack and Welsh international Richard Duffy. The silly boy decided to stare out sections of the crowd who did that, as if that would help, so it got louder and longer. He probably had the last laugh though.
Only two subs were used. Paul Parry replaced Alan Lee for the final 15 but in a central striking role. You what? Haven't we learned by now that it is a complete waste of time. Meanwhile, Ferretti, the striker, got the final 4 minutes, very generous. Ardley, who we know as value as someone who can put over the best of crosses, wasn't used at all. It was as if City didn't want to win and make the play-off spots, they were content with the 0-0 against poor opposition. That may be good enough for the club but if they want fans coming back, it's got to be better than this.
Alexander had nothing to do except belt a few back-passes upfield, anyone in the ground could have kept a clean sheet for City today. With so little to do defensively, it was disappointing that neither Barker or Weston featured further up the field. Purse and especially Loovens did well in all aspects of their play but I wish we didn't turn to Loovens to just bang those long balls ahead in the closing stages. We're better than that, we have to be.
Midfield was the Koumas show but, as mentioned before, his best play was in the least worrying areas of the pitch for the opposition, they would have been happy with that. Whitley did well too but Cooper had a nothing game playing left-footed but always on the right and Joe Ledley struggled. You have to remember he is 18, an age where most players would be bit part or in for a few games then rested, and used out of position. The club have so few options, it looks like we have to persevere..
Up front, Alan Lee showed yet again that his best place at this club is on the bench and maybe used for impact in the final half hour. He tries, he runs but he's not an intelligent player, he's certainly not the best header of the ball and he can't hold up play. Jerome was very poor, he looked so lethargic. I can't believe it was the same player I've been admiring and who has been earning rave reviews but it was. Again though, we're over-relying on an 18 year old to do the business week after week, it won't happen.
The point only improved City one place to 11th. They have looked jaded and clueless in each of their two games but have another opportunity at Hillsborough this coming Wednesday in front of Sky cameras too. It is City's game in hand over most clubs above them, win and we go 5th. draw and we go 6th. It should focus the minds of everyone. Somehow, it didn't today.
THE COST OF BEING A CITY FAN:
Tickets: £25 (2 including one on the excellent £5 Ambassador season ticket offer)
Total for game: £40
Total for season-to-date: £1,345
Saturday, November 05, 2005
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
CANARIES CHIRP AS
BLUEBIRDS CRASH LAND
TUESDAY NOVEMBER 1st
Championship @ Carrow Road
NORWICH CITY 1
CARDIFF CITY 0
City support: 400
Atmosphere: Excellent from both sets of fans, Norwich are the loudest home support I've heard this season in the periods they sang but what were they singing?
If the Kaiser Chiefs were City fans, they'd sum this one best with, "An Own Goal, I don't believe it, I've never been so far away from home" as almost 500 City fans made the near 600 miles round trip on a Tuesday night (thank you for that one Mr Fixture Man) to watch City fail at Norwich City to a fluke 77th minute Neil Alexander own goal.
The Canaries deserved their win but they never looked like scoring whilst Cardiff didn't look like netting up the right end had we played there all week so it was probably fitting that we scored for them. Cardiff started slowly, got better but looked very jaded in the final stages. I think the combination of City's small squad, over-reliance on the same players and two big away games of journey sapping distance travelling in little more than 72 hours told tonight, that's how it looked anyway. As one fan commented leaving Carrow Road, "the best thing City did tonight was come over to applaud us at the end".
Leaving South Wales, the mood was chirpy, confidence was high. Most of us took at least a day off work to do the trip. Why? You can't explain it really but those of us who regularly go away will tell you that it just has to be done and that's enough of a reason. The journey was good but long and slow and painful. A glorious day, strange to see it go dark by 5pm with clocks gone back but good company and some real laughs. Traffic jams on the M40 and M25 meant it took us more than 6 hours to get to East Anglia and made it with just an hour until kick-off.
A big hand must to Valley Rams and Cardiff City Supporters Club who, in conjunction with the police, directed us to one pub - The Griffin - where we were welcomed by very friendly staff and a free buffet including chilli and beef curries. Several City fans, you know who you are, were observed making several visits to the table but it made a very welcome change from under-cooked and over-priced football ground meat pies and burgers. But who the heck were those three less than sane looking Bluebird blokes who sang non-stop crap that made everyone ignore them? Was it a Football Care in the Community scheme?
Police escorted us to the ground and encouraged us to take any leftover drinks back onto the buses with us. Nobody turned down an invitation like that. Norwich, you see, is a friendly place with friendly folk and we were made welcome. Mind you, they could have dropped us right outside the away end instead of taking us to car parks that were already full so we had to get off in the streets and walk 10 minutes back to the ground.
This was my first visit to Carrow Road and ground 82 of the current 92 league clubs, all bar two of them to watch City play. My mental image was the ground was much bigger than it, in fact, really is. Build in the middle of housing and some retail but with clear space all around it, what used to be traditional stands and terraces has been converted over recent times to a modern all seater stadium with only one open corner. There were double decker style stands behind both goals, a smaller stand opposite us and City fans were housed in an end block looking at a corner flag of the goal City defended in the opening period.
The away end was a good facility with a bookie who did a roaring trade on City fans convinced we would win and a catering point probably loaded with food but which nobody was buying having already scoffed away ... mind you, a few were stocking up again! What was impressive was being in a ground that was full, well 89% full according to the tannoy, the only empty seats were in the corner wings and the 'no man's land', the away section and the 'no man's land' between rival fans in the same stand.
It was a key game for City but make or break for Norwich and their boss as Worthington's Best has become Worthington's Bitter. Nigel Worthington's credibility has gone from lift off to **** off amongst the lurid green and yellow supporters. Having got Norwich into the Premiership, they looked set for survival last term until a calamitous 6-0 defeat last match at Fulham sent them crashing down. This season, while the Bluebirds have been unexpectedly flying high, The Canaries have caught bird flu. They were expected to get out of the Championship at first attempt and, at this rate, they're more likely to achieve that by relegation into League One instead of going straight back up.
Going into the game, only Plymouth, Brighton, Crewe and Millwall were below Norwich who had collected just 16 points in 16 games, 10 of them coming from 9 games at Carrow Road, a pitiful return at a ground sold out every match. Their sole highlight this term was winning the first East Anglian derby at Ipswich.
Delia's simmering and must be tempted to grab that mic and shout her slurry "lesss be avvving yeww" to the players instead of the club's fans. If results are poor, performances have apparently been poorer still and even though they beat City, it has to be said that they are extremely ordinary, don't expect them to fly too high up the table judging by this display. Many, including their local media, were predicting defeat against City could see Worthington sacked. Indeed, the Board gave him a vote on confidence at the weekend so the end must be nigh. Norwich have had some bad luck with injuries but if Lennie Lawrence's Cardiff City badly under-performed last term, it pales into insignificance against a side including the likes of Robert Green, Calum Davenport, Dean Ashton and Darren Huckerby amongst others.
His side for this make or break game were Green, Colin-Davenport-Doherty-Drury, Jarrett-Safri-Hughes-Huckerby, Henderson-Ashton. Amongst their subs but sadly not seen was Peter Thorne. It was a nice touch as the game started to hear City fans chanting the Thorney song one more.
While fans had to take time off jobs and spend several hours sampling the delights of motorways, A roads and traffic jams aplenty, Dave Jones and the boys flew to the game. Wild rumours circulated that a couple of players were worried about taking to the air - Parry and Koumas apparently - although wicked suggestions said it must have been Michael Ricketts as he never bothers to get off the ground.
No problems with team selection as it was the 9th time in 10 Championship games that City started with the same eleven of Alexander, Weston-Purse-Loovens-Barker, Cooper-Ledley-Whitley-Koumas, Jerome- Ricketts. The subs were the usual suspects too.
Norwich were either going to throw everything at City or surrender and die if they wanted their boss out. It was the former and backed by fanatical support, Cardiff were doing everything they could to hold on in the first 20 minutes. They survived but it had a lot to do with luck. City were uncomfortable against Norwich's pace and width in particular. It was an open game but that wasn't helping us. How did captain Andy Hughes put a close range far post header clip the outside of the post and side netting with the goal gaping in front of him? He also managed to collide with the post and was taken off injured moments later, McVeigh replacing him.
A worse miss came from Dean Ashton who frightened City with his power and strength early on but not his finishing as he leaned back 6 yards out and blazed a ball laid straight into his path well over from a few feet out. Alexander had to save from Huckerby and a couple of efforts fizzed over or wide, Purse and Loovens were defending strongly but Norwich were using width which bothered a Cardiff side which played far too narrow all night - someone needs to tell them the pitch is 60 yards wide, not 35.
Having ridden the storm, Norwich's fans went quiet and those who had been standing - which was only those in home shirts - sat down as well and Cardiff took over on and off the pitch. The lamest football chant ever - "Delia cooks with a microwave" - seem to be popular with a section of our support, the rest of us cringed. There's only one Gordon Ramsey is marginally better. Better still, was "Delia loves a spit-roast" but I think it was too difficult for the microwave boys to understand.
Much better were City larging it before the interval as we were now dominating singing, "he's getting sacked in the morning" (about Worthington), followed by "Lennie's taking over" and "you're going to sign Andy Campbell". Excellent.
Cardiff fans were buoyant having seen Jeff Whitley fire wide, make Green save twice, Ricketts (on the only time he moved all night) and Ledley were close with chips with both hit the top of the goalnet as they were a fraction over. Norwich had been physical and their frustrations were showing, Safri and Colin were carded just before the interval for bad challenges, the ref could have easily added one or two more.
City went in half-time maybe slightly lucky to be level but definitely having turned things around and finished it as the stronger side.
H/T: NORWICH 0 CITY 0
Now attacking towards us, we thought would see the best of City. Safri was replaced by Brennan. That was due to injury but just 1 minute after the restart, Ricketts was off as well, replaced by Lee.
Why did we bother restarting with him anyway? Ricketts was awful, lazy and disinterested. Not for the first time, there's a suggestion that he was ill and sick. He made a good start but has been worse than poor lately, his goals have covered up how terrible he has been lately. We're now starting to understand why some Leeds fans rate him as their worst player. He's not helping Jerome or working for the team. He only touches the ball if it's straight to his head or feet, he ain't interested if he has to move for it. His attitude and body language looks all wrong. It's no exaggeration to say City fans used greater energy and sweat more supporting the side in the stands than he did on the pitch. It can't be right.
Alan Lee replaced him and the game swung end to end. For City, Jerome three times got behind Norwich but couldn't finish. The first effort saw him go left but his left footed shot lacked any power or direction, Green took it comfortably. The next saw him get through, his diagonal shot beat Green but was a couple of feet wide, the third saw him fall over in the area. His new white boots were causing him to slip so he changed them after that, a couple of City players started slipping as night dew fell.
For Norwich, there was huff, puff and pressure but no end product. Their fans were now very quiet although they did manage a humorous Delia homage chant of "c'mon, let's be'aving you". For them, one shot went wide, another blocked.
All quality had gone from the game, both sides resorting to hoofing away. it was ugly but
Norwich had more width whilst Cardiff's midfield were struggling and neither Lee or Jerome could hold up play, the ball far too often just bouncing back from them. The key difference however was that Cardiff were wilting before our eyes, they fell deeper, they were second best to loose balls, Koumas was working hard but could never break away. They needed help but a drawback of our small squad is that it's not necessarily there.
The game seemed to be heading towards 0-0 or a home win. only because they had the territory and possession and Cardiff were jaded, but you still couldn't see a goal coming. It took a comedy goal to split the sides but City also have to look at themselves. A corner came in which wasn't defended well, when it came out, City were static and when the ball came back in, Norwich had three players loaded at the near post. Alexander came out but timed it wrong, one of them flicked over him and then luck ran against us as Purse got to the ball and flicked it off the line but it then rebounded off Alexander's head as he landed on the ground in front of him and over the line. A fluke goal? Yes, Poor defending? Yes again.
The closing stages were painful. City raised their game, tried to pressurise the home side brought on Parry for Cooper and Ardley for Weston but their tiredness was telling as passes were misplaced, moves broke down and even players who had performed well such as Loovens were now making mistakes. City only managed two shots, both from Koumas. His free-kick in a dangerous position was wasted as he slipped as he kicked, the ball squirting harmlessly wide than an effort with the last kick of the game flew well wide.
You could see the relief in the faces of the Norwich fans and players. Of course they're too good to be as lowly as they are but, despite their talents, they look nothing special and I'd be surprised if they got close to the play-offs which must be their minimum target. For Cardiff, it was disappointing but only our 2nd defeat in 12 league games and we managed to stay 9th.
The defence played reasonably well. Purse and Loovens looked excellent but, even so, both made mistakes. Rhys Weston had another good game defensively, Huckerby caused City few problems but Rhys never managed to get forward. Chris Barker wasn't at his best, most danger seemed to come from crosses on his side. Midfield fell short once more, Ledley wasn't in it, Whitley was no influence, Cooper worked hard but never saw enough of the ball whilst Koumas was the one who put himself about most but he had no chance to show his flair tonight. Jerome had the chances but not the finishing this evening but Lee and himself found it difficult. It can't be easy however when City play so narrow and hit long and high balls towards you.
The journey home was uneventful. The team flew apparently but the team coach was there for those who wouldn't, the kit and the supporting staff. Our coach didn't stop in Norwich which the police were happy for us to do, half of us tried to sleep, half partied away. We got back at 4am, it wasn't helped by a poor escort and arrangements to get us away, we were still in Norwich an hour after the game. Still, we did it ... because we had to. It's crazy.
The Cost of Being A City fan:
Programme: £ 3
Travel to/from home & coach: £3
Total for game: £72
Total for season: £1,305