I think the fixture computer handed us a very tough August with our first three away matches in particular offering a real test of a squad that has been hit by something of an injury crisis in midfield in recent weeks. When you consider that the squad is reckoned to be too small anyway by our manager, then one defeat in five in the league to go alongside two hard fought League Cup wins has to represent a satisfactory start given all of the upheaval and new arrivals of the summer.
Yesterday’s 1-1 draw at Portsmouth left me with more or less the same feelings I had after last week’s game at Burnley – a draw at the ground of a team I believe will finish in the top ten is a good result which again confirms the suspicion that this side has a resilience that wasn’t always apparent in last season’s City team which is, by common consent, considered to be better than this one (I’ll pass on giving a judgement on that until we know what our squad looks like when we next play in just under a fortnight). In all three of our away games we have gone through spells where we have been put under concerted pressure by the home team, but we didn’t lose any of them and with just two goals conceded, there is a defensive solidity about us on our travels which, unfortunately, we appear to lack at home at the moment.
Of course, consecutive draws will mean that you are going to lose ground to some of the team’s around you, but when looked at in the context of them coming off the back of our one really disappointing display so far, against Brighton, I’d say that the fact we’ve “stopped the rot” at Burnley and Portsmouth is more important than it being three league matches since our last win – obviously, I’ll be thinking differently if we fail to see off rock bottom Doncaster on 10 September! For a while yesterday it looked as if Andrew Taylor’s first goal for the club twenty minutes from time following a neat move involving sub Rudi Gestede, Earnie and Craig Conway was going to be enough to take the points against a Portsmouth side that has been short of goals so far. However, veteran Kanu came off the bench to score only his fifth league goal since getting the winner in the 2008 Cup Final when his close range header beat David Marshall on 80 minutes.
City’s season now comes to a halt until a week Saturday as we have the first of the breaks for International fixtures, but, certainly until Wednesday evening, the focus will still be very much on club football as the summer transfer window enters it’s final few days before closing late on 31 August. For much of the last few weeks it has been hard to avoid the suspicion that transfer dealings (on the incoming side at least) at Cardiff had been suspended until Craig Bellamy’s situation was been resolved one way or another. The former Wales skipper had talked of coming here again after last season’s loan and it’s been pretty obvious that City had been hoping to bring him back through another loan deal or, possibly as a permanent signing in the event of Man City cancelling his contract by paying off a significant portion of the money he stands to earn from the ten months left on his deal.
However, Man City have, seemingly, not been willing to entertain a loan similar to last year’s whereby we paid around £25,000 of his reported £90,000 a week wages – they have wanted any club he plays for to pay all, or very close to all, of his wages and that puts him way beyond our resources. For a long time, Man City were saying they were only willing to let Bellamy leave for a fee widely reported as £4 million, but, they appear to have relaxed their stance in the past week or so and now it looks like they are prepared to let him leave on a free transfer or on loan. Over the past week or so there has been widespread speculation that Bellamy was on his way to Liverpool, but with the player seemingly not prepared to take a significant drop in wages, there have been some reports of their interest in him cooling and now this morning’s Daily Mail has said “yes” to Spurs (quite what this “yes” was in response to isn’t clear mind, there’s no mention of it in the story – maybe they asked him if it was true he was born in Cardiff?).
Speaking as someone who was always optimistic last summer that we would get Bellamy, I believe our chances of getting him aren’t great this time around. If his position isn’t sorted out by Thursday, then we’ll be back in the running, but I wonder if it isn’t a coincidence that stories about us signing Coventry’s Ben Turner (with Jon Parkin possibly heading in the opposite direction) surfaced yesterday? If there is something to these reports, then does it signal an end to our interest in Bellamy as money that had been set aside for him is used to try and bring in other targets? Anyway, 23 year old Turner (who is qualified to play for Wales) is a centre back who was certainly very highly rated by his club who offered him a three and a half year contract last season and he is someone that has attracted the attention of Premiership clubs in his time. However, the fly in the ointment is that injuries have restricted him to just twenty seven league appearances in the past two seasons and he has yet to play a game so far this time around. On the face of it, it appears a bit strange that we would be in for someone with a record like that, especially when you consider that we have four centrebacks already – I can only think that one of Hudson, Keinan, Gyepes and Gerrard would be leaving (the last named is in the final year of his contract with us and, apparently, his family are still living in the North of England).
Finally, a couple of other quick items, Peter Whittingham signed a contract extension on Friday that will keep him at the club until June 2014 and City were the first name out of the hat in yesterdays draw for the Third Round of the Carling Cup. They will entertain mega bucks Leicester City in a match likely to be played on Tuesday 20 September five days before Sven brings his team here in the Championship.by The other Bob Wilson
I don’t know what it is about Cardiff sides lately that means that they have to hand the opposition three goals when they play at Cardiff City Stadium, but, it’s happened four times in the first team’s last five competitive matches and today the Under 18′s were at it as they made a gift of the game to a big, but technically limited Sheffield Wednesday team.
If City’s youngsters were very good in drawing up at Liverpool last week, they were equally as poor in the opening half today in front of decent sized crowd at the main stadium. Without skipper Joe Ralls to knit things together in the middle of the park, City struggled from the off against bigger opponents who showed a better appetite for the game than our kids. Challenges were being lost all over the park as play continuously headed towards the City goal, but, although Wednesday were the stronger team in terms of physique and power, they looked pretty ordinary on the technical front and so there were not many chances to show for twenty minutes or so of complete dominance at the start of the match.
Ironically, when a goal did come it was at a time when City were enjoying their best spell of the half – Jesse Darko, who looked capable of causing problems if he could get a better service, headed against the bar and Tom O’Sullivan was denied a goal from the rebound by a brave diving save from the Wednesday keeper, while a Jaye Bowen inswinging corner found it’s way into the net, only for the goal to be disallowed by a fussy referee, who thought we had all turned up to watch him, for a push. The visitors first goal came from the penalty spot after Mamadou Diallo brought down a Wednesday player as he prepared to shoot following a cleverly worked short free kick – if the penalty award was a fair one, I’m not sure the same could be said for the free kick which had been given just before it for an alleged push by a City player.
The penalty was put away with little fuss and I’m afraid that City rather fell apart after that. Ben Nugent was caught out as City’s defence let what should have been a harmless long ball find it’s way through to the Wednesday left winger who cut inside and curled a lovely shot against the crossbar – the ball then being turned in by a team mate who had been following in. It went from bad to worse after that after Wednesday broke from a City corner and, once again, a routine long ball forward opened the defence up. Keeper Liam Matthews was left facing a one on one and sent the Wednesday player sprawling. It was definitely a foul, but City disputed the penalty award on the grounds that the incident happened outside the penalty area -if I had been sat in my normal seat I might have been able to say whether they had any justification in their argument, but it was impossible to tell from about sixty yards away. Once again, the penalty was scored with ease and City trooped off at the break three goals down – I never like being critical of our youngsters, but it had been pretty dreadful stuff.
Neil Ardley doesn’t strike me as a teacup thrower, but, judging by the contrast between City’s first half showing and their performance after the break, some harsh words were said in the dressing room at half time. City had shown themselves to be the more gifted team when they had the chance to play some football, but they were losing the physical battle by a distance and the introduction of the French pair Yannis Drais and Kevin Saint Luce helped even things up a bit on that score. The latter was soon forcing the Wednesday keeper into a smart diving save and there was no doubt that the mood of the game had now changed completely. City forced countless corners and at times it seemed that a goal just had to come as the ball bounced around close to the Wednesday goal just crying out for someone to whack it in, but when City did finally make their pressure count, it came from an error from the previously impressive keeper who allowed a Tom O’Sullivan shot to roll just over the line. When Saint Luce fired just wide after a clever pass from Oshilala, there was a definite feeling that City could still get something from the game, but time was running out and it needed the help of the referee to keep those hopes alive with about ten minutes to go – I don’t think I was the only one who was baffled at the decision to award a penalty after a scramble in the Wednesday box, but City weren’t complaining and Darko coolly slotted home to make it 3-2.
Wednesday were now hanging on desperately and their goal led something of a charmed life in the closing minutes as Oshilala (at least I think it was him) hit the crossbar and some frantic last ditch defending kept City out, but time eventually ran out and the visitors clung on for what was in the end a slightly fortunate win. It’s easy to feel sorry for City after coming so close to pulling off an amazing comeback and players like O’Sullivan, Darko and Oshilala didn’t deserve to be on the losing side, but they really were their own worst enemy today after such a slow start. Although I would have thought they would lap up such a chance, maybe playing at the club’s home stadium is a bit too much for our youngsters at this stage of their career – I may be wrong here, but, I think our Under 18′s have lost the last five games they have played at Cardiff City Stadium/Ninian Park and in four of those games they have found themselves at least two goals down at half time.
by The other Bob Wilson