A defeat, but still plenty to be positive about.

CoymayI expected my somewhat critical piece on Saturday’s win over Huddersfield to produce a reaction which saw people disagreeing with what I’d said and a look at the comments it attracted on here will show that this duly happened – although, interestingly, there were also as many that were generally supportive of what I had said.

As I mentioned in my reply to the feedback I received, the only real positive I could find from Saturday was that we got the three points. So, when City then go on to lose their next match by 2-0 at home to a side that had only taken one point from it’s three away games before last night, then it has to follow that I’m going to rip the team and manager to shreds doesn’t it?

Well no actually, City played far, far better in losing their unbeaten record against a good Hull team than they did in maintaining it against a pretty mediocre Huddersfield side three days earlier. If City were to play a whole season playing like they did on Saturday and another one playing like we did last night, then I have no doubt whatsoever that they’d finish significantly higher in the table under the latter than the former.

Now, if this was a Hull City blog, I’d no doubt be drawing different conclusions from what I’d just watched. For example, I would be praising a change in formation which I thought caught their opponents on the hop somewhat in the early stages and the defensive efforts of a back three (Davies, Dawson and Bruce are probably as strong a trio of centrebacks as can be fielded at this level) which gradually strangled the life out of their opponents.

There would also be praise for some of the individual displays further up the pitch (maybe I would have a different opinion of him if I were watching him every week, but, from a distance, it’s always a mystery to me why Sone Aluko spends so much time on the bench for Hull) and of the ruthless way they picked City off in the closing stages – was there a hint of offside about the second goal?

So, from a Cardiff perspective, it’s right to acknowledge that the team which beat us last night were certainly no bunch of mugs and, with the squad that they have got, they’ll not be far away if they can repeat the defensive discipline, togetherness and spirit they showed last night (something which we signally failed to do in our first year back in the Championship last season).

Did Hull deserve their win though? Possibly, but I’m not really convinced that they did. For a start, I thought they lost the midfield battle. In the first half especially, City’s worked the ball around with some style to get in down the flanks plenty of times, they were good at regaining possession and, while acknowledging they are not the be all and end all when it comes to analysing a match, when the possession stats are as one sided as they were last night (63/37 in our favour), there cannot be any doubt that they tell a significant story.

Mo Diame's shot beats David Marshall to give Hull an eighth minute lead they defended very effectively for the rest of the game - City could have defended the situation, but the way a loose ball fell perfectly into the scorer's path was typical of a night when City got very little of any luck that was on offer.*

Mo Diame’s shot beats David Marshall to give Hull an eighth minute lead they defended very effectively for the rest of the game – City could have defended the situation better, but the way a loose ball fell perfectly into the scorer’s path was typical of a night when they got very little of any luck that was on offer.*

Ralls, Whittingham and Dikgacoi (the last named having his best game in a City shirt so far in my view) kept us on the front foot throughout. Now, of course, having an early lead to defend meant that Hull were, in many ways, content to sit back and play on the break, but I’m not sure they would have wanted the ball to keep coming back at them as quickly it did for most of the time.

City’s domination of both ball and territory deserved more reward than it got. Hull’s resilient defending played it’s part in ensuring that they didn’t, but, despite there being much to be encouraged about in City’s display, Russell Slade was right in my opinion to say after the game that much of the good work came to nothing because we were found to be somewhat lacking when the ball got into the final third of the pitch.

For example, Fabio was a real contender for City man of the match and there was much to be admired about the attacking work that got him into good crossing positions, but, despite having so many opportunities to deliver one, he was unable to come up with a ball which really hurt Hull. It was much the same on the right flank where Lee Peltier’s more mundane attacking game meant that he was never going to get as many chances to play in that cross which would transform the game and those that he did manage were dealt with easily enough by Hull’s massed defensive ranks.

With Ralls’ tendency to come infield or to cover defensively on the left, it means that most of our crosses in open play come from our full backs, but it wasn’t just them who failed to produce in that department – if the team’s passing was primarilly accurate and true in most areas, that didn’t apply when they got into the spaces between the outside edge of Hull’s penalty area and the touchline.

When it came to dead ball situations, Whittingham has probably not had as many opportunities to deliver free kicks and corners in a game in some time and it was disappointing that, with his quality, he never quite got things right in that department – that said, any criticism of City has to be tempered with an acknowledgement of how well our opponents defended and so, I wouldn’t be too critical of Whitts.

Nevertheless, perhaps understandably as they chased the game, I did think City got more and more one dimensional in their attacking play as the game wore on as the “look for Kenwyne’s head” option appeared to be the only one we had in open play and while there were more targets to aim for from deadballs, it was all very much an aerial assault when it must surely have been worthwhile to try something different now and again.

In the first half, Jones enjoyed some success in the aerial encounters and with Joe Mason showing up well when he dropped a little deeper to receive the ball to feet, our front two were doing enough to let the Hull back three know they were around.

However, apart from one run past a couple of defenders which showed that he is so much more than just an immobile lump that you can only utilise in one way (sadly, another not quite good enough cross meant that nothing came from a lovely bit of play from our striker), Kenwyne faded from the picture in the second half and, while the preference for an aerial assault meant that we were not playing to Mason’s strengths, the truth is that when he received a pass inside the last ten minutes, it took me aback a little because I had genuinely forgotten that he was still on the pitch.

So, while I thought there was much to admire in our performance, it still had it’s faults – therefore is my contention that City were unlucky to lose really justified? I believe it is when you consider the other factor which had such a big impact on the outcome of the game – the worst referee I’ve seen at a City first team game in the new stadium.

Now, whatever anyone may think of the general tone and content of this blog, one thing it’s not is a place where defeat for my team sees a long diatribe from me blaming it all on the man in charge. Yes, I’ll make brief reference to an official who I consider has been poor (I’ve also been known to praise a few refs I’ve seen as well), but I generally tend to leave it at that.

In fact, without checking this, I believe that in the six years this blog has been going there can only be one ref at most that I’ve “tagged” (that is singled out so that a search engine will find find the piece you are writing when the name of the person tagged is searched) – well, now there’s a maximum of two – come on down Chris Sarginson from Staffordshire!

I would guess that I’ve posted something like 500 pieces on here since 2009 about games I’ve watched and the appalling Mr Sarginson is in the something like 0.5% of refs I’ve seen that have moved me enough to want let the world beyond the confines of the relatively few who read my ramblings know about his ineptitude.

Russell Slade, understandably, focused on the three realistic penalty claims Mr Sarginson denied us. For my part, I’ll not say much about them because two of them took place at the opposite end of the pitch to me (although the lack of consistency shown by the ref with two high kicking episodes which happened within a minute of each other was blatantly obvious) so I didn’t have a great view of them and and the large number of players between where I was sat and the ball meant I couldn’t be sure either way about the second half handball shout either.

However, none of this stopped me seeing that everyone of the big, match defining decisions, Sarginson made went in favour of one team. It also didn’t stop me observing that, apart from one instance where, fair play to him, he played an advantage after a City player had been fouled, I cannot remember him giving a single free kick for a foul by a Hull player in the entire first half, apart from the two where he, eventually, managed to see the raised linesman’s flag indicating an offence had been committed.

At least Sarginson did start penalising Hull fouls after the break, but, having been so quick to show yellow cards to Cardiff players in the first half, he applied different standards to the multitude of offences committed by Diame in Hull’s midfield and it was amazing that it took until the 90th minute to caution a visiting player for a foul.

The truly woeful Chris Sarginson finally shows a Hull player a yellow card for a foul after sub John Meyler (a player I'm sure who has many qualities, but all I ever see him do is kick people!) brought down Lee Peltier.*

The truly woeful Chris Sarginson finally shows a Hull player a yellow card for a foul after sub John Meyler (a player I’m sure who has many qualities, but all I ever see him do is kick people!) brought down Lee Peltier.*

Meanwhile, we had the ludicrous booking in added time of Alan McGregor for time wasting. I don’t blame McGregor for taking as long as possible over every goal kick and free kick he took during the second half – he was doing what any professional defending a lead would do when given the chance by a weak and indulgent official.

It would be wrong to say Hull weren’t on the wrong end of some poor decision making by Sarginson – there were four or five occasions when a City player came away with the ball after a challenge which had me saying I thought that was a foul. However, City suffered far more from downright bad refereeing than their opponents did and it was that inconsistency Sarginson showed which marked him down as so awful for me.

I’ve been doing some research into our Mr Sarginson and found that he first refereed at Football League level in 2008. His first Championship match came a year later and there was then a period when he was given games in the second tier on a fairly regular basis with six of them in 10/11 and seven in 11/12.

At that time, he may have been thought of as an official progressing his way through the system, but there’s been a decline in the number of matches at our level he’s taken since then culminating in just three of them last season, while last night was the first time he’d done a Championship game in 15/16.

That’s a pretty mediocre CV for someone who is now in his eighth season of refereeing in the Football League and it was so easy to see why his superiors don’t seem to trust him enough to take charge of Championship matches on a regular basis.

I’d never heard of Mr Sarginson until last night and I hope I never do again in a Cardiff City context – he was completely out of his depth.

Still, let’s finish on a positive note by saying we’ll be fine this season if we can just add a little bit more precision and cleverness to our work in our opponents’ defensive third.

*pictures courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/joncandy/albums/with/72157656340097864


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7 Responses to A defeat, but still plenty to be positive about.

  1. Richard Holt says:

    Brilliant write up as ever Paul. My only thought is that the ‘ if ‘ in your last paragraph is quite a big ‘if ‘.

  2. To me, Cardiff’s display last night was like the proverbial curate’s egg. Some eye-catching work at times – but mostly in our own half which therefore makes the possession stats somewhat flattering, but – and this is a big but – our LACK OF PENETRATION was woeful, and yet entirely predictable. In fact, Hull dominated the game in the sense that Cardiff played exactly as Hull wanted us to play. And talking about predictability – every free kick or corner was predictably lofted into the box by Cardiff, and with equal predictably cleared by their defence or held by the goalkeeper. There was more movement from KJ than usual, and JM did run forward a few times – but to what effect from either player? When they chose to use it (and I use the word “chose” deliberately) Hull had too much speed for Cardiff to cope with in any part of the field. My overall assessment of the Cardiff performance was, sad to say, a disappointment. The major positive, I hope, is that the powers that be see it as a reality check.

  3. Geoff Lewis says:

    Thanks Paul,
    As usual an excellent report on the match. For me we may have played well, but we rarely tested their goalkeeper in open play. I cannot understand why Whittingham did not vary his corner kicks, each one was the same and easily cleared by their strong back force.
    Fabio played a blinder and the midfield were in control, until they scored their second goal.
    The guy Mr Meyer that felled Peltier at the end, should have received a straight red card instead of yellow was also confirmed by one of our ex players Derek Brazil and that sums up the worst referee I have ever seen at Cardiff games. In the 90th minute he decides to give Mc Gregor a yellow card for time wasting – a bit late I thought.
    Mr Sarginson lives in Staffordshire, my son is a Detective Policeman who also lives in Stafford, perhaps he should give him some advice in the the rules which relate to high kicking and handballs by the Hull City players in the penalty area in the match on Tuesday 15 September 2015.
    Is there any way – we as supporters can lodge our disgust at the way he and his colleagues officiated the game last night.

  4. Graham says:

    Absolutely agree with Anthony O’Brien’s analysis of our failure last night – ‘lack of penetration’ .. our obsession with possession without understanding that possession must always be with a view to going forward and often our pretty passing players didn’t even look to see if there was a possibility of that ..
    .. and Jones and Mason are just not a goal-scoring pair up-front – I like Mason’s workrate but if he does find room the ball never gets to him while he’s in it, and yes, once in a while Jones manages to actually aim a headed ball in a direction which just might open up a scoring possibility, but .. and when I think of those who have worn shirts numbered 9 and 10 a few seasons ago, we are sadly lacking now ..
    .. oh, for a few more in the team like Fabio who shows time and again that he knows the aim is to get the ball in that net down the other end and sets off in that direction ..

  5. Dai Woosnam says:

    Thanks as ever, Paul.
    Those words from Graham should be compulsory reading for Russell Slade.
    Mr Slade will never make a top coach. And I think I know why.
    And it is this…
    Unlike the likes of Brian Clough, Arsene Wenger, Bill Shankly, Jose Mourinho, Alex Ferguson, etc …he lacks the one quality they all shared, despite their different tactics and styles: viz. their stubbornness
    He has allowed himself to be too easily swayed by media pressure to play a less direct game…hence all this laboured patient build-up. Square passes that drive me nuts.
    Forget the sexed-up dossier on WMDs in Iraq being the “biggest lie of our times”. It never was.
    That description has to go to the piece of fantasy that passeth all understanding …yet has been swallowed wholesale by one football coach after another (showing their sheep- like tendancies to follow Received Opinion).
    I refer of course to the shibboleth that “possession is nine tenths of the law…sorry, strike ‘law’…make that “nine tenths of the GAME”.
    It really is not…and never has been.
    It is actually quite the opposite. An obsession with possession stats, leads to “possession for possession’s sake” and a great yawn going right around the footballing world.
    Now, please do not wilfully misunderstand me… for we ALL love a clever piece of interpassing…but it HAS to be ADEL ANTE …as the Real Madrid coach 1955-60 once famously said.
    I referred in your last post, to that thrilling Watford goal on MotD last Sat. Now, at first sight, that might seem a “hoof ball” goal. But it was nothing of the sort. It was truly a thing of BEAUTY.
    The Watford keeper realised that his team were never going to outpass the Swans, so he aims – and the stress here is on the word AIMED – a giant kick which finds the head of the marvellous Troy Deeney. And his header that followed, was the best header I have seen in years.
    No, it was not at GOAL…but rather, aimed at his fellow striker. It was a sublimely CUSHIONED header, that I watched about six times – including in slowmo – on my TV.
    And it cut through the Swansea defence, like a knife through butter.
    Brilliant. It had me drooling.
    I commend it to al your readers who may stil have it on their DVD recorders …if it is not still on the BBC iPlayer.
    But football is a broad church. For that same MotD programme saw an equally thrilling “pass and move” goal from Ryan Mason for Spurs. There is room for more than one playing style in a team’s tactics.
    But what was important about THAT goal was the passing was based on FORWARD momentum.
    None of this dreadful square and back passing.
    Kindest, as ever,

  6. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Thanks again for your replies. I must say that I take a different view to much of what is said for a few reasons;-
    1. Hull had a lead to defend for more than 90% of the game and although their wing backs started off in an attacking frame of mind, that soon changed as they sat back to defend their lead or were forced back by City’s pressure. So, essentially, Hull played with a back five for most of the match with three central midfield players who didn’t venture too far forward. This led to a situation whereby something like 70 per cent of the players were concentrated into about 40 per cent of the pitch. Therefore, when Hull managed to get the ball into the less populated area of the pitch, it was easier for them to play the ball forward and use the pace of Aluko and Clucas. On the other hand, with Hull tending to sit deep, City would not have had much opportunity to exploit their attacking pace even if they possessed a lot more of that commodity – what space there was tended to be down the flanks and I’m afraid City’s crossing was not good enough when they were able to get to the bye line in those areas.
    2. As for playing too much passing football, I would argue that City showed they were able to move the ball forward quickly and accurately on two thirds of the pitch, but it went wrong for them in the most important area when, if anything, they lacked the courage of their passing convictions and resorted to high balls to Kenwyne. Davies and Dawson in particular are very well equipped to deal with such an approach and, in essence, all City did when they got within sight of the Hull goal was huff and puff when a bit more guile was required.
    3. Only Geoff has touched on the other really important factor in our defeat – the truly awful referee. I’ve now seen the four, not three, penalty shouts we had in the highlights package on City’s website and I believe that three of them (the ones Russell Slade mentioned) could easily have been given on another day. I’ve also seen the high kick which Dikgacoi got penalised for a minute before the incident between Aluko and Ralls and if an offence has been committed by the City man, then it has to follow that we should have been given a penalty. For the handball claim against Dawson in the second half it should have boiled down to whether being a distance of five yards away from the player who hits a well struck shot which connects with your outstretched arm is too close a range for the defender to get his arm out of the way – at least that’s what should have happened, as it was the idiot ref signalled that the ball hit Dawson’s chest (which it certainly didn’t do!).
    4. Dai, I take it you know I was joking when I said Watford have always been a kick and run team? I agree with your conclusion about there being room for more than one playing style, but not with what you say about Russell Slade because, whether the dreadful long ball stuff we were playing either side of Christmas was at his command or not, the simple truth is that it just was not working – at the end of January people were seriously talking about us going down. It may not have been have been entirely down to him, but the arrival of Paul Trollope coincided with a greater emphasis on ball retention and less hoofball (and what we were playing was hoofball which certainly bore no relation to the goal Watford scored on Saturday) and since then results and performances have improved markedly.

  7. Graham says:

    Not mentioning the referee does not mean that I do not share totally your accurate review of his disgraceful performance – it even led most of in the usually semi-silent Ninian Stand to join in the furious vocal but musical comments on his contribution from our superb Canton Stand cheer-leaders ..

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