Away performances go from bad to worse for Cardiff’s shrinking violets.

CoymayIn an interview after the Leeds game on Saturday, John Brayford said he had never understood why playing away was thought of so differently from playing at home – it was just a football game when all’s said and done. Now, I’m willing to take our right back at his word and accept that he feels exactly the same about playing in away matches as he does about turning out at Cardiff City Stadium, but, after City’s latest away horror show in losing 3-0 at Bolton last night, I can only assume he is the only one in the team feeling like that as they trot out on to the pitch on opponent’s grounds.

I should say that I’ve not even seen the goals from last night’s match yet, but, judging by the radio commentary and the match reports I’ve read, City’s miserable away form reached new depths – you thought Blackpool and Millwall were bad, but wait until you see Bolton!

When a side put together with possibly the biggest budget in the Championship, full of players who are probably earning more than many in the Premier League do can only pick up four points and score five goals in their first eight away matches, you know something is seriously wrong and the truly concerning thing is that the same old problems keep on surfacing every time we go away.

On Monday Nathan Blake said on the Wales Online show he does with Steve Tucker every week that if you are in an away side that batters your opponents, yet ends up losing 1-0, you can console yourself with the fact that you are not getting what you deserve and things should start changing soon if you keep that level of performance up. Unfortunately, what we are seeing with City is almost that situation in reverse in that, although four points from eight eight games is a pathetic return for a team that was being touted as favourites to win the Championship three months ago, the truth is it could be so much less.

Maybe it's down to the camera angle, but there doesn't seem to be any City player within yards of Matt Mills as he makes it 3-0 - apparently, City were poor at the back as well as in other areas pf the pitch. *

Maybe it’s down to the camera angle, but there doesn’t seem to be any City player within yards of Matt Mills as he makes it 3-0 – apparently, City were poor at the back as well as in other areas pf the pitch. *

Having seen the performances we turned in Blackburn, Fulham and Derby, I’d say we got three more points than we deserved in those games and much of what I’ve read about the 1-1 draw at Brighton suggests the same applies there as well. On the other hand, I suppose that, given the pressure we put Blackpool under in the closing stages, we might have deserved something there, but the defeats at Wolves and Millwall were merited and it certainly sounded like we deserved nothing from last night’s match.

So, who is to blame for our feeble away record (both in terms of points and performances)? I see that some already have knives out for Russell Slade. Speaking for myself, although I support his attitude in trying to stick with the same group of players, there is a danger that we have gone from one extreme to another with him – following Ole’s incessant team changes, we now have a few players who have yet to repay the loyalty our new manager is showing in them. After last night’s game. Slade gave  a very heavy hint that there will be changes for Saturday’s match at Birmingham and so I think there has to be when you accuse your team of having a “soft underbelly” like he did last night.

There are understandable criticisms of our manager’s decision to play 4-4-2 in away games as well. After the game Iwan Roberts wasn’t saying anything that hasn’t been talked about by many City fans for months (if not years) when he stated that he didn’t think Peter Whittingham could be used in a 4-4-2 because he doesn’t have all of the attributes needed to play in a central midfield two these days and in this division. It is also a fact that our two strikers are hardly getting chances galore when playing this, supposedly, attacking formation – we barely threatened the Millwall goal and, by the sound of it, home goalkeeper Andy Lonergan was only seriously called into action in added time when sub Nicky Maynard twice extended him at a time when the game had been done and dusted for ages.

I hope Russell Slade doesn’t stick slavishly with a 4-4-2 system that manifestly hasn’t worked in his first two away matches, but he can point to the game he watched at Blackpool where a City team playing a 4-5-1 (thereby giving Whittingham the support Iwan Roberts felt he needed) played abysmally for seventy minutes and only woke up a bit when they brought two fresh strikers on and switched to 4-4-2.

With Anthony Pilkington absent through the illness which forced him off at half time on Saturday, Russell Slade did what most managers would do I reckon and went with the “safe” option of Joe Ralls rather than something more exotic like a Ravel Morrison. Again, the manager could defend his decision by pointing out Ralls had done well when he was brought on for Pilkington on Saturday and I noticed that Rob Phillips mentioned him and Fabio as being the only players in his opinion to have performed anywhere near decently.

These photos of City players trooping back to the centre spot with heads down after conceding yet another away goal are becoming more commonplace*

These photos of City players trooping back to the centre spot with heads down after conceding yet another away goal are becoming more commonplace*

However, when it comes to the personnel on the substitutes bench, I find it harder to defend the manager – for the life of me, I don’t see why we needed Ben Turner, Matt Connolly and Danny Gabbidon (all out and out defenders) there. There have been suggestions that Mats Moller Dæhli is going through something of a rough patch following his mentor’s departure, but, if he was in the party of 20 which traveled to Bolton (which is what is being said in the Echo today), why wasn’t he (or Declan John) one of the subs instead of one of the three central defenders?

That said, would Dæhli or John have got on anyway? Kimbo didn’t – I’ve been critical of him since his just went through the motions against Bournemouth in the League Cup, but I don’t understand why you’d put a player like him on the bench and then not use him despite it being obvious that nothing was happening for the team in an attacking sense.

However, four different people have had a go at trying to cajole a half decent away performance out of this group of players for games in the Championship this season and none of them have really succeeded yet. We can argue about systems and substitutions and point fingers at managers, but this group of players should not be allowed to get away Scot free – telling them they have a “soft underbelly” is a pretty damning indictment for a professional football team, but the evidence of eight away matches suggests it’s a valid criticism.

I’m not that keen on that old analogy that football people use when they say they would want such and such a player alongside them in the trenches, but I can’t help thinking about it at the moment. The longer this run of dismal away results in games where our performance stinks goes on, the more I become convinced that our problems don’t stem from physical or technical failings, but from psychological ones – put simply, a few City players need to man up from Saturday onwards!

* pictures courtesy of

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3 Responses to Away performances go from bad to worse for Cardiff’s shrinking violets.

  1. Dai Woosnam says:

    Thanks as ever, Paul.
    How yesterday’s score symbolised Vincent’s latest mistake …big-time.
    A month ago he came to a fork in the road: go one way and hire the young manager who many good judges regard as the most gifted of his generation. But he would cost serious money.
    Or alternatively, go for the best of the cheap options: a very decent PE schoolmaster, who had a relatively poor record of achievement as a football manager.
    He chose the latter.
    True, Russell will keep City up in the Championship, but I will wager now with you Paul, that if he stays at the CCS for TEN SEASONS, City will never once make the top 6.
    With Lennon, they’ d be promoted in two.

  2. rhondda blue says:

    stuffed by another lesser team close to the trap door. our problem is our midfield, no fire no passion no pace, seen milk turn faster. we don’t close the opposition down quick enough when they have the ball, we have too many midfield players of the same ilk, so it does not seem to matter who plays the answer still seems to be the same. we have yet to replace some one like graham Kavanagh who would grab the game by the scruff of the neck and get our team playing, marshall should never be team captain, not vocal enough (what the hell is slade thinking about) it’s got to be an outfield player big shake up needed for brum and a massive improvement on the playing front, we always seem to be on the back foot in every game we play

  3. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Thanks for both your messages, I’m prepared to give Russell Slade quite a bit more time yet Dai before writing him off. A record of nine points from every five games is automatic promotion form a lot of the time, but I accept that a stat like that becomes a lot more relevant if it can be stretched to something like twenty seven from fifteen matches. Also, the away results have got worse under Slade than they were under Ole (I’d say performances have been equally miserable under both), so, if there’s been a definite step forward under our new manager as far as playing at home is concerned, I’d say there’s be, say, a third of a step back when it comes to playing away.

    Rhondda Blue, from the start of the season our midfield hasn’t looked right and, although our strikeforce is nowhere near as good as it was built up to be and, apparently, our defending wasn’t good at Bolton, I still see it as our main problem area. So much is written about Peter Whittingham these days that I’m reluctant mention him, but I have to. Although we’ve had poor performances when we’ve played 4-5-1, I think we have to use three central midfield players if Whittingham is going to play in that position – we might get away with the current system for a while at home, but I believe sides will eventually figure out a way to make 4-4-2 less effective than it is as the moment and I’ve yet to see anything to make me think that system can work in away games. Reagarding Marshall as captain, I agree with you – it didn’t bother me too much at first, but it’s not working.

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