Time was that City making the Fifth Round of the FA Cup was considered a real achievement and when you consider that it only happened three times (71/72, 76/77 and 93/94) between 1959 and 2007, that viewpoint is entirely understandable. I suppose the competition’s decline in relevance during the Premier League years goes some of the way to explaining the lack of “Cup fever” greeting our progress to the last sixteen of the tournament with yesterday’s 1-0 win at Bolton, but I would say it’s also got something to do with it being the third time we’ve done it in six years – in fact I had heard it said that we were suffering from something of an FA Cup drought considering that it had not happened since 2009!
So, new boss Ole Gunnar Solskjær has his second win, but, truth be told, City’s performance yesterday had a lot more in common with the sort of ground out wins which became a habit this time last year as we maintained our advantage over the chasing pack under former manager Malky Mackay than it did with the more flamboyant fare Ole wants us to display.
The BBC’s match stats show a total of three on target efforts over the ninety minutes, but, as David Marshall had to make two sprawling saves in the second half, Bolton’s alleged single shot on target looks a bit dubious – two for us looks right though because, apart from the goal, I cannot remember home keeper Lonergan having to deal with any on target shots apart from a late effort by Kimbo.
It was a game low on thrills and spills then, but, ironically, it was one of the latter which decided it – Lonergan making a mess of a routine looking catch and presenting Fraizer Campbell with a close range opportunity from an acute angle which he duly tapped in.
Just like at Newcastle in Round Three, it was the introduction of Campbell and Craig Noone which made the difference for City. This time they were both brought on at half time and it was the winger whose cross led to Lonergan’s error and Campbell’s seventh goal of the campaign (not too bad a figure at all considering City’s league position and goalscoring record). Although he was only on the pitch for around a quarter of an hour, City’s third substitute, Mats Møller Dæhli, also made an impact as the youngster made a very favourable impression with some delightful touches and perceptive passes which offered the hope that he might just turn out to be as good as the hype which has accompanied him from his early days at Manchester United suggests he is.
Ben Turner, Mark Hudson and Kevin McNaughton may be three players who might not see much first team action in the future if Ole really does place as much importance on passing the ball well from the back as it’s sometimes been reported he does, but here. as City ended a run of eleven consecutive defeats at Bolton, they coped more than well enough against a home side obviously lacking in confidence following their 7-1 thumping at Reading last week. The two centrebacks were completely dominant against Welsh international Craig Davies who received little support from his team mates in his lone striker role and this only helped add to the impression that you were watching the sort of performance we saw at places like Birmingham and Leeds last year where City were high on efficiency, but pretty low on flair.
It was City’s effective defending which took the eye during a poor first half. They did pass the ball in the middle of the park better than Bolton at times, but there was little or nothing from them in the terms of end product and they went through a spell after the first quarter of the game where they turned over possession too easily.
Unfortunately, new signing Magnus Wolff Eikrem, who was making his first start for the club, was particularly culpable during this period – he did do some good things in possession, but gave the ball away badly in dangerous ares twice and it wasn’t really a surprise that he was one of those to make way for Campbell and Noone at the interval.
Sadly, but predictably, the other City player to be withdrawn was Andreas Cornelius. Having done quite well in two recent Development matches where he had got almost a hundred and eighty minutes game time, you would have hoped that the expensive striker would have looked more the part when he was given another start with the seniors, but, if anything, his performance was worse than what we’d seen before. It wasn’t all bad from Cornelius – he started quite well and did show a bit of pace and strength to shake off an opponent and put over a dangerous cross which left back Ream did well to clear as Kimbo waited to pounce, but, strangely this seemed to lead to a loss of confidence rather than a gaining in it because after that he completely failed to utilise the physical attributes he has been given and, overall, the home centrebacks Knight and Mills, fresh from that mauling they got at Reading, can seldom have had as easy a forty five minutes this season as this one.
There’s not much else to say about the game really except for me to repeat the somewhat forlorn hope expressed in my piece on the Newcastle match that the draw for the next round of the competition will see us get a home draw because it’s been so long now since we had one that I’m beginning to forget if my season ticket counts or not for such matches!
So, I thought I’d finish by doing a round up of what’s been happening recently in terms of actual transfers and rumours as to possible targets as well mentioning the games played by the Development team and the Under 18’s in the past week. Dealing with the last bit first, I’d already mentioned that Andreas Cornelius had played a second match for the Development side, well it became five wins from from five games this season with Swansea at senior, Under 21 and Under 18 levels when a couple more efforts by the prolific Rhys Healey and a comical own goal by home captain Scott Tancock were enough to provide a 3-1 victory which takes the team six points clear at the top of the table – the sending off of captain Deji Oshilaja for a professional foul providing the only negative from the game.
As for the Under 18’s, they followed up a 2-1 win at Millwall on the weekend with a 3-2 win at Oxford United to reach the last sixteen of the FA Youth Cup – captain Macauley Southam, winger Abdi Noor and midfielder Tom Burridge (from an excellent free kick) getting the goals which earned a home tie with Chelsea at Cardiff City Stadium on 18 February in the next round.
On the transfer front, John Brayford has reunited with former boss Nigel Clough by heading off on loan to Sheffield United for the rest of the season, joining Filip Kiss (Ross County), Joe Ralls (Yeovil) and Nicky Maynard (Wigan) who have all left on temporary deals. Also departing has been striker Rudy Gestede whose loan move to Blackburn was turned into a permanent one earlier this month and, with three goals in his last four Championship matches, Rudy is making a good start to life at his new club.
It also looks pretty certain that Peter Odemwingie will be signing for Stoke in the next day or two with the potteries club taking over the remaining period of his Cardiff contract after his summer move from West Brom, which I’m sure virtually everyone will agree has not been a success. There will be no fee involved, because Ole confirmed after yesterday’s match that Kenwyne Jones will be joining us in a straight swap deal. If the deal is completed it means that, in many ways, we will be replacing one signing of someone who came to Cardiff with much to prove with another one – I thought Odemwingie would be looking to prove something to his old club and the boost he got from a new environment would see him do well at City in the short to medium term and that’s pretty similar to how I feel about Jones.
My hopes for Odemwingie proved to be false ones, but if Ole can get Kenwyne Jones motivated and firing for the rest of the season, then he’s got it in him to be a real handful at Premier League level – it seems a risk worth taking to me (especially when you consider Odemwingie’s Cardiff career was going nowhere).
Ole also stated that a permanent deal had been all but completed for Manchester United left back Fabio Da Silva. A pretty uninspiring loan spell at relegated QPR last season and a perception that he was living in the shadow of his twin brother Rafael meant that I wasn’t really too enthused when I first heard the rumours (which have been around for a few weeks) of his arrival at Cardiff, but, having read what has been said about him on a couple of Manchester United messageboards, I’m more upbeat about what he can give us.
From two deals which look like being completed to one which has seemed to be in the bag on at least a couple of occasions and yet has still not gone through. On Thursday it was being reported that Wilfried Zaha was undergoing a medical before his loan move and could well be playing at Bolton, but with no more concrete news in the following three days yet, it seems that there might well have been a hitch in negotiations. Zaha may well end up at Cardiff, but I won’t be distraught if he doesn’t – he’s a talent for sure and I don’t think Palace would be in this division now if he hadn’t been playing for them last spring, but to read some of the stuff the local press were coming out with a couple of days ago, you would have thought we could be signing someone in the Messi/Ronaldo class rather than a kid with plenty to prove who has not started a Premier League match yet.
A couple of rumoured targets are Wigan centre half Ivan Ramis and Argentinian international winger Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Scocco. There are Wigan fans who say they would have stayed up last season if it hadn’t been for the cruciate knee injury that kept Ramis out for the last four months of the campaign and he would appear to be the kind of footballing centre half Ole wants, but this is another deal which seems to have gone cold after looking well on the way to going through a couple of days ago when it was being reported that our bid had been accepted. Scocco, who had a tremendous goalscoring record at Brazilian club Internacional last season, is, apparently, a target for us and Sunderland – if this is true, then I would say that the prospect of an appearance of a Wembley appearance in the League Cup Final for the Wearsiders would appear to give them an advantage we cannot compete with except by offering well over the odds when it comes to wages.
Finally, it was hoped that our latest signing from Molde midfield man/striker Jo Inge Berget would be in the squad for the game at Bolton, but his international clearance did not come through in time. Berget, four times capped by Norway, had told Molde that he had no plans to renew his contract once it ran out this summer and so this is a signing which I assume did not cost us that much – whether he is the sort of player who can make a difference in our fight to stay up remains to be seen.
* Picture courtesy of http://www.walesonline.co.uk/