City eventually get it right to finish off a fine week.

CoymayCardiff City completed one of their best weeks of the season with a 2-0 home win over Birmingham City yesterday. After the very unlikely 2-1 win over promotion chasing Brentford last weekend, Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Bournemouth was made to look more impressive by the south coast team’s 3-0 victory over Middlesbrough yesterday which returned them to the top of the table – Bournemouth have scored twelve times in winning three out of their last four matches.
If it was up there with the best weeks of the campaign in terms of results, could the same be said about the team’s level of performance? That’s a tougher question to answer – the two matches against sides in the top eight saw the team show a great attitude as they battled ferociously throughout, but, truth be told, they were never able to display the sort of flowing football that Brentford produced in the first half at Griffin Park and Bournemouth provided throughout large portions of Tuesday’s match.
On the face of it, a visit from mid table Birmingham offered the opportunity for City to add a little craft to all of their graft, but a closer examination of the form guide showed why this was probably something of a forlorn hope.
Birmingham may be mid table, but that represents a considerable improvement from the opening months of the season when they couldn’t buy a home win and, memorably, were crushed by the Bournemouth goal machine to the tune of 8-0 at St. Andrews. The appointment of Gary Rowett as manager in October has brought about a change in fortunes though, with his team only being beaten five times in twenty two league matches before the visit to Cardiff City Stadium and their four match unbeaten run before yesterday featured a draw at Derby where they were 2-0 down going into added time.
So, in fact, City were facing a side that had been playing well for virtually half a season and with their recent home record reading no wins, three draws and three defeats (four if you include the FA Cup loss to Reading), then I think most supporters would have just settled for any old scruffy win, let alone one with a bit of style.
As things turned out though, Birmingham completely failed to show why they had been getting results which would have seen them in Play Off contention if the season had begun when Rowett was appointed.

For most of the time, Birmingham were like the proverbial team with nothing to play for who were, mentally, already off on their holidays, but there was the odd moment when they reacted as if they were playing that game at Bolton again nearly a year ago in which they only avoided the drop thanks to a last minute goal. Although, from my hardly ideal position I thought Gary Rowett had a point when he claimed a decision had gone against his team, it was only a throw in close to the halfway line and it was a surprise to see him vehemently bounce the ball as he did to earn a sending off to the stands from referee Graham Salisbury. Shortly afterwards, visiting right back Paul Caddis, the man who got that relegation saving goal at Bolton, followed his manager’s example by hurling the ball on to the ground, earning himself a yellow card in the process and maybe it was these isolated moments of fury from those they were supporting that drove a few Birmingham fans to start misbehaving to the extent that the police were called into action for what seems to be the first time in ages at a home game to help sort things out – from where I was at the other end of the ground, it was hard to tell exactly what had happened, but, it certainly looked as though a small minority of visiting fans had tired to get at those in the Family Stand.
City’s last home win had come in a game against Fulham where David Marshall made his return to first team action after a spell out with injury – it was a nice gentle return for our captain that day with Fulham barely troubling him as they subsided meekly to a 1-0 defeat and there were definite similarities for the returning Scottish international yesterday after his return from a three game injury absence.

Having finally been given a place in the starting line up by Russell Slade, Joe Ralls was, arguably, City's best player. His cause was not helped by being stuck out on the left in the first half, but here he provides one of the few moments of excitement in the opening period as he prepares to shoot after beating a couple of opponents - unfortunately, the shot on his weaker right foot flew well wide.*

Having finally been given a place in the starting line up by Russell Slade, Joe Ralls was, arguably, City’s best player. His cause was not helped by being stuck out on the left in the first half, but here he provides one of the few moments of excitement in the opening period as he prepares to shoot after beating a couple of opponents – unfortunately, the shot on his weaker right foot flew wide.*

The BBC stats say that Birmingham mustered just four goal attempts. with just one of them on target (they also say that we won the possession battle 51/49, so maybe they should be treated with a pinch of salt!), but I’m blowed if I can remember it. A City defence with the excellent Fabio switched to right back to replace Matt Connolly, bizarrely loaned to Watford on Thursday for “business” reasons, and Scott Malone returning at left back had, perhaps, their easiest ninety minutes of the season against opponents who were serious contenders for the title of worst visiting side seen at the ground this season.

Even so, I reckon Birmingham would have gone in at half time fancying their chances of getting three points if they could just up their attacking game a little. The opening forty five minutes was a soporific affair played in weather that put you more in mind of cricket than football – if a side was going score, it was City who at least suggested they might have a goal in them once or twice, but, in truth, it was a very poor half of football to be put alongside far too many other of them this season.
Thankfully, for City’s sake anyway, a couple of things happened just before and during half time that made the difference for them – the first was that Alex Revell was injured and replaced by Eoin Doyle and then Aron Gunnarsson, who I suspect could be suffering from a recurring injury because he is failing to complete matches quite often lately, did not come out for the second period with Matt Kennedy being brought on in his place.
That’s harsh on the two players concerned, but City looked so much better balanced for these changes as Ralls came infield and Kennedy immediately started running at Caddis. Revell was always going to start, but his attacking partner was meant to be Federico Macheda, – however the Italian picked up an injury in the pre match warm up and so Kenwyne Jones retained his place in the team.
I’ve mentioned before on here that, for me, Revell and Jones up front just does not work – besides their lack of pace, I get the feeling that Revell’s unselfish running and willingness to move out wide when required encourages Jones to enter that comfort zone he visits too often.

Birmingham goalkeeper Darren Randolph is beaten by Eoin Doyle's fiftieth minute shot to put City a goal up. It must have been a great feeling for the Irishman to finally get his first Cardiff goal, but, just an encouraging was the good all round play he showed with one lovely bit of control to take down an awkward very high ball standing out.*

Birmingham goalkeeper Darren Randolph is beaten by Eoin Doyle’s fiftieth minute shot to put City a goal up. It must have been a great feeling for the Irishman to finally get his first Cardiff goal, but, just as encouraging was the good all round play he showed, with one lovely bit of control to take down an awkward very high ball standing out.*

With a quicker and smaller strike partner, Kenwyne becomes more of a focal point for the team and I thought he was more influential with Doyle on – unfortunately, he’s gone a while without a goal now and he could have done better with a couple of opportunities he wasted, while he was unlucky to see another effort go narrowly wide with keeper Randolph beaten.
The fact that Jones could have had a hat trick only goes to show how much more effective City were going forward with Doyle and Kennedy on. The latter had been a little unfortunate to lose his starting place, but Joe Ralls deserved his chance after some impressive displays whenever he was given an opportunity. However, with Whittingham, Gunnarsson and Noone seemingly undroppable, he was only likely to get into our midfield by taking the place of the person playing on the left.
So, while Ralls’ inclusion could be understood to the extent that he was more likely to play a bit more centrally than Kennedy, thereby giving more support to the central two, there was little evidence of this working while Gunnarsson was on – Ralls didn’t do badly during this time, but he was more of a factor in the game playing inside Kennedy.
I’ve heard a few people say they like Kennedy because he has “something about him” – nobody ever says what that something is, but I think I know what they mean! Kennedy can make things happen and we don’t have many players who can do that at the moment.
Ralls and Kennedy combined well for the first goal, with a perceptive pass freeing the winger who cut inside and crossed low for Doyle to finish well from ten yards out. It had taken a while, but with his first goal for his new side in the bag, the striker, who had been so prolific at Chesterfield, showed up well as he hit the post and then was brought down by Jonathan Spector for the penalty that Whittingham comfortably put away to ease the nagging doubts caused by City’s habit of not putting away opponents they have been dominating in recent home games.
With Kennedy stinging Randolph’s hands with a fierce late shot and scuffing another effort after beating a couple of opponents in thrilling style, there could have been more goals. There haven’t been many games this season that could qualify as being comfortable, but this was one of them – like many others, I’ve been very critical of the team at times over the past few months, but they played well for forty five minutes yesterday and so deserve the plaudits that will come their way.

* pictures courtesy of

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6 Responses to City eventually get it right to finish off a fine week.

  1. Graham says:

    Well yes, but .. we will have got it right only if from now on Ralls and Kennedy and Fabio start, no matter who doesn’t because they do .. and Jones “played” throughout as if he not only didn’t expect to be there but didn’t want to be .. Revell and Doyle please from now on until Mason is fit enough, but I hope I never have to watch Jones in a City shirt again ..

    .. and Connolly on loan for “business reasons” isn’t really bizarre since Mr.Tan is a business man, and football is, and always has been, for him a newly discovered way of making more money – hasn’t worked out so far but if we still have Marshall and Manga [and a few others ..] in City shirts next season, we’ll be lucky!

  2. Anthony O'Brien says:

    Much better from Cardiff – and from the Cardiff fans! As I’ve mentioned several times Fabio’s performance showed he is more at home as a right back than a left back, and from this point of view the loan deal for Connolly makes sense not only for financial reasons but football ones too. Cardiff now have two good right backs who can also play on the left when needed. Having said this, I was also pleased with Malone’s performance, although there still seems to be a lack of support for him from others in the team. This is something which Bournemouth tried to exploit, especially in the first half, on Tuesday, and which Birmingham tried with less success on Saturday. In the seventeenth minute, for example, Malone was defending on the outside when the ball was passed inside to a Birmingham player. Peter Whittingham stood off and failed to close down that player, who was then able to get a telling cross into the Cardiff box. Joe Ralls, too, while doing well generally seemed at times to be pushed off the ball rather too easily.

    I’m also still somewhat puzzled why we continue to use a left-footer on the right and vice versa, although I must admit that Noone’s crosses from the right and with his right foot are sometimes very good. Personally, I like to see wingers get to the corner flag and cross the ball into the box without hesitation, but this rarely happens.

    Such crosses would bring the best out of Revell. In my opinion, he can do all that Kenwyne Jones does – and much more. I’d really like to see a forward partnership of Revell and Doyle, as Graham suggests. Indeed, the only point I’d take issue with in Graham’s excellent and pithy summing up is Joe Mason who I remember as being able to run all day and into intelligent positions but without any change of pace – and also his tendency to duck under high balls.

    My apologies for going on at length again, but how lucky I feel to be able to contribute to such a site as this.

  3. Blaine says:

    Like everybody and their dog I also thought the 1st half was disapointing but thought city were the better the 2nd half we improved greatly after the substitutions and would like thank Mrs Gunnarson for picking half time for going into labour which led to her hubby Arron having to go to the hospital and allowing young Ralls to go into midfield and showing mr slade what he can do there.
    Being freed from his usuall holding midfield role Whitts also looked much better and allthough he didn’t realy need to make a save felt happier

    that Marshall was back.
    It was nice to see Fabio going back to the right side and staying back showed why man u bought him in,maybe one game he could play in a wingers role just to satisfy my belief that he could be good there also.
    Is it a coincident that all our improvments have started since Trollop came in as a coach? I dont know but it seems to be true.

  4. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Thank you for your replies. I must say I disagree about the Connolly loan – I believe it sends out complete the wring signals at a time when the club are trying to sell season tickets for 15/16. I was talking to someone before Saturday’s match who mentioned that he’d heard City were making £250,000 from the deal. Now, that sounds a lot on paper, but if it’s a contributory factor towards 1,000 people deciding not to renew, then we will have lost a fair bit more than that.
    Kenwyne Jones certainly divides opinions – Nathan Blake is always praising him, but I’m closer to Graham and Anthony’s view of the player than his. Admirable though Alex Revell is in many ways, I’m not convinced that he is a top end Championship player and still cling to the probably forlorn hope that we would play with two smaller, more mobile strikers (two from Mason, Doyle and a reinvigorated LeFondre?) rather than have this perennial need for a target man – we might see some “proper” football then!
    Anthony, sadly, I think the days of wingers going on the outside of full backs to get to the bye line and deliver crosses on their natural foot are almost gone – the instruction nowadays is more cut inside and get a shot away, so I suppose left footers on the right and vice versa makes more sense.
    Blaine, I don’t know if you’ve got Cardiff City Player, but there’s an interview with Joe Ralls after Saturday’s game on there where he talks about how we are playing more football since Paul Trollope came on board – to my mind, we were really poor at the long ball game and so any reversion to a more considered approach was always likely to see some sort of improvement in results.

  5. Anthony O'Brien says:

    Paul, Very sensible and convincing comments but in reply I’d like to suggest that may be – only may be – the imminent return of Turner helped Cardiff agree to Connolly’s loan move. I fully accept your observation that the day of old-fashioned clinging to the touchline wingers is virtually over but in the case of Noone, in particular, he rarely manages to get a shot in or an incisive pass when he comes in from the right, and as I noted, his right-foot crosses from the right are often excellent.For Kennedy, I think it’s too early for me to comment.

    Incidentally, I added a comment on the infamous Denis Law to the tail-end of a recent post. I’m convinced that when he deliberately lashed out at Steve Gammon’s leg, I heard the crack above the roar of the crowd. Can anyone confirm this or was I dreamimg (ie. having nightmares) after the event?

  6. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Agree about some of Noone’s crossing with his right foot from the right Anyhony. I get an excellent view of this when we are attacking the Canton Stand and I always have the feeling that something good might happen here when he does it – sadly, the same doesn’t apply to his shooting, but he wasn’t far away with a good effort against Bournemouth. Thinking about it, a fairly recent goal when he got to the byeline and crossed with his left foot came against Charlton – actually, I think Noone has been playing a lot better in recent weeks, but nobody seems to agree with me, so I’m beginning to think that I’m imagining it!

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