City shrug off their lethargy and are now all but safe.

After our draw at Barnsley in midweek, I pointed out that Wigan Athletic would have to win all of their remaining six matches, and us lose all of ours, if they were to have a chance of finishing above us  - in essence, they had all but joined relegated Rotherham in filling two of the three relegation from our perspective.

Well, a goal from one time “Wonderkid” Nick Powell seven minutes into stoppage time provided the first of those Wigan wins as Rotherham were seen off by 3-2. It was a significant win for last season’s League One Champions, but City’s come from behind 2-1 victory over Brentford meant that if Wigan do stay up, it will not be at our expense.

If the winners of the level below us have found life in the higher tier such a struggle that they will, in all likelihood, be returning from whence they came in a few weeks time, the Barnsley team that “scraped up” through the Play Offs have never looked in any danger of going down. By ending their eight game run without a win at Blackburn yesterday, the Tykes have put that club into the same situation as Wigan found themselves in a few days ago. Rovers now need to win all of their remaining matches, and us lose all of ours, if they are to stand a chance of getting past us – even then, their goal difference of minus sixteen and ours of minus two would have to drastically change in those five games for them to finish above us.

Blackburn are now without a win in seven matches, so it is unlikely in the extreme that they are going to suddenly put together a five game winning run now – even if they do, if we avoid defeat at Sheffield Wednesday on Friday, they can’t catch us. Blackburn face absolutely crucial matches over Easter as they first of all go to Forest on Good Friday and then entertain Bristol City on Monday, but no matter what happens in these games, we are now as safe from relegation as is possible for it to be without it being mathematically so.

However, you only needed to be at Cardiff City Stadium for about thirty seconds of the first half of yesterday’s match to realise that the thought of a possible relegation was far from the minds of anyone with City’s best interests at heart.

I’ve always liked the word “soporific”, don’t know why, but it’s a word I’ve turned to often throughout my adult life when I am describing a particular kind of atmosphere or feeling. Of course, it’s not a word that I ever want to apply to my football team, but I couldn’t get it out of my mind during those first forty five minutes as we went through the motions in the sun with the crowd generally not feeling involved enough to get too annoyed at what they were watching.

City had roused themselves for a spell which lasted about five minutes midway through the half during which they had Brentford on the back foot and it was during this time that Junior Hoilett fired a fairly straightforward chance over the bar from about ten yards out. However, apart from that brief interlude, it was typical end of season fare really with the visitors, buoyed by a run of three successive wins, gradually taking control as they won second balls all over the pitch and generally provided what little good football that was on show.

Allan McGregor did very well to keep out a close range header by Yoann Barbet, but when Sergi Canos stylishly side footed the visitors ahead on forty two minutes, it felt to me like a goal that had been coming for a while.

To be frank, the half time interval couldn’t come soon enough for City and as they dominated the early stages of the second half, I’m sure I wasn’t the only supporter who remarked that the team must have been read the riot act during the break.

Neil Warnock’s post match press conference proved me right, but not really in the manner I expected it to. With trademark honesty, our manager, who it needs to be remembered had said that he needed to be woken up to make it to the, largely meaningless, Sunday morning FA Cup tie with Fulham in January, admitted he finds it hard to motivate himself for end of season matches that have little or nothing riding on them.

The obvious comment that arises in response to such an admission is, if you can’t get up for such games, how can you expect your team to? However, Warnock answered such a response before it came because he revealed that he had told his assistant, Kevin Blackwell, to give him “a kick up the backside” if he thought his boss was “slacking”.

Presumably, that is precisely what Blackwell did, because the difference in attitude became clear within a minute or two of the restart as Kadeem Harris went on a long run down the left which eventually forced a corner that was nodded in at the far post by Sean Morrison for the equaliser.

As mentioned in his comments on the Wolves game last weekend, regular contributor to the Feedback Section Anthony O’Brien was up in Manchester yesterday for the Man City v Hull match, here he is pictured with David Marshall before the game – I’d love to see Marshy back with us next season and wouldn’t quite rule it out, but, realistically, it’s unlikely to happen.

It was City’s first goal direct from a free kick or a corner for a while and it was no surprise that it coincided with a return to the starting line up for Peter Whittingham. The veteran had been deployed in an advanced central midfield area that has come to be known as the number ten role in recent years and it’s a position that many of Whitts’ backers in the fanbase have wanted to see him occupy as the mobility, which was never the strongest suit of his game anyway, has deserted him with the passing years.

In truth, Whitts was pretty anonymous in the opening forty five minutes, but now, as City produced a fairly steady stream of crosses into the Brentford box, the man who is still our best, and most perceptive, passer tended to be involved somewhere along the way.

Morrison, Hoilett and Gunnarsson were all denied from headers by keeper Daniel Bentley, who I can remember being very impressed by in a Newport v Southend match I watched three years ago, and, if there was one single reason why I thought our win was a deserved one in the end, it was provided by the BBC stats for the match. They showed that, although Brentford had more efforts at goal (fifteen to our fourteen), we were far more impressive than our opponents when it came to getting those goal attempts on target.

Twenty nine goal attempts is evidence of how much the match opened up after the interval, but, that save from Barbet I mentioned earlier apart, McGregor generally had a fairly quiet time of it as only two of Brentford’s goal efforts were on target. By contrast, Bentley was kept more busy than most visiting keepers are when they come here, as an impressive ten of our attempts were going in until he, or one of his colleagues, intervened.

While City never sank to their first half depths, the storm that rocked Brentford straight after the break had blown itself out to a large extent by the time Whittingham made his most decisive contribution of what I’d rate as his best forty five minutes in a City shirt for some time.

I’ll always remember Dave Jones saying that he was confident City were going to score in their Fifth Round game with Wolves on their way to their FA Cup Final in 2008 when he realised it was Peter Whittingham who had been put through on goal against Wayne Hennessey inside the first two minutes. Our former manager’s inference was that it was one of the best and most composed finishers at the club who had been presented with an opportunity that many would have made a hash of.

Whitts has kept on scoring as the years have gone by, but the nature of his goals have changed now, with the large majority of them coming from penalties, along with the occasional spectacular long shot and free kick – it’s easy now to forget how good a finisher he was when he used to find himself in the opposition penalty area far more often than he does now.

Funnily enough I was reminded of this a few minutes before his goal when the again impressive Joe Bennett I think it was+ chipped a clever ball through to an unmarked Whitts  about fifteen yards from goal. It wasn’t the easiest of volleys to perform, but it still came as a surprise for someone as talented as Whittingham to take a complete air shot at the ball – a lot of the shock I felt was down to that player at the club probably best equipped to execute such a technique had messed it up so much, but there was also the feeling that, such is his finishing ability, he probably would have scored if he had connected properly.

Whittingham again found himself in space in a similar position in the seventy sixth minute, but with an easier ball to control this time. The problem for him was that his shot would have to be with his weaker right foot when it came, but it made no difference as the ball winged unerringly into the corner of the net – the finishing ability is still there alright, even if he gets a lot fewer opportunities to demonstrate it these days.

Before I leave the subject of our second goal, I should give two of our other players credit for their part in it. In both cases, the men produced qualities that aren’t always obvious when watching them play. First there was a patience from Harris as he worked to get himself the best opportunity to cross and then, when it came, Kenneth Zohore revealed an awareness and aerial ability that demonstrate the improvements in his game over the past four months as he provided the assist.

I’ll finish on this game with Whittingham though by saying that it seems to be generally accepted now that the contract he has been offered is on significantly lower pay than he currently gets and, even if he does eventually sign it, the likelihood as I see it, is that he will be something of a bit part player for us next season. So, the long line of memorable Whittingham moments that have delighted City fans for more than a decade may be very close to their end – yesterday offered the hope that there may still yet be a few more to come though.

Jarred Welch, my choice as best player for City’s Under 18 team 2016/17.*

Finally, I’d love to have been able to have described a great fightback by our Under 18s after all of their struggles in recent weeks as they came back from 4-1 down to draw 4-4 with Nottingham Forest in their final game of the season yesterday, but I cannot because there was no sign that a game was about to take place as I turned up at Leckwith at the designated kick off time of 11 o clock.

Here’s a link to the page on the club’s website which shows Academy fixtures and results this season and it is still showing yesterday’s match as an 11 o clock kick off – I don’t know what time the game did eventually start, but it was not the time the club is still saying it should have done so.

Therefore, I missed my third home Under 18 match of the season. Of the others, I was always going to miss one of them (Millwall on 21 January) because of a prior commitment, but I didn’t make the first league match of the season (Hull on 13 August) because the fixture list showed it as an away game (and is still doing so now!) , despite it being played at Treforest.

Futhermore, and at the risk of sounding a total nerd, that fixture list shows the last two away matches at, Coventry and Watford, as being won 2-0, when, in fact, both of them were lost by that score. I usually do a kind of end of term report on here for the Under 18 and Under 23 sides in which I name my player of the season for them, but any end of season report for off the pitch matters when it comes to our Under 18 side has to read “not good enough, must do better”.

As for on field matters, one of the scorers yesterday, Sion Spence, has had his moments, while Sam Bowen, who got two against Forest (Cai Williams scored the other one) including a spectacular long range equaliser apparently, would probably have been a contender if he had not missed so many games (presumably through injury) and I like what I’ve seen of Isaak Davies. However, it’s been hard for these younger players (they’re all still currently eligible for our Under 16 side) to shine consistently in a team that has struggled so much against mostly older opponents, so I am going to go for someone who only played for the Under 18s in the first half of the season. Jarrad Welch has been playing for Cinderford Town on loan since the turn of the year, but he was excellent in many of the Under 18 matches I saw him in before Christmas – he produced the best football I’ve saw from a City Academy player in 16/17.

*picture courtesy of http://www.walesonline.co.uk/

+having now watched the highlights of the match on the club website, it was another Joe, Ralls, who played the pass.

 

 

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10 Responses to City shrug off their lethargy and are now all but safe.

  1. paul says:

    Whittingam!!!!

    I hope he stays at City in a Bellamy type role, perhaps assist Bellamy, along with his bit part role. He must have so much in his locker he could pass on to the youngsters. I think it would be a great partnership as regards talents. On one hand Bellamy with the pace, power, tackling back and finishing and Whitts providing the subtle passing long passing and whipping balls in from wide positions. Get a defender in that mix and we have the potential for a great youth team developement management team.
    The problem, is Whitts cut out for tht role or would he want to do it.

    As for yesterdays game. For one i did not see it as you did. I felt that Brentford in the first half controled parts of the game but we had quite a few chances. The wife was with me yesterday as the son was sorking and i said to her just before they scored that the buffoon in black had kniocked the stuffing out of the city players. We were unable to get going as he would blow that darned whistle.

    there was things going on by them that he ignored but would blow if we so much put a finger on them. Pilks in the box at the end was an example where it was 2 players scrapping for the ball. He was probably more gutted we won than the Brentford players.

    Still, we won and are more that likely safe for another season. With Bristol winning they could stay up and peerhaps, a big perhaps we could have another derby with the cousins down the road. Now that is something to look forward to.

  2. Russell says:

    Thanks Paul for the write ups , just a quick note on the under 18/23’s thankfully you keep us updated and hopefully next year we see a big change under Bellamy , I am struck how big Jarred Welsh is compared to the lad behind him .

    With regards to yesterday, glorious weather and a first half where they showed how to pass a ball without much initial threat , they also pressed well up front, particularly seen when harrissng our keeper into quick kicks from lazy pass backs .

    Whittingham for me was not a MOM, his inability not to be able to get to a man 10/15 yards away makes him a liability in tough one for one match ultimate games ,in the first half they played around too easily . I thought his volley miss was easier to connect to than others thought, he did pass nicely in the second half , however he is way of his best .

    The MOM was not an easy award for me so I’ll give it to Warnock as we could have easily been beaten , and this for me was the most heartening thing about yesterday, beating a good side , rising to a response and challenge from the manager, and putting in a measured second half game that put the opposition on the back foot from a position where we could have been beaten .

    Players of note yesterday was Richards , Bennett and McGregor who for me is an equal or better than Marshall perhaps Hull fans were right when they sang Scotland no 1, his save yesterday was class and saved us

    Nearly there for a lot of our fans who took that mid table bet out , offered up by the bookies before Warnock first game against Bristol.

  3. Barry Cole says:

    Another great report Paul and there is no doubt each game we are looking for the lethargy that is to be expected as we are released from any fears on relegation.
    Last Saturday I sat on the first row on the centre line at wolves ( something that is always a pleasure at one of the few away grounds that allow you that option) and watched a dismal performance in defence. I have said before that I just cant understand how Morrison is so dominant in the opponents area yet so poor in our defence. That Saturday was just typical and it was no surprise when he was dropped for the Barnsley game. This was a game that we could and should have won. A special mention for Bennet who is playing really well.
    As luck would have it I was away topping up my tan for the Barnsley game and listening to it on the Cardiff city app, it was a good job I didn’t go to one of my favourite grounds.
    This football seemed to continue in the first half yesterday before everybody woke up and smelled the roses. Again I was impressed by Bennet.
    I come back to Morrison and see how he seemed to win so many headers in the opponents penalty area while he had me cringing some times at his defending. Maybe I am concentrating too much on him because he did also make some good block tackles but not enough to keep me worried throughout the game.
    Although I didn’t see the Barnsley game it does seem that Bamba was lucky to get away with a red and maybe that midfield / defence role may not be his best position.
    Whether the ManBam partnership materialises next season which I hope it does we will have to wait and see, but it would be great to allow subs to come on at corners to allow Morrison the option to keep scoring lol

  4. Richard Holt says:

    Paul, as someone who always remembers what happened to Blackpool in 1978 ( 8th place going into the second week of April, the ‘normal’ 35 points safety target passed, 6 games to go and 10 points clear of Millwall in 21st place, yet relegated 4 weeks later) I only assume safety when the Maths make it certain. However I think you’re right in that after yesterday’s win I can banish any lingering crumbs of doubt into the the darkest dustbins of my mind.
    I found yesterday’s a bit of a strange game. I wasn’t that optimistic before the match and would have gratefully accepted a draw if offered it at half-time but by the end it felt quite a comfortable win. In some ways it seemed a bit like one of the better Russell Slade era performances – bossed in midfield for chunks of the game but relying on set-pieces and the odd bit of individual skill to get a result. Anyway a win’s a win and it will be interesting to see how the squad develops over the next three or four months.
    By the way Paul – here are the line-ups from that 1967 Preston game we talked about;

    City: Wilson, Coldrick, Ferguson, Williams, Murray, Harris, Jones, King, Brown, Dean, Bird.
    Preston: Kelly, Ross, Smith, Wearmouth, Singleton, McNab, Hannigan, Hughes, Forrest, Lyall, Lee

    Scorers: Jones (24), King (37), Ross (og) (62), Brown 89 Att: 9,630

  5. Anthony O'Brien says:

    Just back from Manchester with my son-in-law and grand son. The weather was so perfect that many locals asked me what that strange shiny globe was doing high in the sky! The high point of the visit, however, came when we were on our way to catch the tram which runs directly to the Etihad stadium.. A group of young men in orange shirts were passing by, and my grandson said they were members of the Hull team taking a stroll, Towards the tail end came David Marshall, who looked round in puzzlement when I called out his name. He stopped for a photograph with my grandson and myself (seen above) and said he didn’t know if he would be in the game later that day. Sadly he wasn’t, but he came across as a very kind and generous person who would, I’m sure, be welcomed back by everyone. In the actual game, the man chosen to play in goal was, on several occasions, very unconvincing in his performance. I don’t know if all this is relevant to Cardiff fans, but perhaps it might be.

    And on to the really good news. Cardiff City emerged victorious, and now I know how the team did it.Having been reduced to mere score updates while watching Manchester City overrun Hull, it’s a delight to come back home and immediately catch up with Paul’s report and the other comments from committed contributors, which are an important reading after every Cardiff game. Thank you all.

  6. Stephen Fairhurst says:

    In the first half I was thinking that as we had made the effort to get to the game rather than do those jobs in the garden whilst it was warm and dry, the least the team could do was put some effort in and give us a goal to cement our place in the Championship. But this seemed not too hopeful and I decided it would probably end 0-0 so a point is better than none and look forward to the next couple of games and next season. I was hopeful Brentford wouldn’t score but my hopes were dashed and I thought did it really matter a 1-0 defeat. A little as I thought as we had made chances. Very pleased to be back on terms just after the interval. Well a 1-1 is fine. We have a difference of opinion in our area regarding Peter Whittingham in that I like him for the level of passing he can play, others think he’s slow and goes backward too much. One pass was knocked down the Grandstand side which taunted the white line but didn’t cross and though others may say it was easy, to control the pass headed back and despatch the ball into the corner I suggest it was his skill with the ball that made it look easy. I still feel he has a part to play in seasons to come. So I was happy that I chose the game rather than the garden and maybe the last two home games may bring reward, one as the opponents are not so strong, the other as they will have done the hard work and won’t have to scrap tooth and nail. Irrespective of the result I know I will be there and not on my ‘estate’ especially as the second is at night!!

  7. BJA says:

    A strange sort of game as I saw it. Early City pressure evaporated, with the Bees controlling things up to half time and just about deserving their half time lead from a scrappy goal, although it could well have been double had McGregor not pulled off a splendid reactionary save.
    But a good and early response from the City with Whittingham playing his part in the equaliser and of course his later strike for the winner. But Man of the Match, surely not. Booked once again for a stupid foul, quite slow in many areas and not all of his passes gave the pacy forward runners the opportunities needed to cause problems to the Brentford defenders. Would I renew his contract – yes – but at a lower figure as he will surely not be mobile enough to last 46 games next season.
    But we must keep Bruno. Composed and classy. As for Morrison who causes the opposition problems from our attacking dead ball situations, and us when we are defending, there needs to be some tuition given on how to jump from a standing position because he is beaten too often in the air in our own penalty area. However, I cannot fault his blocking commitments. I think a central three with these two and Bamba would work well if a system in front of them can be worked out.
    Kenneth needed help on Saturday. From the mid-point on in the second half he looked exhausted and with three games coming up in nine days, he must not be expected to keep chasing balls on the flanks, and then scurry into central attacking positions. If Pilkington is NW’s preferred replacement, then he should have come on earlier.
    One final point. Not the best performance from the referee, some strange decisions and why he penalised Pilkington late on was baffling.

  8. Colin Phillips says:

    Thanks, Paul, spot on as usual.

    Have to agree with you on your forum post, and the posters above, about the ref’s inconsistency. So frustrating he seemed to using different standards for the two teams and the booking of Hoillett for kicking the ball away nearly drove me over the edge (I am much too old to be shouting at the ref, my voice quickly goes and I end up with a coughing fit).

    I wasn’t in a position to watch Cardiff when Whittingham was at is best, obviously a lot of the fans have seen him at those times and they do seem to be really loyal to him. These days I’m sorry to say when he is in the squad my expectations drop. When he is on the field I feel we are playing with ten men (perhaps ten and a half in Saturday’s second half.
    There is no doubt about his ability to pass and take set pieces, perhaps as someone has suggested he could just come on to take corners and free-kicks, but I’m afraid he isn’t able to play at the pace necessary these days and is always a ‘yellow-card waiting to happen’.

    My neighbour in the Ninian Stand feels that Morrison would be better used as a striker, centre-backs have been turned into centre-forwards!!

    Manga is definitely a classy player and is too good to be playing at the level we are at the moment. As Paul says it is difficult to see him staying, it would be a shame to see him go.

    A general comment on a day at the CCS, can’t someone do something about the PA system, it’s embarrassing, and while we’re at it, can we have Ali back. At least he was able to read. I’m sorry if the announcer we have is a friend or relative of the commenters on here but he really isn’t very good.

  9. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Morning everyone, it’s amazing how much work putting your house up for sale creates (it’s been on the market for a fortnight now) and so I’m too busy to go into much detail with my reply, but here are a few thoughts on one or two of the issues raised;-

    1. Peter Whittingham.
    First thing to say is that I think Joe Ralls is under rated by many City fans because, being left footed, he tends to get compared to what Whitts was like at his age – in my book, Ralls is one of the best young central midfielders in the Championship and a real asset, maybe he’d be appreciated more if Whitts left? As for the man himself, I find it hard to be too harsh on someone who has been an integral reason why the last decade has, arguably, been the best in the club’s history – if I was pressed into having to make a decision on him this summer, I think I would just come down on the side of letting him go, but I also believe that he is still the best at the club at certain aspects of the game and there are going to be games next season where we could be saying we really need Whittingham here as we labour away without being able to find that pass, free kick or corner that would open up a stubborn defence. One thing I can’t ever see him as mind, is someone who stays in the game after retirement, so I don’t think he be interested in a coaching role.
    2. The officials – completely agree with those who have been critical of the ref. The only reason I didn’t say something about him and his ropey linesman was that I would have been writing for another few hours if I had started on them. The funny thing is that Darren Bond had done three games at our ground before Saturday (Fulham and Brighton last season and Sheffield Wednesday this season) and, apart from him deciding to give Stuart O’Keefe the benefit of the doubt after an x rated tackle in the first minute against Brighton, didn’t do anything either way to make me give him a second though, but he was terrible on Saturday, one of the worst, if not the worst, men in charge we’ve had this season.
    3. Jarred Welch – I have heard it said that he could do with losing a pound or two, but I think one of the reasons he looks so big in that picture is that I’m pretty sure that it’s the diminutive James Waite behind him. As it turns out, I see that it’s being claimed on one of the messageboards that he is having a trial with Bournemouth – this confirms something that I had heard last week. So, it seems that the club may well be willing to let the player I rated as our best at Academy level this season go – I stick by what I said mind.
    4. City 4 Preston 0 1967 – thanks for posting the teams from the City game played on the day Foinavon won the Grand National Richard – lots of familiar names in the Preston side, but “Wearmouth” is a complete mystery to me – a centre half who was signed from his home town Barrow and only played twelve times for Preston apparently.
    5. PA Announcers – Colin I agree with you entirely!

  10. Russell says:

    To improve on the current PA announcers , perhaps an approach to Dai Hunt is the solution.

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