The Under 21 Development team made it five home wins out of six for themselves and took the combined total of victories in Cardiff for them, the senior team and the Under 18’s to a very impressive seventeen from twenty matches when they recorded a 4-0 win over Colchester at Cardiff City Stadium last night in front of another decent sized crowd. When you consider that all of the goals came in the first half, a scoreline like that suggests a very one sided game, but, in truth, it was a curious affair in which I wouldn’t be surprised if the visitors had more efforts at goal than their hosts.
With City fielding a team that included Steve McPhail, Jordon Mutch and Filip Kiss in midfield and Etien Velikonja up front, it looked like they would be far too powerful for a Colchester team that had four players with first team experience in it, but the only one I recognised was Welsh Under 21 international Tom Bender who sustained a head injury while playing for Accrington Stanley last season that was considered so serious that the match he was playing in was abandoned. To an extent they were, because, when City were able to put their game together in the first half, they reached levels that Colchester just could not match, but the visitors certainly had their moments in attack (a lot more than Swansea did a week ago against our Under 21’s with a much better looking team on paper) and I thought a two goal winning margin would have been about right.
The visitors were quicker out of the blocks with Elliot Parish being forced into action on what was to be a pretty busy evening for him inside the first two minutes, but, shortly after that, City cut the Colchester defence open for the first time when Luke Coulson sent Jordon Mutch into a big gap in their backline only for keeper Phillips to foil him with a good save. Velikonja was then denied a goal, perhaps wrongly, by a linesman’s flag, but he didn’t have to wait long to open his account when he netted from six yards just before the quarter hour mark from a Kiss cross after more good work by Coulson – credit too to Jesse Darko who, realising he was in an offside position, let the ball run on to Kiss.
Colchester came back at City and Parish did well to foil one of their strikers when he was presented with a clear run on goal after a defensive mishap, but he looked to be beaten when a shot from twenty five yards from the same player took a slight deflection which sent it fractionally wide. Despite them having their fair share of the play, Colchester were not able to knock the ball about with the fluency that City’s midfield managed at times though and more proof of this was provided as two quickfire goals had the home side 3-0 up with less than half an hour played.
For the first of these, McPhail combined well with Mutch who delivered a defence splitting pass to Velikonja who cutely dinked a shot over the advancing Phillips that just about had enough on it to go over the line despite the desperate efforts of a defender to keep the ball out. Then, when Mutch played a corner short to Ronnie Hawkins, the new recruit from Spurs passed to McPhail who found Mutch with a perfectly weighted ball which enabled him to continue his run into the penalty area without breaking stride and fire in from ten yards – the scorer revealed after the game that his goal had come about because a move that had been planned on the training ground by Under 21’s manager Kevin Cooper had been carried out to the letter.
Velikonja fired just over as he chased his hat trick and Darko shot wide when it was easier to score after a defensive mix up had presented him with an unguarded net, but there was one more goal before the break when Kiss cut in from the left and beat Phillips on his near post with a powerfully struck shot.
Often when a side has a big half time lead the second forty five minutes becomes something of an anti climax. That’s exactly what happened this time as City went through the motions somewhat after the break and, apart from a well struck effort from Hawkins which flew just wide and a Velikonja header correctly disallowed for offside just before the end, the visitors were able to keep the score at four with no alarms. What goalmouth action there was came at the other end when Parrish saved well within seconds of the restart and the keeper also impressed with a couple of sharp stops later on, but the closest Colchester came to getting the goal they deserved was when a header hit the top of the crossbar and bounced over.
I suppose most interest, in terms of the first team at least, centred on a couple of players. Jordon Mutch played for an hour after being out injured for a couple of months and impressed with his goal and all round play – I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the bench on Saturday. As for Etien Velikonja, he took his goal tally to five in the three matches he’s played at this level – both of the goals he scored last night were typical striker’s finishes and, significantly, it was he who was in the position to net with the two disallowed efforts. Velikonja can be sharp and clever in and around the penalty box and I think he has been unlucky not to have been selected as a sub over the last few weeks, but with Bellamy fit again, I think his chance may have gone for now.
To be fair to Malky Mackay, I can see where he is coming from with Velikonja to an extent. At the moment, he looks like an effective goal goal poacher who does not contribute much outside of the penalty area at reserve team level and the only way I could see that situation changing if he was in the first team is that he’d find goals harder to come by. In a side short of goals, the temptation to give Velikonja the chance to see if he can carry his scoring form at Development team level into the first team would be stronger, but when you are averaging two goals a game, I can understand an argument which says he should be able to contribute more than just goals.
There was also a chance to have a first look at two of the three players we have recruited on short term contracts recently. Apart from when he presented Colchester with a great chance after giving away possession when he was last man, Ibrahim Mansaray did well at centreback and the way he tried, and often succeeded, in passing the ball out accurately from the back gave the clue that he is probably more at home in midfield. Ronnie Hawkins showed some nice, skillful, touches in midfield and, as mentioned earlier, came close to scoring with a long range effort in the second half – it was a surprise when he was substituted at the same time as Mutch.
It was the third of the new players who I’d pick out as City’s best player on the night though. Luke Coulson had a quieter time of it last week against the jacks after an excellent first game against Millwall, but he was on form right from the start last night. Besides performing his defensive duties more than adequately, he was very effective going forward, whether it be when slipping Mutch through early on or providing a series of fine crosses which his team mates probably should have made more of. With Ben Nugent sitting last night’s match out, I can see him playing alongside Mark Hudson at Barnsley with Matt Connolly continuing at right back if we don’t bring any loan players in by Friday, but last night Coulson looked like a player who could do a job for the first team if required.