Duffy puts in early bid for Cardiff City Player of the Season award.

CoymayOne of the responses received in the Feedback section to my piece on the QPR defeat included a wish that we thrash someone soon.  My reply contained an opinion that I really couldn’t see this City side doing that anytime in the near future. However, Adrian, I’ve got to say that the chance for City to get the big win you crave was definitely there against Blackburn Rovers last night. Of course, with this being Cardiff City, what we got instead was a ground out 2-1 victory which had the crowd imploring the ref to blow for time in the closing minutes.

Two goals up in twenty minutes against opponents feeling sorry for themselves after a couple of defeats by a three goal margin against Norwich at home and then at Wigan, City could have gone on to double our even treble their number of goals scored against opponents who, on last night’s evidence look set for a long and tough season at or near the bottom of the table.  Maybe they would have done so as well if Anthony Pilkington had accepted a marvelous chance after a pass from Aron Gunnarsson had sent him clear of the Rovers defence around the half hour mark, but, instead what we got was a microcosm of our season so far.

I can remember Pilkington being given the same sort of scoring chance in the home match against Sheffield Wednesday last December and it never looked like he was going to miss as he rounded the keeper and slotted into the empty net, but, to be honest, this time he never looked like he was going to score.

Pilkington’s shot some nine months after he finished so confidently against opponents who showed they were good enough to come back to gain a draw from a couple of goals down, was just what you would expect from a City forward based on what we have seen so far this season – a shot, which may have been scuffed, that rolled gently wide of the post.

Now, if you are reading this not aware of the truly bizarre story behind last night’s match (very unlikely I would have thought, but you never know), then you may well be thinking, what’s he being so negative about? After the last match he was saying it was hard to see where a goal was coming from and here the team get two in no time at all in recording the win which he said was so vital even at this very early stage of the campaign.

That’s all pretty reasonable if it were not for the case that the strong suspicion in my mind is that City’s leading scorer for the season as we head into the first international break (and maybe into the second one as well!) will be someone by the name of Shane Duffy.

For anyone unaware of who Duffy is, I can tell you that he is an Irish international centreback who has been having a truly horrendous time of it since what must surely have been a career high for him in the summer as he starred in an Irish defence which kept Italy out in winning a game that secured them a place in the last sixteen of the European Championship.

Since then however, it’s been downhill all the way for him. Given a red card in the defeat by France which saw them a goal to the good at half time, Duffy turned down an offer of a new contract from Rovers in the light of reported interest in him from Premier League Sunderland and then promptly put through his own net to score Wigan’s final goal in their 3-0 win on the weekend.

City's first goal of the season and it's celebrated with the sort of understatement you always get following an obvious own goal - people don't know who to congratulate and it all ends up being very low key, but it was right that Declan John got the praise here following his well struck shot which cannoned off the post and onto Shane Duffy before entering the net.*

City’s first goal of the season and it’s celebrated with the sort of understatement you always get following an obvious own goal. People don’t know who to congratulate and it all ends up being very low key, but it was right that Declan John got the praise here following his well struck shot which cannoned off the post and onto Shane Duffy before entering the net.*

All of that is as nothing though compared to his nightmare at Cardiff City Stadium. It all started to go wrong for him in the thirteenth minute when Peter Whittingham hit the sort of perceptive pass that the new three centrebacks system is supposed to give him more time to play. In this instance, it was left wing back Declan John who was the beneficiary, as he found himself in acres of space at the corner of the penalty area.

From where I was sat it looked for all the world as if John’s well struck effort had ended our scoring drought, but instead the ball rebounded out off the far post, only for it to strike the hapless Duffy who could do nothing to stop the ball rebounding into the net.

So, sheer bad luck for the defender in that instance then, but you have to wonder as to what he was doing seven minutes later when he nodded a Whittingham free kick into the same corner of the goal to double the lead. I’ve watched a couple of replays of the incident now and it must be said that Duffy looks like a striker timing his run and leap to perfection to guide in a header from a quality dead ball delivery – maybe the club will provide pictures on their website which show that the ball came off the side of Duffy’s head rather than his forehead, but, for now at least, it looks like a very strange own goal to me.

Of course, the City crowd had great fun at Duffy’s expense after that with requests for him to do the Ayatollah mixing with the occasional chorus of “Duffy is a Bluebird”, but this recent scoreless run has seen me develop a fatalistic approach when it comes to my team and so I couldn’t help but recall a fairly famous match from the seventies when Aston Villa’s Northern Ireland centreback Chris Nicholl scored all four goals in a 2-2 draw with Southampton!

Truth be told, there was little evidence that Duffy, or his ten outfield team mates, had two goals at the right end in them, but former jack, and one time City target, Danny Graham exploited some dozy defending from a long goal kick by keeper Jason Steele to reduce the deficit with thirteen minutes to play.

It was a poor goal to concede and it looked all the worse because you would have thought that a three centreback system should be able to cope with such a direct approach so much more easily than the more normal pair of central defenders would. However, overall, Connolly, Manga and the recalled Sean Morrison coped pretty well – there were one or two goalmouth flurries in the dying minutes, but City were able to protect their lead in the closing stages fairly comfortably.

Indeed, the main talking point in the last few minutes came from an incident which had somehow seemed inevitable from the twenty minute mark onwards.

Having picked up an earlier yellow card for a foul on Lex Immers, Duffy’s night ended as it always had to when, pushed up front in added time, he blasted a shot long after the whistle had gone for a City free kick against an opponent. I thought the second yellow which followed for him was a little harsh at the time, but, on second thoughts, it does seem to be an instance of the sort of dissent the authorities are reacting more firmly against this season – certainly, you got the impression that Duffy knew instantly what he had done as he apologised for his actions in a doomed attempt to try and avoid the punishment that he knew was coming.

Quite what any Blackburn fan who travelled to the game (hardly surprisingly, there weren’t too many of them) would have made of all of this I’m not sure. I look at things wholly from a Cardiff perspective and think we could, and should, have won more comfortably, but if you’re from Blackburn then I would guess that you are going to think that we would have got something from that game were it not for Shane Duffy.- I know that’s what I’d be doing if it had been a City player who went through what Duffy did.

I can recall Reading’s Alex Pearce scoring an own goal and giving away a penalty, for which he received a straight red card, all before half time in another 2-1 City win from a couple of years ago, but Duffy’s night to forget surpasses that for me and so, strangely enough, City now find themselves in a position where they have a couple of goals and a win finally behind them and yet the overriding impression I get is that it’s done nothing to suggest that our players will find putting the ball in the net for themselves any easier than they have done up to now.

Before the game, I said that I was feeling optimistic as I predicted it would take only sixty five minutes for us to get an effort on target this time. Now, there’s a debate to be had as to how it is that a side can get two goals and hit the post without the stats recording them as having hit the target, but, that’s the way the rules say it should be for now. So, it turned out I was almost exactly right because the game was going into its final quarter as Steele had to touch a Morrison header over, then had to field a long range Ralls effort a few minutes later and then dive to keep out a Gounongbe shot in added time – the rest of City’s goal attempts (and there were a lot more of them than there were on Sunday) were either too wide or too high.

Referee Andy Davies shows Shane Duffy the red card to complete what has to be the worst night of his career. I've seen it suggested that his recent bout of own goals have been down to dissatisfaction with his club about his contract situation - I'm not sure about that. He had no chance of avoiding hos og at Wigan and, although some are adamant that his first last night was scored on purpose, I'm sticking to my original opinion that it was down to sheer bad luck - must admit the second one looks a bit odd though.*

Referee Andy Davies shows Shane Duffy the red card to complete what has to be the worst night of his career. I’ve seen it suggested that his recent bout of own goal scoring has been down to dissatisfaction with his club about his contract situation – I’m not sure about that. He had no chance of avoiding his og at Wigan and, although some are adamant that his first last night was scored on purpose, I’m sticking to my original opinion that it was down to sheer bad luck – must admit the second one looks a bit odd though.*

Still, at least it was a win and one of the positives to come out of it for me was that we were able to exercise some sort of control in the middle of the park. I suppose that should have been the case when you consider that we started with a side bulging with central midfielders and strikers who feel happier playing in a deeper role.

Leaving Gounongbe out and bringing in Gunnarsson with the result that it was Pilkington and Immers who were shouldering the attacking burden, was a change that was not forced on Paul Trollope, but the one which saw Morrison come in and Lee Peltier used at right wing back due to Jazz Richards’ injury was.

Trollope’s ream selection caused a great deal of debate before the game because it appeared that a side struggling to score would be fielding a line up that had even less goal scoring potential than the one picked for the previous match – indeed, it was hard to see how the 3-5-2/5-3-2 experiment could be continued with the players Paul Trollope had chosen.

In the event, Peltier proved to be a better wing back than expected – he wasn’t brilliant, but, along with the usual defensive competence, there was also far more willingness to get forward and an encouraging tendency to knock in early crosses.

When Peltier hobbled off around the hour mark, Trollope could have gone for the safer option of moving Connolly to the right and bringing on Semi Ajayi for a .City league debut, but, to his credit, he decided to go for a more positive option as a straight swap saw Kadeem Harris introduced.

Now, Harris was able to supply more of what supporters want to see from a wing back when he burst between two opponents to start an individual run from the halfway line which ended with a shot from twenty yards which was deflected not far wide and there were other encouraging attacking moments from him. However, I daresay those who earn their living from the game at the club would have preferred to see less of the type of scything challenges that earned him a caution.

Hardly convincing for City overall then, and while I accept it’s somewhat naive to expect a side to really go for the jugular against weaker and wounded opponents when there are things like win bonuses at stake, I still can’t help thinking that a chance to really lift the mood and confidence levels in and around the club passed us by last night.

That said, when you consider where we were after the Bristol Rovers and QPR matches, I suppose any steps forward were always going to be small ones – the need for more pace, movement and finishing ability is still as pronounced as it ever was, but a victory, no matter how it was earned, has to help.

*pictures courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/joncandy/

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7 Responses to Duffy puts in early bid for Cardiff City Player of the Season award.

  1. Russell says:

    Thanks Paul,I didn’t make the game due to holiday,so my first mid morning action was to seek out your report and views.
    It does sound like a long haul season,however perhaps we should consider its a new tactical approach for a few, of those perhaps they are not best suited . Like Slade no real funds are forthcoming either.

    In a perverse way have we sold the two wing backs best suited to this role in Fabio and Malone, both liked to go toward at pace ?

    What’s a worry for me is the lack of on goal penetration ,what’s happened to Immers and Pilkington from in that area.

    I guess we need a good 6 months to see where we are going.

  2. Anthony O'Brien says:

    Both Dai Woosnam and myself have had problems with messages sent and then disappearing or not appearing at all. Has anyone else had this problem? Earlier today I posted a comment with three elements. 1/ Despite the win I came away feeling somehow cheated. 2/ Russell’s excellent comment about the players best suited for the wing-back approach no longer with the club. 3/ Declan John, in spite of the first goal, was continually reluctant to bomb forward, preferring to pass sideways or back, and had problems trying to cut inside because of his one-footedness.
    Fellow contributors, if this contribution does not appear, please let me know!!!!

  3. Graham says:

    Paul’s report is far more positive and optimistic than I expected after what I thought an evening of much misery and no magic. One point made by Paul and Anthony : yes, there were ‘acres of space’ in front of Declan John throughout the first half but no-one on the pitch in a blue shirt seemed to have spotted those empty acres .. I’m one of those delighted to see Declan John in out first team, but Fabio would have been in and out of those empty spaces until they were closed up because of his attacking forays into them.
    And attacking there was little of last night – we were back again to last season’s curse of possession-possession – again and again we showed a grim negativity, nervously tapping the ball back or across as soon as possible wherever we were on the field, and hardly ever looking forward towards the other team’s goal area and either moving forward or passing forward into spaces for other blue-shirted players to run into. Ralls has joined Whittingham in automatically clocking up 6 passes back for every 1 forward, and Pilkington keeps on proving that, energetic he may be, but he is NOT a strker. What a relief when Kadeem Harris came on – he must have been out of the room when Paul Trollope was giving the ‘don’t ever rush forward’ instruction – he kept on trying to set off towards the other team’s goal area at speed – silly boy!
    Anyway, if we go on being as boringly negative as we were last night the gates will continue to shrink ..
    By the way, how are Rhys Healey and Tommy O’Sullivan doing? Cold have done with their energy and enthusiasm last night ..

  4. Dai Woosnam says:

    Yes, AMO is right.
    I recently lost a biggie that I spenr an hour 20 mins writing…an hour 20 mins I am not gonna get back.*

    That reminds me…I read somewhere years and years ago that the art historian and renaissance man extraordinaire (in both senses of the term), Bernard Berenson, was seen in Harvard Square at 92, just a couple of years before he died, with an upturned hat, asking freshmen students to drop in any unused minutes…!!

    I love AMO’s joke in his last line.
    That in turn reminds me of a place near me here in Grimsby called The Psychic Garden. There is a sign in the window: “Psychic readings, by appointment”.

    As I said to my friend Dave-the-Cobbler yesterday: if she was any cop, don’t you think one would not need to MAKE an appointment? She would surely sense you were going to arrive at her consulting room, to the very minute and second…!!

    But, let me not DAI-gress. Instead move to more important matters like The Bluebirds of Cardiff **

    Your usual quality report, Paul. I confess that here in Grimsby, as you were watching Blackburn, I was watching the most extraordinary display of football I have seen in years, from Manchester City. Could genuinely have been twelve nil.

    And the lesson we Cardiff tans can learn from this?
    That with only a minimal amount of new faces, a new manager can quickly transform players.

    Not sure that PT has so far signalled that he is cut from a TOTALLY differnt cloth than that RS was cut from.
    One just hopes though that his team will click.
    And that he takes some risks.

    I am reminded that Jurgen Klopp recently took Steven Caulker on loan, and saw a striker in him.
    I see similar in Sean Morrison.
    (A pity I cannot see the same in Bruno Magna, eh? His defending is becoming a bit of a liability of late !!)
    ^ yes, in future, I must highlight and click “select all” and copy, just before sending …and make a hard copy.
    **as opposed to those of Barrow FC, I mean.

  5. Dai Woosnam says:

    Just read Graham’s fine contribution.
    Yes !!
    As I feared, Graham confirms that Paul Trollope’s way is currently to have his team passing square, instead of passing FORWARD.
    No wonder there were only just over 14,000 fans present.
    PS…apols for the accidental single circumflex instead of single asterisk in my footnote to my last post.

  6. The other Bob Wilson says:

    As far as disappearing messages go, I can only repeat what I said to Dai this week. About six weeks ago, I noticed that all sorts of spam messages that would normally be caught by one of the plug in appliances I have for the blog were appearing in my inbox. Not only that, some of your messages were being marked for deletion and I’d also stopped getting the e-mail notification of any feedback messages you were sending. I tried a few things in an attempt to get back to normal without success and would have been not surprised in the least about messages going missing during this period.
    However, last weekend I decided to go right back to square one and started uninstalling and reinstalling a few things and this, along with one or two other tweaks here and there, appears to have resolved all of the problems at this end, except for the fact that I still don’t get the e-mail notifications of your messages that I used to receive. I can’t think of anything else I can do now and, as everything seems normal here except for one matter which is not a problem in itself, I don’t think there’s much else I can do, but please let me know if any more of your messages go missing and I’ll try another overhaul of the blog software to try and rectify the problem.
    As for City, I’ll say first of all that, in terms of entertainment and enjoyable football, the first of the pair of home matches we’ve just played was worse than nearly everything we saw last season under a manager who I thought always opted for the safe option and was uninspiring in his tactics and substitutions. Wednesday’s match was better, but it was still not as good as much of what I saw from us last season. Any “floating” supporter who went to the QPR game would, surely, not be in a hurry to come back for more in the short term at least and, apart from the truly bizarre misfortunes of one visiting player, there wasn’t a great deal on offer on Wednesday either to get such a person counting down the days to our next home match.
    Even so. I think it’s only fair that Paul Trollope and his system are given more time and not written off after less than a fortnight of competitive football. To those who struggle to find differences between Trollope and our previous manager, I’d say that you only have to look at the presence of Declan John (who, after two seasons where he barely kicked a ball for City’s first team is bound to be feeling his way back and, consequently, might be a bit reluctant to go forward as much as he might do in a few weeks time when, hopefully, he will feel that he fully “belongs”) in the side to see a significant difference between Messrs Slade and Trollope – similarly, I doubt it very much if Russell Slade would have opted for such a positive change as bringing Kadeem Harris on for Lee Peltier when his team were two goals in the lead.
    I still believe that the main fault in our new system presently is that we need to get more players into advanced positions when there is a chance for us to attack. Although our wing backs were pretty positive at the beginning of the match, we saw less and less of them getting forward as we went into the second half – the introduction of Harris partly addressed that problem on the right, but, just as on Sunday, very little was being seen of Dec in and around the visitor’s penalty area and I have to think that, if City’s bench was unhappy about this, they would surely have let the player know because he would often have been only a matter of yards from them for much of the time.
    People can bemoan the lack of forward passes, but it has to become harder to play the sort of attacking pass which gives a better than 50/50 chance of retaining controlled possession if you only have between one and three possible targets for that pass – Dai talks of Man City and I’m reminded of a feature Jamie Carragher did on Monday Night Football where he talked about Guardiola hoping to have five outfield players in front of the ball and five behind it at most stages of the game, at City I’d say that when one of our central midfield players has possession in, say, the centre circle, the ratio of behind the ball to in front of it tends to be either seven to three or even eight to two.
    It also doesn’t help that the two or three in front of the ball tend to be fairly ordinary players compared to quite a few that the opposing defenders will face in this league over the course of a season. While I’d say that our wing backs are still something of an unknown quantity, I’d say we are strong through the middle of the pitch until we get to last third – for me, we have an automatic promotion standard goalkeeper, a top six standard set of centrebacks (Peltier has looked pretty good as one of the back three as well) and the addition of Huws and the apparent desire to keep hold of Gunnarsson gives us a pool of central midfielders that I would rate as top eight standard – sadly, the evidence up to now this season suggests we are bottom six material in the striking areas.
    If we can add a forward who can give us a bit of pace, movement and finishing ability, while also having the bonus of thinking like a natural striker, to the squad before the window closes, then I’d like to hope that, as members of our current squad come to terms with the new system and their role within it, we can start to see a more enjoyable and pacier brand of football, but that will also depend on us being willing to commit one or two more players forward when the chance is there.

  7. Anthony O'Brien says:


    Sadly. I remain a dinosaur in the modern world of information technology, but even I can appreciate your continued efforts to make sure this site works as it should. Thank you.

    On football matters, you have produced an excellent summary to go with the your excellent first report. And as you point out, to get more players going forward, it is necessary to have players with genuine speed, as exemplified by Kadeem Harris when he came on the pitch. Surely his performance is a word for the wise?

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