“Fickle” City show exactly why Play Offs remain a distant dream.

CoymayWhenever the dramatic decline in attendances at home Cardiff City games this season is debated, you can usually guarantee that someone (usually a person who no longer attends matches) will say that people shouldn’t be surprised by our gates having been halved in something like eighteen months – after all, Cardiff fans are “notoriously fickle”.

In many ways, it’s a fair criticism. I’m a bit too young to have gone to the famous game in the 1960/61 season against the Spurs side that would go on to complete a League and Cup double a few weeks later, but I know enough about it to be able to say that it was one of the great Ninian Park nights with 47,000 there to watch our 3-2 victory.

However, a bit of research tells you that more that half of those present that night did not bother turning up for our next game when Blackpool came to south Wales – there were 21,000 there for that match and when we entertained Blackburn just four weeks after the Tottenham game, only 13,000 turned up.

There are other examples – 50,000 to watch Leeds in an FA Cup tie in 1972 and 13,000 for a bottom of the table clash with Fulham seven days later, 35,549 (many swear blind it was much more than that in reality) against Hereford in April 1976 and then one in three of the City fans present that night weren’t there three days later when we entertained Swindon and, more recently, a capacity crowd of 22,009 for another FA Cup tie with Leeds in January 2002 and very slightly more than half that number when Peterborough arrived six days later.

So, yes, us City fans are fickle, probably more so than at other clubs, but I’m going to defend modern day Cardiff fans a little here, because I’d argue that we are only reflecting what we are seeing from our team this season.

Yesterday’s 2-2 draw at Cardiff City Stadium against a Rotherham side which had lost eight of it’s last nine away matches in all competitions was a perfect example of City’s fickleness this season – how can a team that played so well in winning at Wolves (and, having now watched the whole game on the club’s website, I can confirm that we did turn in a very good display), then stutter to a draw against a team thoroughly used to losing on their travels just a week later?

New loan signing Lex Immers congratulates Anthony Pilkington after his equaliser. Immers' header helped create the goal, but it was Stuart O'Keefe's delightful little flicked pass which opened up the Rotherham defence.*

New loan signing Lex Immers congratulates Anthony Pilkington after his equaliser. Immers’ header helped create the goal, but it was Stuart O’Keefe’s delightful little flicked pass which really opened up the Rotherham defence.*

Actually, that’s something of a flawed question, because a bit more analysis shows that City’s fickleness runs a lot deeper than suggested above.

Truth is, City aren’t just fickle from one match to the next, they are fickle and inconsistent throughout the course of the individual matches they play. The most conclusive proof of that assertion is provided by that notorious trio of home games before Christmas where the team played well to get themselves a couple of goals clear of Play Off rivals, Burnley, Sheffield Wednesday and Brentford only to promptly hand back that hard won advantage. Granted, we were still able to fashion a winner against the last named team, but that well worked goal only really offered more proof of the inconsistency in  performance, almost from one minute to the next, that runs through so many of our matches.

It was there again yesterday. After the first thirty five minutes or so, I’d convinced myself that there was no way weren’t going to win the game – even during a quiet opening, we looked to be in control of proceedings and, once we stepped things up a bit, Rotherham were struggling to live with us.

Often, those looking on just know when a goal is coming and I’d had that feeling for a minute or two before we scored our first goal. During the ten minutes either side of going 1-0 up, there were definite similarities in our play to the impressive stuff seen at Molineux –  strikers making  clever runs that were being found with clever and accurate passes (usually from Peter Whittingham) by colleagues, all of which represented a clear goal threat.

The movement and intelligence of Anthony Pilkington and, to a much lesser extent, Joe Mason threatened to rip Rotherham apart for a while. City were really looking the business and then suddenly, to misquote Keyser Soze, like that, it was gone!

All of a sudden, City started getting careless and, possibly, complacent. It wasn’t as if Rotherham were laying siege to our goal, but, going back to that feeling you get that a goal is coming, two or three minutes before their equaliser, my mate sat next to me said “City need to sort themselves out quick or they’re not going to be in front at half time” – he was saying the very thing I had been thinking only a few seconds earlier.

Again, I had a feeling of foreboding early in the second half when we had to defend a corner while Matt Connolly was off receiving treatment for an injury he picked snuffing out a dangerous looking attack by the visitors. Sure enough, although the goal came from a freakish deflection off Pilkington’s knee, we were 2-1 down within seconds and this was the signal for Rotherham to take control of the game for a spell.

So, it could be argued that I, and I daresay quite a few others, had seen the game’s first three goals coming, but that was certainly not the case on my part at least, when it came to it’s final goal, as, from nowhere, City came up with an equaliser as Pilkington completed a hat trick of sorts.

After that, a match which I’d say would have, largely, provided good entertainment for any neutrals watching, swung from end to end with us at times looking short handed at the back as we chased a winner – we had the better chances in the closing third of the game and were a little unfortunate that the two best of them fell to defenders.

However, although I think Rotherham manager Neil Redfearn was pushing things a bit when he claimed “I think we deserved to win. We were the better of two good sides”, maybe a draw was a fair result, because I left the ground feeling that fickle City had not been good enough over the course of the ninety minutes to accept another chance to make ground on the teams above us.

Looking at individual performances, there were two which really stood out for different reasons.

Anthony Pilkington is, in many ways, a player who personifies the fickle 2015/16 version of Cardiff City. Seen by many as a good signing when he arrived and generally recognised as one of our more classy players, Pilkington can provide moments of great skill and quality, but, like too many of his team mates, he has a tendency to flatter to deceive as those moments are not sustained long enough – also, rather like Craig Noone, playing on the wing in this team can mean you often flit in and out of games as you are either starved of service or it takes too long to reach you.

Being used in a more advanced and central role in the last two matches has seen Pilkington become much more prominent though. Noone may have, rightly, captured the headlines after the Wolves match, but Pilkington was right up there among our most influential performers on the day and yesterday he was easily our most impressive player as far as I was concerned.

There was a brightness and threat behind much that he did. I suppose Pilkington might have done better when played in for a shot visiting keeper Lee Camp blocked just before his first goal and the truth is we would have won but for his own goal, but that is to be hypercritical -as mentioned before, that was just down to pure bad luck.

Talk of luck takes me on to the yellow card Pilkington received for a dive in the penalty area. I’ve only had the one look at the incident, but I had a good view of it at the game and I just assumed that when the whistle was blown, a penalty had been awarded.

At the time, I thought referee Jeremy Simpson had made the biggest mistake of what was a fairly inconsistent afternoon’s work by an official I’d not seen before. He wasn’t terrible by any means and appears to be someone who is on his way up in his refereeing career as he’s done a lot more Championship matches this season than he has in others, but, overall, I thought we came out on the end of more wrong decisions than Rotherham did and, to that end, he was a factor, albeit a small one I’d say, in our failure to win.

This brings me on to the second of our players who had the biggest impact yesterday. If City have been inconsistent individually this season, then I’d say the biggest exception to that rule has probably been Lee Peltier. Yes, I know he is hardly the most eye catching of players and doesn’t do an awful lot going forward, but, apart from Matt Connolly, I cannot think of any other outfield player who has consistently been a seven out of ten performer week in, week out for us.

Unfortunately, yesterday was not one of those seven out of ten games for our right back. Watching these highlights only confirmed three things I suspected at the time.

When I saw the unmarked Lee Peltier get his head to Peter Whittingham's superb free kick inside the six yard box, I was already celebrating a goal - the fact that the ball didn't end up in the back of the net means that our right back is still awaiting his first goal for the club after what may well be our miss of the season so far.*

I was already celebrating a goal when I saw the unmarked Lee Peltier get his head to Peter Whittingham’s superb free kick inside the six yard box,  - the fact that the ball didn’t end up in the back of the net means that our right back is still awaiting his first goal for the club after what may well be our miss of the season so far.*

First, that, although Joe Newell did well to convert what was hardly a tap in for Rotherham’s first goal, he was helped by two pieces of poor Cardiff defending when Peltier let him go as he was played in down the left and then when David Marshall (not his usual, very good, self in recent weeks) chose to leave his line and was easily side stepped by the scorer.

Secondly, it really was a shocking miss from that header inside the six yard box and third, I don’t think there was anything wrong in Mr Simpson’s decision making when it came to the decision to send Peltier off. At the time, I didn’t know that he’d already been given a yellow card and so assumed for a short while that he had received a straight red card. I thought that was slightly harsh, if understandable, decision, but when I realised it was for two yellows, then I didn’t see that the ref had any alternative.

Finally, a welcome to our latest new signing Lex Immers. Yes, I know I spent half of my piece on the Wolves match talking about the transfer embargo that had been placed on us the day before, but the very complicated regulations which accompany it allow teams to bring in loan players to “top up” their squad as long as certain financial criteria are obeyed.

Therefore, we were entitled to bring in three new loan players (that figure could rise again if more of our players leave during the transfer and loan windows) and Immers, a midfield man cum striker, from Feyenoord is the first of them.

It was in the latter capacity that the Dutchman made his City bow yesterday when he replaced Mason with half an hour to go. It did not take him long at all to play a part in our equaliser and then go on to make a decent first impression, but what sort of player have we signed?

On the face of it, you would think he was exactly what Russell Slade wanted when you consider that he had identified pace and creativity as the two ingredients he wanted to add to his squad in January. After all, CEO Ken Choo remarked that Immers has “has the technical ability and pace that we are looking for.”.

However, the two Dutch journalists Wales Online consulted for an opinion on Immers offered a contrasting view and I have to say that the impression I gained yesterday was that it was they, rather than Mr Choo, who were right on the pace front at least!

Maybe the best thing to do for now is read this, very good,  more balanced and generally positive piece which tries to offer an objective opinion on someone who, if nothing else, it appears divides opinions sharply!

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

 

 

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12 Responses to “Fickle” City show exactly why Play Offs remain a distant dream.

  1. Barry cole says:

    Brilliant piece Paul, I didn’t go to the game and may be classed as one of the fickle fans since refusing to renew my season ticket until we have a manager in that is going to take us forward. I now pick and choose my home games and tend to watch more away games as I am not Cardiff based. For years I travelled four hours each way by train to watch my team but the dross of last season and the continuation this season has been my major factor in throwing away my season ticket after 25 years.
    That said I listened intently on the player and just couldn’t believe we had even drawn the game. That tells me a lot and unlike you I am not a fan of peltier because I believe he got his come uppance. Over the last month or so he has continually tried to pull shirts , push attackers and generally cheat and has got away with this, now he tried it out of the penalty area.
    Lots of players just never turned up and the inconsistancy has to lie at the managers door. The longer this goes on and I am beginning to have sympathy with slade especially as it must be affecting him, the less chance we have of getting in the top six. I have said all along we have the players, it is a necessity to ensure that they are used correctly to get us into the mix. I don’t believe that will happen with slade in charge

  2. Cardiff are like a jelly to me – signs of movement without really getting anywhere. I agree with the assessment of Immers – if he had pace, he would have scored. Being charitable, I’ll reserve judgement and put his lost opportunity down to the “settling in” period new players normally require – and he certainly contributed to Pilkington’s second goal (who, incidentally, showed the qualities I have been applauding for a long time). But overall, it was PACE – or, rather the LACK OF IT – which still make Cardiff, in every sense, pedestrian. And why make Noone stick to the right hand side like mud on a blanket? As was recently mentioned here, give him the freedom to go wide on the left, even if only occasionally. As it is, he is always standing still when he (belatedly ) receives the ball, and even when a pass inside the left back is called for, he neither gets it nor looks for it. Surely he must feel a sense of frustration at being forced – which is presumably the case – to stay on the right at all times – just as I feel frustrated at the continuing LACK OF PACE (both in deed and thought) which the Cardiff team displayed yet again yesterday.

  3. Matt N says:

    Hi Paul, very accurate interpretation of what I watched yesterday. I like you hadn’t seen Peltier’s first yellow and thought the red was over the top, but watching the highlights this morning have to say the ref got it right. I was very close to the Pilks penalty incident though and he looked to have got that wrong, also a clattering through I think it was Joe Ralls outside the box went unpunished, even though the ref was right there and the linesman had a clear view. So, I think City were a bit hard done by.
    Saying that, City completely switched off after 40 minutes and we’re lucky to recover after giving away their two cheap goals. I had been a bit concerned by Marshall’s confidence/form over the past month or so, and watching him constantly turning back to check his position in goal didn’t give me much comfort. I was unsurprised by his decision which led to the opener. Perhaps talk of huge transfer fees (before the embargo) has unsettled him?
    Immers looked like he could be a handful, but did look like a guy settling in to a team. Nobody seemed to know where to put the ball for him and he seemed to be a bit lost at sea. But he’s made the right noises about wanting to make an impact over here.
    Anthony’s point about pace is a good one. The only player with proper pace is Ameobi, and he really has not impressed me during his loan. I groaned when he was called to replace Whitts, although he was the right player to be coming off, I thought maybe Gunnar would be a better call. The other player with a bit of pace is Pilkington, but I think he might be out for a couple of games now after pulling up with a hamstring injury 2 minutes after the sending off.
    Soooo, transfer embargo + lack of pace + injuries. Does that equal Slade turning to youth? Does it hell.

  4. MIKE HOPE says:

    This was a particularly disappointing performance and result after the Wolves game.Had it come immediately after the Shrewsbury and Hull games the performance might have been seen as encouraging – certainly an improvement.This could be the pattern for the rest of the season.
    I have read some differing views from journalists and fans on refereeing decisions and individual performances.One of the WOL journalists was full of praise for Whitts, stating that after this performance, Slade will have difficulty omitting him again.He also claimed that Whitts was heavily involved in both our goals whereas I thought he had more direct involvement in Rotherham’s second when he jumped underneath the ball unsighting Pilkington.
    My impression was that it was a typical Whitts performance.Some nice passes,especially the superb cross that Peltier should have converted,but otherwise showing the limitations that, with the lack of pace in the team,his qualities are a luxury we can’t afford.
    Pilkington was very impressive as our striker [not no. 10] and it will be a shame if he is now injured – a tendency that has blighted his career.
    I think we should reserve judgement on Immers. Hopefully he will prove to be a genuine box to box player and his height should be an asset at both ends of the pitch.What was evident from Saturday was that unless he was suffering from the same virus that afflicted Mr Slade he is not going to provide the injection of pace that we need!
    For me one of the most disappointing and frustrating things about Saturday’s game was that apart from Pilkington the most talented attacking performance came from Chris Burke! And he apparently had met his Rotherham team mates just 24 hours earlier!

  5. Dai Woosnam says:

    Mike is so right about Chris Burke.
    That City refused to renew his contract and let Alex McLeish snatch him away to St Andrew’s struck me as perhaps the most foolish of all City’s actions that close season..
    As I recall, when Mr Mackay took over, he had only eight or nine professional players n the squad.
    I had no problems with City refusing to renew the contracts of Bothroyd and Chopra: these were fabulously talented players who alas when push came to shove, were not men to go into the jungle with. But Burke was different. A man who would never let you down in an emergency.
    And McLeish knew what Chris was all about from their respective days at Ibrox.
    In the last 10 years, I regard it as The Bluebirds second most foolish unloading of a player.
    And the first prize goes to…?
    Easy.
    It goes to Dave Jones for selling Ross McCormack to Leeds soon after he upset DJ by being done for drink driving.
    I know Paul, that you do not agree with me on this. You reckon that Ross wanted out as Chops was keeping him out of the team. But that is an indictment of DJ too. No reason why both players could not have made the starting Xl.
    Btw, Paul…if he goes to Boro for £4m this week, will we get a fraction of that fee?
    I know that we got 10% or so of the £11m that Fulham paid Leeds.
    I want to know…do we get an ever-decreasing percentage AD INFINITUM if a player – we have a sell-on clause with – keeps getting transferred?
    DW.

  6. Colin Phillips says:

    I found Saturday’s game so frustrating, we opened their defence so easily and often that we should have been well ahead at half-time. Their goals were farcical and so typical of the way Cardiff have defended lately, I feel sure that Marshall was a better keeper without the responsibility of the captaincy.

    Regardless of the dropping of two points there were positives to be taken out of the game, we are now creating chances from open play- which makes a refreshing change!

    Is there likely to be any transfer action, in or out, before the window closes? Will Marshall, Manga and Macheda depart? Has the Tony Watt Watt Watt situation sorted.? Is Mr. Slade with us for the foreseeable future? So many questions, does anyone have any answers.

  7. The other Bob Wilson says:

    As always, a thank you for your replies. I’ll start with Dai’s question – I’m 99.9% sure that we won’t get anything if Ross McCormack moves from Fulham. Incidentally, I can’t remember saying that McCormack wanted out solely because he was being kept out of the team by Chopra (I’d say that was one of a few reasons he had), but if you say I did, then I must have. For what it’s worth, McCormack v the Michael Chopra of his first spell with us would have been a tough decision to make, but it would be McCormack over the Chopra who came back from Sunderland every day of the week for me. Regarding Chris Burke, I seem to remember the reason given in the media for his departure was that he wanted to move closer to Scotland so he could see more of his child (I think he and his wife/girlfriend had separated), although just going 100 miles up the road to Birmingham hardly represented a dramatic step north (as someone remarked when news of his move from Nottingham to Rotherham was announced, “Well, I suppose he’s getting back to Scotland gradually!). My own view on Burke is that we saw the best of him in the Championship – he’s got gradually worse with every move since he left us.
    Barry, you make a point that has become apparent to me in the last year or so – the club would be making a mistake if they thought the people deserting it are always those who “signed up” when the Premier League became an achievable goal. There are plenty of long term fans (including a fair few exiles like you who were prepared to make regular long journeys to watch worse teams than the current one) who have decided they’ve had enough – I tend to think it’s because it no longer feels like the club they’ve spent their lives supporting.
    Completely agree with your comments about pace AMO. Our manager has identified that we need more of that commodity, so we may see a real flier added to the squad soon – of course, we do have a full back cum winger, who has played for his country, on the books who would add pace to the team, but he’s a locally born youngster, so he’s got no chance of being picked!
    Matt. that comment about Declan John shows we are in accord over our manager’s youth policy! Apparently, Peltier’s first yellow card was picked up after his missed chance (which gets more and more horrendous every time I see it). There’s definitely something not quite right with Marshall at the moment isn’t there – maybe there’s an element of frustration on his part because we just seem to be marking time when it comes to results (Birmingham have won their last two games 3-0, I’ve virtually given up on seeing us win by such a margin again!).
    Mike, I thought Whittingham played a bit better than normal, but I agree that some of the reviews of his performance have been a bit over the top. What I would say is that I think Pilkington’s presence in advanced areas works to Whitts’ advantage, because we have someone up front who is making the sort of runs that Joe Mason does, but with that extra bit of pace which enables Whittingham to deliver passes into areas which get Pilkington clear of defenders, rather than level with them. Pilks isn’t tremendously quick, but he is quick in mind, whereas someone like Ameobi does not seem to have the nous to use his pace to it’s best advantage when he is playing in more central areas.

  8. Stephen Fairhurst says:

    An observation from my corner of the stadium. On a couple of occasions the ball was on the right wing close to the byline with players on the near corner of the box. I waited for the pull back and possible scoring chance but it was sent across the box and wasted. And on other occasions there wasn’t the desire to get in on the keeper and to gamble on something presenting itself which would increase the excitement as a by-product. The team start brightly but there was the usual dip at the start of the second half. Maybe the opposition manager geeing his players up and telling them to press which Cardiff don’t respond to. I thought we won’t be bossed about in midfield when seeing the starting line up (possible 1-5-4) and we did play a passing game but as the game went on again we seemed to be just knocking the ball away in a hurry and watching it come back on to us and not just after the sending-off.

  9. RUSSELL says:

    I think the game summed up our season perfectly :

    Lets not progress after a good win and performance ( is that simply players attitude,or a lack of application)
    As in most games , some nice neat football however very patchy and inconsistent.
    Lack of purpose from the bench man Sammy Amobi should hang his head in shame and we should cancel the loan.
    The club appear to be in a state of animation waiting for something to happen .

    On the playing front Whitt’s ,Pilk’s, Pelt’s are good Championship players, Connolly is my player of the season, O’Keefe did well, Mason for me is looking lightweight ,perhaps Idris is the reason why Watt’s wasn’t bought?

    And we go on and on , I’m too fickle not to go down .

    Thanks again Paul for stimulating debate, and write up, we simply march on and on.

  10. Dai Woosnam says:

    Paul,
    You have forgotten more than I ever learned about The Bluebirds, so I hesitate to question any statement emanating from your esteemed pen.
    But my eyebrow is still raised somewhat at this on Chris Burke:
    ‘…
    He’s got gradually worsewith every move since he left us
    …’

    Eh? He was ADORED by the fans at St Andrews…!!

    http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/birmingham-city-player-of-the-year-chris-184306

    And were I not so ill right now, I would dig out old copies of the Nottingham Evening Post to show you his 9 out of 10 performances when Stuart Pearce in his three piece suit
    and his team went on that early season run beating just about everyone until they had their comeuppance at the hands of a lifelong Forest fan…a certain Mr Russell Slade !!
    DW

  11. The other Bob Wilson says:

    The Under 21 match I watched yesterday provided examples of how effective low crosses pulled back from the bye line can be Stephen – three of the games five goals came via that route. During the second half on Saturday, Craig Noone went on the outside of his marker and rolled back a low cross towards the penalty spot and the ball kept on rolling out of the eighteen yard box because there wasn’t a City player within five yards of it. People had a go out at Noone for not looking up before crossing, but I believe his team mates were more to blame for not anticipating where the ball may be played to – if I were a midfield player, I would always be trying to get on or close to the penalty spot when a winger is getting to the bye line because the ball ends up there so many times and invariably there’s a great shooting chance because defenders are wring footed after having to run towards their goal.
    Dai, I always felt that Chris Burke was a top class Championship winger when he was with us. I’m not saying he was poor at Birmingham, but, from what I saw of him when he played for them, I don’t think he was quite as good as when he played here and that applies even moreso at Forest.
    Russell, the Wolves result and performance was so unpredictable, but Rotherham was the complete opposite of that – I suppose being frustratingly short of Play Off standard and quite entertaining is better than being frustratingly short of Play Off standard and boring like we were earlier in the season, but the overriding feeling I get is of a very good opportunity being wasted.

  12. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Colin, I think we could well see another loan signing or two, but, as the loan window reopens in early February before closing for the season about six weeks later, they may not arrive this month.
    I’ve always thought we’d see at least one big move out of the club this month. Earlier in the season, Manga would have been my choice, but the injuries to Morrison and Turner made that unlikely – maybe Marshall might still go, but I’d say that was more likely to happen in the summer.

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