For Birmingham, read Bolton as Cardiff fall to a shot shy defeat at a bottom four club again.

There was some, understandable, confusion when I launched the subscription list* for this blog two or three weeks ago as some readers took the use of the word “subscription” to mean that there was going to be some sort of fee needed to be paid from now on before articles could be read.

Well, if that had been the case, this would be one piece which would definitely not have been worth paying for, because it’s another of those occasional ones where I don’t even have the benefit of having listened to the game I’m talking about on the radio, let alone watched it.

Actually, that’s not quite true – I was able to listen to Radio Wales’ commentary of Cardiff City’s 2-0 defeat at lowly Bolton Wanderers yesterday for the final two minutes of the game when most of the conversation seemed to be about the odd decision to replace Lee Tomlin with Liam Feeney some fifteen minutes after he himself came off the bench to replace Loic Damour (more on this a little later).

So, as normal in cases like this, I’ll limit myself to a few observations about the game which may or may not have some truth or relevance to them.

The first of these is to express some bafflement as to how a team which went into yesterday’s match still second in the table when it comes to shots on target this season (Bristol City have now joined Brentford in front of us after yesterday’s fixtures) can look so toothless in losing to a couple of clubs in the bottom four?

Just as in the 1-0 defeat at Birmingham in October, City went to a struggling club (Bolton were beaten at home by Burton last weekend) and were beaten without even having a goal attempt on target. When you consider our good record against sides at the top  and our ability to, generally, impose ourselves against the middling teams in the league I find it extremely difficult to come up with plausible reasons as to why we should struggle so much at Birmingham and Bolton.

In our three matches leading up to yesterday we’d faced challenges at half time against opponents who were either beating us or had shaded the first forty five minutes and ended up coming out of them with seven  points – that’s the sort of things promotion sides do, what they certainly don’t do is lose toothlessly at teams that may well go down.

If this was to happen to other teams in a similar situation to ours, you’d wonder about an element of complacency creeping into matches like yesterday’s, but everything I read, as well as what I see of them with my own two eyes, tells me that this wouldn’t be the case with City’s 17/18 team.

Therefore, I have to admit defeat – other than to say that trips to Bolton are a little like ones to another Lancashire side which plays in white, Preston, neither of these venues tend to be happy hunting grounds for Cardiff City.

Taking an optimistic line, I thought our defeats at Preston and Birmingham in the autumn would come to be seen as the occasions when the rest of the division “figured us out” and results would fall away from then on, but, instead, we seemed to gather strength from the setbacks and, if anything prospered – we have to again if we are to remain top two, as opposed to top six, contenders.

What is not helping us of course is the series of injuries which we had to cope with for what is beginning to seem like months. The bad news this week was that Aron Gunnarsson and Danny Ward had operations which will sideline them in the medium to long term with talk of the former possibly being back in February, but the latter facing up to three more months out.

The better news was that Kenneth Zohore came on for the final quarter of the game. Predictably, his lack of match practice meant that he made little impact, but with Frederic Gounongbe as well as Ward sidelined for the early months of 2018, the return of Zohore, and Rhys Healey, couldn’t come soon enough.

Despite all of these injuries, the suspicion remains that, in a way, Lee Tomlin still hasn’t really arrived at the club yet. The man who represented something like two thirds of our transfer outlay (in terms of fees paid at least) during the summer is still a bit part player at the club in many ways, with the manager openly talking about him needing to get fitter to be able to play full ninety minute games for us and he remains a very occasional starter.

After playing a leading part in the late, late fightback to get a point at Reading and then growing into the game when in from the start to become an influential figure in the win over Hull, it was back to the substitute’s bench for Tomlin yesterday as he and Anthony Pilkington made way for Greg Halford and Omar Bogle, but it was what happened after he came on which is attracting comment on the messageboards.

It is very rare for a sub to be subbed and rarer still when the player concerned is, basically, an attacking one who is withdrawn after fifteen minutes when his side is losing. Our manager’s explanation for what happened to Tomlin yesterday was that a couple of opposing players were trying to wind him up and it was best to get him off the pitch before he was sent off it.

All pretty believable, but I suppose it’s tempting to look at Tomlin’s limited impact and, to be fair, his limited chances to make an impact, and come to certain conclusions as to his relationship with our manager. However, I’ll keep my powder dry on that subject for now until after the Fulham game on Boxing Day at least – will he be in the squad and, if he is, how much time will he spend on the pitch?

Yesterday marked the halfway point of our season and we have now played every team in the division once. While there is a temptation to look at the last of those twenty three games and jump to all sorts of negative conclusions about it, the fact is that we have averaged more than two points a game so far – no ifs or buts, if we get another forty seven points from our next twenty three games, we are going up automatically,

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10 Responses to For Birmingham, read Bolton as Cardiff fall to a shot shy defeat at a bottom four club again.

  1. Anthony O'Brien says:

    Mr Warnock has remarked that he correctly anticipated a very physical game yesterday, one of the reasons he selected Greg Halford. Given this response, was it wise to bring on Zohore as substitute in such a physical contest, when he had to face powerful central defenders who had the size and the will to be intimidating? Having just come back from injury he would obviously be “ring rusty” with the added uncertainty of how he would cope psychologically against “strong-arm” tactics. In a desperate attempt to get a goal, would it have been a better option to keep Bogle on the field and bring on Paterson or even Connolly as support against the inevitable physicality?

  2. Jeff Blight says:

    I listened to the game and they commented on numerous occasions that Halford was playing to deep, almost like a third centre half and as a consequence we lost the midfield battle against more aggressive opponents, similar to our other defeats this season.

    The squad has done remarkably well to cope with the injuries so far. However it is midfield where we lack numbers and in particular a natural replacement for Gunnarsson. I hope this is addressed in the January window.

    Regarding Tomlin it is clear now why Warnock seems reluctant to use him. Fitness and now temperament are going to prevent him from being a regular starter, which begs the question why did he buy him in the first place.

  3. Colin Phillips says:

    Very disappointing result and, to judge by the stats, performance.

    Did see the goals and the penalty seemed very harsh, appeared to hit Bamba from a very short distance and Hoilett’s ‘goal’ could well have stood. But we have to take the rough with the smooth. Let us hope we have got a bad performance out of our system and that we can pick up six points from Fulham and Preston.


  4. Matt N says:

    Hi Paul, I did listen to the game and you missed little as the co comm was Kevin Ratcliffe who adds very little other than to judge whether or not a tackle like that would have attracted a booking in his day. For such a good player he seemingly has nothing of note to say.
    The game really seemed to pass a lot of the players by and as is often for Cardiff facing a team at the bottom of the league, there seemed to be no motivation there. I’ve mentioned before over the seasons about this bottom placed hoodoo. It did prompt my brother to say that this should nullify the boxing day jinx which also seems a CCFC issue!
    Interesting about Tomlin, I am about as unconvinced as Warnock seems to be with him. I just don’t see how he fits in to the team in terms of their shape and his effort level. Unfortunately it looks to be a failed experiment.
    Anyway, I have a ham on the hob that I have to attend to.
    Merry Christmas all.

  5. Barry Cole says:

    Paul you missed a catastrophic occurrence and I agree with you about Tomlin.
    I knew when I arrived at the ground with my spurs supporting son that we were on a hiding to nothing but worse was to come.
    The team sheet showed Halford and not Tomlin then Bogle and not Pilkington. The two changes which told me that there would be little or no telling balls for midfield and no forward to cause problems with the Bolton defence.
    So having watched a first half devoid of any excitement I would have thought it was time to produce some of the football we are capable of providing at times.
    Not so , instead of the first half which showed why Bolton are where they are and wondering just why we are where we are I really thought we would push forward and take them to the cleaners.
    It was very clear that the only hope Bolton had of scoring would be a penalty and so it proved.
    After continuous and monotonous throws , kicks and passes to players of the opposition Eldridge’s distribution proved the Cardiff downfall.
    Now how on earth can I say to my son there we are second in the championship and looking good to play spurs next season. One way to find out.
    Well this was our chance to look at the future as on the final whistle we jumped into the car and headed for turf moor. We didn’t see the first goal but the rest showed the chasm in the leagues and if my memory serves me right the year Burnley went up we drew here with Zohore hitting the crossbar in the dying minutes. Now the difference is incredible.
    Anyway back to the game, it’s not often I would criticise NW but yesterday he picked the wrong team and if he was looking for that deep lying midfielder then that should have been Bamba with connelly covering him. As for Bogle then I have to ask the question where was Pilkington? he would have been a lot more effective than his contribution.
    It’s no good NW saying he wants to bring better players but I would not like to see Pilkington go and Bogle stay because I know who the better player is.
    Finally Tomlin, here is a worry , and like you reading into this there has to be something more. This game cried out for him . I really don’t know what the end game is but I would imagine that along with a few others the question marks are coming thick and fast especially clapping him on and within 15 minutes clapping him off .
    It wasn’t all bad Bennett, Hoilett and Ralls grafted all game and it was such a shame then ended up on the losing side.
    I suppose our track record at Bolton leaves a lot to be desired but yesterday I really thought that it was a banker away win. But that’s football

  6. Barry Cole says:

    Just one other comment about the game, the singing from the supporters was at times brilliant, but one thing that narked me and was pointed out as crazy by my son was the swearing and hate filled vitriolic words used by certain supporters when noone came on for Bolton. That lad played some great games for us and to acknowledge the ayatollah was a show of how much he liked his time here and I commend him for that.

  7. HarryKirtley'sGhost says:

    So Paul, the man I called the most inspirational manager Cardiff City have had in my 70 years, has finally shown he has feet of clay.
    Dear Neil Warnock…do not please insult our intelligence with your pathetic explanation as to why you withdrew Tomlin. It just won’t wash.
    You did what you did, in a fit of pique, knowing full well that “subbing a sub” is the ultimate humiliation.
    I have lost all respect for you.
    Not for doing it, per se…but for hiding behind this absurd “they were winding him up, and I couldn’t face the prospect of losing a player for three matches” nonsense.
    (And think about it Mr Warnock…you have now added an even bigger insult – were that possible – by suggesting that Lee is not strong enough mentally to resist taunting.)

    Now had you said, “I don’t like the geezer, I think him lazy and overweight and wanted to shock him out of his torpor with the ultimate punisment”…well, I would have condemned your act of humiliation, but still respected you for your sincerity.

    As it was Cardiff were in desperate need of Tomlin from the start…no man more so than Omar Bogle. Without a playmaker, he looks what he is: a Division 2 player at best, and probably still a Solihull Moors striker. He reminds me very much of a striker City once signed also from the West Midlands non league…a chap called Harry Knowles. He was a real trier, but one also who struggled to make the leap.
    And talking of leaps…that handball from Bamba…
    Of course it was accidental. But alas the law has changed, and if the hands are in an unnatural position – and you are the away team* – then you get penalised…however short a distance the ball may have travelled.
    And Mr Warnock, please do not further insult our intelligence with nonsense like you came out with yesterday, about Bamba’s hands having to be raised high if he was going to jump.
    Oh dear Neil. Get down to your farm just over the other side of the Tamar, and clear you head. And try and mend fences with the fabulously gifted Lee Tomlin…though if I were him, I think I would not want to play for you any more,
    * sorry, my joke…well, semi joke…since, it does seem to be predominantly away players who are penalised.

  8. Russell says:

    Thanks Paul , It’s Xmas morning and I have an outlet.

    I couldn’t listen to the game but always felt we may slip up due to our history of playing okay or poorly against lower opposition, what we have to consider these sides are not bad footballing sides , the lad who scored the second for Bolton is a cracking player who wern’t we were intrested in a while back

    Like the Birmingham game they were probaly more hungry than us and wanted to win that second ball , we thought we could rock up and win if we kept them quiet for 70 minutes . I’m guessing if we had been playing Wolves we would have been up and at em.

    Let’s be fair we are still (unbelievably) second, because the better teams/squads below us are not putting a run together, however the Rams are looking like there in the mood these days and they have a solid experienced midfield which is critical in this league , our strength is in defence these days , creating one nil platform wins, and our attack if all are fit are dangerous. We just lack quality in midfield.

    With regards to Tomlin I think he’s a show pony (yes a good one ) who thinks he can train or play in a manner that suits him , yes he was a transfer punt , as I seem to recall we had lost Whitts, and we didn’t have , a “”turn the game “” at any moment player ,however Tomlin is no Whittingham ,he has skill but is probaly a nightmare to manage. He was probaly told to not get wound up by them, and hey what’s he go and do , ignore the advise ,what a bright spark ,as he can change a game like that ,and they knew that , and did a good number on him.

    I think the club made a pre season error in thinking Gunnerson would stay and it worries me that we may not find or embed a decent replacement for the second half of the season.

    I suspected once Iceland qualified for the world cup Gunnerson would not been seen much off , balanced with the no contract signing, and now this injury?? It’s an interesting one, is it a knock where you could play through it, with an op at season end? And he has been tapped , and wants away on a free ??

    Let’s be honest we have done well, the next two will tell us a lot thank god they are at home ,won’t be easy though .

    If we dont spend well in January I feel we may fall away, or just make the play off .

    Merry Humbug Xmas

  9. bja says:

    Marry Christmas Paul and fellow bloggers.
    I also could not find the station where there was a commentary, so watched Sky’s Soccer Saturday, just waiting for the inevitable news that we had scored after half time. Then came the news that there was a penalty, and I thought, here we go. Ralls slotting the ball home. But oh no, a ball had hit out hero of “Last Christmas”fame, and we were one down. Enough time for the equaliser, but then came the even worse news that Bolton had scored a second. Dreadful.
    So once again a team at the wrong end of the league table had beaten us, and again we had not scored. This really has to be a concern. We are now just one game away from being removed from the automatic promotion position, and our next three games will prove critical in our quest to achieve a higher status.
    As others have remarked, and as I have stated previously, Tomlin is an enigma. According to NW, he removed our expensive purchase to save him from being sent off, as the Bolton heavy brigade were apparently “winding” him up. If that is the case, then it will surely come as no surprise if our next twenty-three opponents do something similar. There does seem to be a problem with his temperament which NW identified very quickly on Saturday and unless he is able to sort that out, then we may not see much of Tomlin in the next few games. Personally, I will not be too bothered.
    We are missing Gunnarson. Bamba when he has played in Gunnar’ s position has performed credibly, but with Morrison out, he is needed as a central defender. We do need more quality in mid-field. Both Bristol City and Derby have that in abundance and if we are to progress, then it is in that area we need reinforcing and whether we borrow or spend, I hope that a quality player will arrive sooner rather than later. To save some money, surely Feeney can return up north with Kadeem back to fitness.
    Following the week-end’s results, I still feel deflated. But my mood will improve once I and my wife receive some festive hospitality with my son, daughter-in-law and grand-daughters. In fact, just writing about it, I’m better already. To-morrow – Fulham. Bring them on.!!

  10. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Thanks and compliments of the season to all who have contributed or are reading this. I’ve got a lot to squeeze in today before the game, so I’ll just make a few comments on some of the points raised.
    1. I wasn’t too surprised to see Zohore come on, but I’ve have been that we’ve made little or no use yet of Paterson as a striker if we need a goal.
    2. Tomlin – I could say so much about him, but I’ll limit myself to the view that, if we were talking about the Lee Tomlin who looked so good for Peterborough in their win here during our promotion season or the one was so influential for Middlesbrough in 13/14, then I’d agree that his treatment by our manager was wrong, but we’ve only seen flashes of what he is capable of so far. Yes, those flashes have been very effective occasionally and he does give us qualities that we are short of when he isn’t on the pitch, but Neil Warnock says that he changed his whole managerial approach to accommodate Adel Taraabt at QPR, but would not do it again – I think Tomlin needs to do an awful lot more before our manager changes his mind.
    3. I think Harry Kirtley’s Ghost has got it exactly right about the penalty (even down to the aside about the away team) – it was harsh because Bamba was so close to the Bolton player who headed the ball, but any time the ball hits a defender’s hand when it is above his head, the ref can say he was right to penalise him by the letter of the law.
    4. It’s impossible to tell whether Hoilett was offside or not in the pictures of the disallowed goal I’ve seen. Bolton had a couple of outfield players very close to the goal line, but Hoilett wouldn’t have had much time to get himself into an onside position – it could have been onside, but it had a look of offside about it and I wouldn’t be too harsh on the linesman if he got it wrong.

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