How far away are a return to Cardiff v Newport derbies?

CoymayA little later than usual, I made my first visit of the season to a Newport County game yesterday when I watched them take on Stevenage at Rodney Parade. With County on a fine run and having scored six times in winning their last two matches, both away from home, I’d virtually made up my mind that, after City’s last two home games, I’d finally be at a match where the side I wanted to win would be playing some good football, but it didn’t really work out like that.

Truth be told, it was far from a classic – both sides played with three centrebacks and two strikers, so the midfield was a congested area where no one had much time on the ball with many of the passes played forward being uncontrolled, first time lobs as the ball was helped forward by players who knew they were likely to be closed down if they took the luxury of a second touch.

I’d heard reports that County were playing more of a passing game this season, but I saw little evidence of that as there was the reliance on long throws from both sides of the pitch for much of their goal threat which I remembered from matches I’d seen last year – manager Justin Edinburgh got it right when he described the match as “a dogged game in which there wasn’t a lot of football played”, but he could still point to a 2-0 win that lifted his side into sixth place, just three points short of the automatic promotion places.

There really wasn’t a great deal between the two sides, but County made two set pieces count when, firstly, top scorer Aaron O’Connor neatly guided a header past Stevenage keeper Chris Day on twenty six minutes after Lee Minshull had nodded  on Ryan Jackson’s long throw and then impressive centreback Darren Jones, looking suspiciously offside to me, shot home from close in after the visitors had failed to deal with a free kick by captain Andy Sandell in added time at the end of the first half.

After that, County had a good spell midway through the second half when, inspired by some good raiding down the right by Jackson, it felt like a third goal was imminent, but nothing came of it – in truth, just one would probably have been enough.

I say that because the visitors (who included former City loanee Simon Walton in their midfield – he made it clear was not happy to be substituted!) came up with little to trouble County after they’d made a misleadingly strong start by forcing a series of corners that saw a header deflected narrowly wide and an effort cleared off the line by Jackson.

Back in September, a second string Bournemouth outfit had won at a canter in the League Cup tie between the two sides at Cardiff City Stadium. This time it took our free scoring opponents just

Back in September, a second string Bournemouth outfit had won at a canter in the League Cup tie between the two sides at Cardiff City Stadium. This time it took our free scoring opponents just thirty nine seconds to net, through Matt Ritchie, as they dismantled a defence that had previously conceded just one goal in four games – simply put, in late 2014,  Bournemouth, who were subjected to patronising comments from members of City’s staff and the local media before yesterday’s match, have a much better squad than us.*

After that, there was a shot from Charlie Lee that forced keeper Jamie Stephens into a good save around the quarter of an hour mark, but that was about it as far as Stevenage getting a sniff of a goal was concerned. County were able to keep their opponents at arm’s length quite easily and, in a match that was never dirty, it was a surprise to see O’Connor kick out at defender Dean Wells in time added on at the end of the game. The County player was, rightfully in my opinion, shown a straight red card, but Edinburgh confirmed that the club would be appealing against the sending off which threatens to keep O’Connor out of the matches over the holiday period.

Once they’d scored, it always felt to me that County had control of the game and this takes me on to Cardiff City for whom those words certainly didn’t apply at any time during their 5-3 defeat at Bournemouth yesterday – in fact, I can only think of three or four City matches this season in which I’ve had that feeling of us being in control of.

I’ve not seen any of the goals and only read and heard the odd snippet about the game, so it’s one of those periodic away matches we play where I can only give general observations.

The first thing to say is that we hear often hear managers and players saying that someone is going to get a hammering soon if we keep on playing like that, but, for me, even when things were going better under Russell Slade in his first month in charge, it’s been more along the lines of we are going to get a hammering soon if we keep on playing like that. It seems that the only reason yesterday wasn’t that day is that Peter Whittingham can still deliver a quality dead ball or cross and Sean Morrison is proving to be pretty good at getting on the end of them.

I’d also say that a sure fire sign of a team that isn’t good enough to challenge at the top of any league is that as soon as you start to take one part of it for granted by thinking it’s sorted out, it goes right ahead and let’s you down. That’s what our defence did yesterday – before the game, I thought we’d lose 2-0, so I got the margin of defeat right. However, if someone had told me we would score three times, I would have said they were talking rubbish, but added the rider that, if it were true, we were going to get at least  a point.

Having not seen any of the action it’s hard really for me to comment on how the Bournemouth match affected the critical messageboard clamour regarding Russell Slade’s management except to say that, on the face of it, starting with Whittingham, Noone and Kimbo in a four man midfield hardly sounds like a selection designed to make us better at the long ball game we are, apparently, playing under him – these are all players who, at their best, want to get on the ball and make things happen, but they don’t strike me as being physically equipped to prosper in the sort of approach we are supposed to be using under our new manager.

Talking of Kimbo, he, apparently, was so bad in the first half that the consensus from Radio Wales reporters at the match was that it would be his last appearance for the club – I must say he’s done little in his first team appearances this season to back up his claim that he wanted to stay at Cardiff and fight for his place when he was linked with Celtic in the summer. There are also reports that Ravel Morrison has been sent back to West Ham (I’d been told by someone else on Friday that this had happened  the day before), while, unless Mats Dæhli was injured, his absence from the bench yesterday must, surely, indicate that his days at Cardiff are coming to an end.

This brings me on to what seems to me to have been the only positive from yesterday’s match. Not before time in my opinion, Kadeem Harris finally got to some some league action in a Cardiff shirt and he appears to have been one of biggest factors in an improved second half City showing. Anthony Pilkington might just be ready for the Brentford match next week according to Russell Slade, but, if he isn’t, I would have thought Kadeem must be the favourite to fill in for him against the club he did so well for in his loan spell last season.

Kenwyne Jones, otherwise as anonymous as he was against Rotherham last week, scored our first goal. Incidentally, why the all white kit when we could have worn blue - sometimes, it's hard to avoid the feeling that we support a club that goes out of it's way to insult it's fanbase.*

Kenwyne Jones, otherwise as anonymous as he was against Rotherham last week apparently, scores our first goal. Incidentally, why the all white kit when we could have worn blue? Sometimes, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that we support a club that goes out of it’s way to insult it’s fanbase.*

Harris’s surprise inclusion in the squad for Bournemouth suggests that the manager is prepared to look outside the twenty or so players he was reported to be picking his sides from and, if I were a youngster selected for tomorrow’s Development team game, I’d go out on to the pitch determined to put in a good showing because it seems to me that a few of them may be as close as they’ve ever been to selection in City squad for a league match.

A greater reliance on youth is something that there has been the odd suggestion about in recent months and the suspicion persists that our manager is only here because he costs less than nearly all of the other candidates mentioned at the time Ole left would have done. Also, there are purely football reasons why you’d want to reduce a squad of 30+ senior players at a club in this division, but, again, the suspicion lingers that it has as much to do with finance as anything else.

The theory that Vincent Tan’s continuing non attendance this season is proof of a loss of interest in his “toy” is another reason to believe that, unlikely promotion to the Premier League apart, the days of big spending at Cardiff may be coming to an end. If this means more of a chance for some of our best youngsters, then I’d have mixed feelings about it – to my mind, the likes of Harris, O’Sullivan and Oshilaja deserve a first team chance, but if, for example, those three became regular starters, it would carry obvious risks.

In fact, an increased reliance on youth as part of a cost cutting exercise at a club with smaller parachute payments could well end up in a downward momentum and when you throw in that we are talking about one that has huge debts owed to an unpopular owner who has helped bring morale levels among supporters down to rock bottom, then I’d say it’s inevitable.

This brings me to the question I asked in the title of this piece. After yesterday’s game, Newport County have only lost once in their last seventeen league games, figures like that strongly suggest that they’ll be in the promotion shake up come May and. like Bournemouth I’d assume, there was a belief on and off the pitch that the club is going forward – they could well be in League One next season. However, if, as is rightly claimed in my opinion, Cardiff is not  football city, the same applies with bells on to Newport. Granted, Saturday’s before Christmas are traditionally a poor time for attendances and Stevenage only brought about 50 fans to the game, but 2,976 is a poor crowd for a team doing so well – Newport has never supported it’s football team with much enthusiasm, and I’m afraid I’d see Championship football as a step too far for them in their current circumstances.

If I’m right therefore, City would have to be relegated for Cardiff v Newport league matches to continue – while I’d say that is very unlikely this season, there are so many reasons to think it could happen pretty soon, clubs with as much negativity around them as this one has had for a year and more tend to only go one way.

* pictures courtesy of

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8 Responses to How far away are a return to Cardiff v Newport derbies?

  1. Graham says:

    The misery of listening to the game from Port Elizabeth in South Africa was almost total .. but, with you, I welcomed Kadeem Harris’s appearance and work-rate .. and I also wondered why we were playing in white whereas in previous away games when a change was necessary we’d played in blue .. was it an instruction from our absentee owner? So on we must go ..

  2. Dai Woosnam says:

    Thanks Paul and Graham for an interesting read, as ever.
    I won’t comment on the all-white strip, other than it looked as odd on the eye, as the all-red one looks good. I think it was the red trim on the white that looked so peculiar.
    I speak as someone who wishes Mr Tan had stayed with the blue shirt.
    But in saying that, I think he was daft to ever ALLOW the blue as an “away” choice.
    If he was going to make a break, he should then have made it completely.
    But by letting fans see City playing in blue so many times a season, he just allowed the thing to fester even more.
    The analogy would be with someone who says “I am giving up smoking..but I will smoke every other week on Wednesdays only”.
    One is either ON the bus, or NOT on the bus. One cannot be HALF on the bus.
    So allowing “blue” to still be in the Cardiff City spectrum, was yet another error by Mr Tan.
    Now, to change subject: your feeling Paul, that Newport was never a real football town.
    Well you are probably right. But prior to WW2 they used to often get 20,000 attendances at Somerton Park, and I can remember when they were rock bottom of the pyramid in May 1977, being one of well over 8,000 fans to see Colin Addison pull off that miracle and doom opponents Workington Town to non-league football.
    My feeling is that nearly 40 years later, it is more of a football town NOW than then.
    My reasoning is that the growth of towns like Cwmbran, Caerleon, Caldicot and Chepstow (all in the M4 corridor as it enters Wales) has seen lots of incomers who have come with the new technology jobs. And my hunch is these are more SOCCER people than rugby.
    They are just waiting for a Newport County to be proud of …and thus affiliate themselves to.

  3. Richard Holt says:

    In answer to the question your title posed I would say that a Cardiff-Newport league derby is a hell of a lot closer than a Cardiff-Swansea one. We were very poor for most of the game Paul and only Bournemouth’s rather surprising inability to defend crosses gave the score a more respectable look than it should have been. In fairness Bournemouth were very good going forward and apart from that vulnerability at the back, the best side I’ve seen this season. I wouldn’t be surprised if they win this division with a bit to spare.

  4. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply to you and Dai Graham. You are probably aware that there’s been a story in the local media saying that FA rules dictated that we couldn’t wear blue on Saturday, but it’s been pointed out that Ipswich wore blue when they played there recently – here’s the story if you haven’t seen it;-

    Dai, County’s average gate in 1938/39 when they got promoted to the old Second Division was 11,448 which isn’t bad at all on the face of it, but when you consider that, for example, Millwall averaged over 27,000, Luton over 15,000 and Chesterfield over 13,000 that year, it puts things into perspective a bit. I was at that game with Workington and when I went to work the following day, there were four or five people from Cardiff who mentioned to me that they had gone as well – my point being that I believe a fair proportion of that 8,000 weren’t County fans first and foremost. I was also at Somerton Park when they beat us 1-0 on Easter Monday 1983 – there were 16,000 there that day and they looked certs to go up, but that year, when they should have got promoted, they averaged just 4.714 (albeit in a season where gates were low throughout the country). That tends to prove that, historically, Newport is a little like Cardiff in that people will turn up for “big” matches, but disappear again when things become more humdrum (in City’s case 47,000 against Spurs in 1961, then 21,000 less than a fortnight later when they entertained Blackpool) – I always say Newport is like Cardiff only worse!

    Richard, Bournemouth are the best side I’ve seen play us so far and the fact that they had nowhere near their strongest team out the night they embarrassed (or maybe that should be we embarrassed ourselves) in the League Cup suggests they might have the strength in depth to cope with the fatigue which blighted so many of our promotion bids under Dave Jones. One observation I’d make about Saturday though is that three of Bournemouth’s goals came from shots from outside the penalty area and, while I’m not saying for a second that we were unlucky in any way, that does seem a bit freakish to me – it’s that sort of thing that happens when you are on a run like theirs.

    As always, thanks to all of you for your comments.

  5. Dai Woosnam says:

    Thanks, Paul.
    Very impressed with your erudition…but not surprised. I as always SALUTE you for your ability to do the “hard yards”.
    Had no idea that the average gate at Somerton Park in 1938/39 was so low ..just over 11,000.
    I based my comment on the time when I was a regular attender at Somerton Park (1961-64)seeing a glorious team with Len Weare in goal, a dynamic front two in Ralph Hunt and “our” Joe Bonson, a fleet footed left winger in Granville Smith, and the best Scottish wing half I ever saw who never played for his countrY: Andy Bowman.
    And when I was a fan attending almost every home game in that time (as long as they did not clash with a City away game I was off to!), I used to regularly meet up with this old bloke who used to regale me with stories of how full the ground used to be pre War.
    I seem to recall him saying that there were 24 or 25 thousand for one game against City, and several others of 20,000 in that decade.
    Maybe time is playing tricks on me.
    Indeed it must be, as I note you tell me that there were only 47,000 for the epic game when we beat the Spurs “double side” in 1961.
    I was at that game. Unforgettable. Graham Moore and Danny Malloy supreme.
    In the afternoon I attended the Wales – Ireland game at the Arms Park with my ticket that I had got from Mr Jenkins at Porth YMCA.
    Then joined the throng walking across to Ninian Park.
    And that night, the numbers at Ninian were boosted by a huge segment of rugby fans from places like Ystradgynlais and Carmarthen. A couple of them were walking alongside me, and (seeing my City scarf and rattle)asked me the way as they were unsure …they had never been to Ninian before. But the attraction was that dazzling Spurs “Double” side. They remain the finest British team I ever saw.
    I had been at Ninian in over 62,000 people* 18 months before to see the brilliant Jimmy Greaves open the scoring for England in the first half, and my hero Graham Moore score that great headed last minute equaliser. And I have to tell you Paul, that the Spurs game seemed every bit as crowded. There were so many red-and-white rugby scarves in the crowd that night.
    Maybe some of those rugby fans (literally!) took a leaf out of that now becoming infamous Kenny Dalglish book, when he says that Liverpool fans were famous – if they could not get a ticket – for getting into matches without paying at the turnstiles (a claim that is now coming back to haunt him, methinks). For trust me Paul: if the official figure was 47,000 for that Spurs game, then there is something manifestly wrong with that figure.
    Either a lot of people scaled the walls (and we both know that this was basically impossible) or more likely, as Spurs were seen back then as a hugely rich club, some jiggery-pokery went on with that attendance figure (as gate receipts had to be shared back then in the Football League).
    * I have not googled it – deliberate lower case there! – but that figure is as impressed on my memory as the wall was on my chest as I stood right down the front of the Bob Bank in that incredible mass of people.

  6. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Hello Dai. I know what you mean – did you go to the game with Hereford in 1976 when the crowd announced was 35,000? There are plenty who’ll swear that there were a lot more than that there that night and with people still queuing up to get in half an hour into the match, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few gates were opened to let people in for nothing.
    The biggest crowd I’ve been in for a City home match was at the FA Cup match with Arsenal in 1969 when I think there was 55,000 at Ninian Park, but I’m pretty sure there were a couple of thousand more for the first Wales v England match I saw in 1967.

  7. Dai Woosnam says:

    Thanks Paul…and yes I was at the Hereford game.
    I was high up behind the goal at the Grange End.
    I remember the Alan Campbell goal vividly, but if you put a gun to my head, I cannot recall the other.
    But you are right. 35,000? Who did they think they were kidding?
    For years I used to bang on about the clear discrepancy between what I saw as the attendance figure in the newspaper, and what I knew to be the reality.
    And I am sure it still goes on today.
    Tell me Paul…do they count complimentary tickets in attendance totals?
    I ask, because it is a SCANDAL just how many comps are handed out to ex players – and worse – to millionaire current players and managers!
    I believe EVERYONE should pay. Except actual team personnel. Even newspaper reporters should put their hands in their pockets.
    Why should (sometimes unemployed) fans have to subsidise the rich?

  8. The other Bob Wilson says:

    They were both good goals against Hereford Dai – Livermore’s was what must surely be the only diving header he ever scored in his career!
    I don’t know the answer to the question you ask for certain, but I think complimentary tickets get counted towards the total attendance. I agree with you completely about all the freebees that are handed out – as you say, everyone should pay.
    I remember Sam Hammam saying he would pay for his tickets, food, drink etc. out of his own pocket when he took over – I wonder how long that lasted?

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