Cardiff City remain odds on for relegation with all leading bookmakers this morning and that has to be a fair reflection of their chances of avoiding the drop – City are still probably going to go down, but a Fulham side who were being tipped by many to be above us at 5 o clock yesterday afternoon look doomed.
The reason for that is that the Londoners were beaten 3-1 yesterday in the game that was billed as loser gets relegated by a media that were circling like vultures growing impatient for the first Premier League casualty of the season. City managed to avoid reading their obituaries this morning after a match which was everything you would expect from two sides deep in relegation trouble with the loser set to be cut adrift at the bottom.
That’s why I find the sort of comment that I heard in the media straight after the match and on messageboards from some City fans last night so puzzling. All of the radio reports I heard within an hour of the match finishing seemed to contain the words “no classic, but……..”, while there were plenty on the internet who weren’t happy with what they had seen.
I must confess that I’m at a loss to understand what those people were expecting from the game. At least, the presence of the word “but” in that quote I mentioned offered the clue that there was an understanding that in a part of the season where result is so much more important than performance, that applied more than ever to yesterday’s mother of all six pointers. However, there has been this strange season long insistence from some City fans that they be entertained while their side is battling to stay out of the bottom three – I find this baffling when you consider that this season was always going to be a struggle from first game to thirty eighth and we were hardly the great entertainers last year were we.
All I can think is that the people doing the complaining are too young to have seen City in a relegation scrap before or they have forgotten what tended to happen when we were in one. Actually, I can remember previous matches with Fulham quite late in the season when both sides were in danger of going down that were real blood and guts affairs with barely any quality on display – one of them finished 3-3 mind and must have been pretty entertaining for a neutral I suppose, but that was more down to the catalogue of mistakes being made than any brilliance by the players.
Having been present to see some true brilliance on Wednesday night, I accept that there wasn’t much of it about yesterday, but, despite what the doom mongers would tell you, there was some Premier League quality on show from Cardiff players. For example. after I was forgetting at times that Craig Noone was on the pitch during the first twenty minutes, the winger went on to become one of the game’s most influential performers – there were the usual infuriating moments from him, but, on the biggest day of the season so far, he largely delivered when the pressure was on and the cross which led to the third goal was a peach.
Steven Caulker got two goals, but also showed the sort of defensive qualities which marked his early Cardiff performances and, despite, one or two wayward passes, Gary Medel kept things ticking over in midfield while also performing his usual defensive duties better than many holding midfielders in this league – a word too for Declan John who just needed a bit more composure and confidence in the promising attacking positions he created for himself, but he was still the best full back on the pitch.
Other City players didn’t hit the same heights, but nearly all of them were not found wanting when it came to determination and a desire to work hard for the team – I didn’t think that was the case a fortnight ago when we capitulated to Hull. This time though, in a match where character and attitude was possibly more important than skill, there wasn’t much to complain about in those departments with two players for me eptimosing the City approach. Fabio still had his dodgy defensive moments, but he was sharper than previously, while if you had told me beforehand that Fraizer Campbell would be playing in a position where he had defensive responsibilities I would have been dreading the outcome, but he fulfilled the left sided covering role with typical unselfishness and in fact did surprisingly well – none more so than when he tracked back in the first half to break up one of the few Fulham threats we saw on he and John’s side of the pitch all afternoon.
In fact, I would say apart from the enigmatic Kenwyne Jones, every City player was spot on as far as attitude went. I seem to be in a small minority who thought that some of Jones’ hold up play was pretty impressive – he’d be some player if he had Campbell’s mentality, but then I suppose he wouldn’t be playing for us if he did. Jones was probably too far out to beat Stekelenburg with first half header from a Jordon Mutch cross, but he put another easier opportunity from a pass by the same player too close to the keeper just before half time and missed a sitter when heading wide from another fine Noone cross just after the break.
At the time I was convinced that last miss would come back to haunt us, but, as it turned out, we managed to score three. Now, before yesterday, I had doubts whether we would score three more goals this season let alone in one game – I thought the chances of that happening were zero. Of course, it helps when you are playing against a side that has conceded fifteen more goals than anyone else in the division and Fulham’s defensive problems were neatly summarised in that sequence of three corners which ended with our second goal – for the first, Mutch was allowed to roll the corner kick to an unmarked Kimbo some fifteen yards from goal only for Stekelenburg to block the shot, then it needed a desperate late lunge to stop Campbell side footing in from six yards at the near post before Mutch went to the far post where Caulker and Campbell were both unmarked and the keeper made a mess of the former’s header.
It really was desperate defending, but City have to take confidence from the fact that they have ended their scoring drought and with, by the standards of this season at least, some style. Cardiff did not kick on and gain any benefits from their fortunate win over Norwich five weeks ago and with games against the Merseyside clubs to come in the next couple of weekends, the odds are that any benefits from the Fulham game will not come in terms of points, but then these are games where no one expects to take any, so anything we do get will be seen as a bonus – what has to be taken for granted now though is that, after the improved attitude seen at White Hart Lane and yesterday, Everton and Liverpool will be facing a City side which gives it’s all.
* pictures courtesy of http://www.walesonline.co.uk/