Whether it be the old Den at Cold Blow Lane or the new, very slightly, more welcoming one in Bermondsey, Cardiff City have found wins hard to come by when visiting Millwall down the years. Drawing there has not been a problem recently (five out of six league matches played at the New Den before last night had finished all square), but the last forty years have only seen three Cardiff wins in that, particularly unwelcoming part of South East London and those looking for lucky omens might be interested to know that our previous win at Millwall (by 4-0 in 1982/83) came in a promotion season, as did the one, by 3-1, in 1975/76.
Last night’s 2-0 victory was our first at Millwall for thirty years then and could possibly be a harbinger of great things to come, but what it definitely should do is put an end, for a while at least, to talk that, after just two games on our travels, our away form was some sort of problem. Okay, even though Bristol City are currently looking a stronger unit than they have been for a few years, losing at Ashton Gate was a very poor result, but a draw at Brighton is, increasingly, looking like a decent outcome and I can only say that when you read headlines like this one which appeared in the local press yesterday, you do wonder if some people are on a commission to put as negative a spin on the local football team as they possibly can!
Of course, one away win is not enough to prove that City will not struggle on their travels this year like another expensively put together team in Leicester City have over the past two seasons (and look to be doing again), but, having remarked on here about the lack of away wins so far in the fledgling Championship of 2012/13 over the weekend, it’s reassuring to know that there are now nineteen teams in our league suffering from a worse case of “away day blues” than us!
In saying that, there were three other Championship away winners in the nine games played last night and, with Brighton and Hull both coming out on top in their matches at Watford and Leeds respectively, the current top five have built up a handy little buffer between themselves and the rest at this, very early, stage of the campaign. Blackburn and Blackpool still occupy the top two places after home wins against Barnsley and Middlesbrough (two teams without an away point between then so far) and City owe their position at the bottom of the four team group trailing the Ewood Park side by just a point to the fact that they haven’t yet had the really big win (two in Blackpool’s case) that the other three have up to now.
Perhaps if Peter Whittingham’s first half free kick had not been ruled out for a foul which, seemingly, had no direct bearing in the scoring of the “goal” by the recalled Aron Gunnarsson, then that big win might have come last night because the game was virtually killed off by the two high quality goals scored within two minutes of each other early in the second half and if the team had really gone for the Millwall jugular after that we could now be third or fourth in the table? On the other hand, the switch from 4-4-2 to 4-5-1 by including Gunnarsson for Heidar Helguson was a clue to a, probably correct, attitude of let’s get out of here with the points rather than risk letting our hosts get back into the game if we get in front.
As for those goals, well, with City recently announcing they will be running a goal of the month competition this season, Whittingham is now in the position of being able to have his own personal one for September – leaving aside his two penalties, he now has three high class goals this month with last night’s first time effort high into the net from about twenty five yards being a strong candidate for the best one (my favourite is still the free kick against Wolves though). Craig Noone’s first goal for the club as he received a pass from Tommy Smith and bent in a right footed shot from around fifteen yards to double the lead may not have been quite up to the standards of the first, but it was still a fine bit of finishing from someone who continues to make a big impression since his £1 million move at the end of last month.
The one sore note of the night was the knee injury suffered by Nicky Maynard midway through the second half. There have been rather mixed messages on it so far, with the Radio Wales commentators sounding quite downbeat about things amid talk of cruciate ligament injuries and Malky Mackay adopting a wait and see attitude while still managing to sound fairly positive about things. On the face of it, the frustration shown by the player after picking up his injury is an ominous sign, but, as Maynard missed more more than half of the 2010/11 season with an injury to his other knee, a more glass half full interpretation might be that he knows what a long term injury is like and was perhaps being over pessimistic about this one.
However, I suppose that for now it’s probably best to fear the worst and treat anything better than a serious injury as a bonus. Speaking as someone who can remember a time when something like cruciate knee ligament damage was quite often a career ender, modern day treatment makes it far more of a manageable injury than it was – whatever the diagnosis, all the best to Nicky for a quick and complete recovery.
Finally, today’s Echo is confirming stories that first appeared yesterday about Dekel Keinan having moved back to his first club Maccabi Haifa – nothing’s been officially confirmed by the club, but I hope it’s true because a player whose attitude has always been first class, even when he obviously had no future at Cardiff, would have got his career back on track. One move that definitely has gone through is a short term loan to Wycombe Wanderers for our third choice keeper Elliott Parish who made his debut last night in a 3-2 defeat at Exeter – best of luck to both of them at their new clubs.