Vincent Tan tells us that the colour red is lucky. I maintain that the squad Mr Tan’s money has helped to assemble would have just as good a record if we were still playing in blue and white, but I accept that if I ever got into an argument with someone who truly believed our success this season was down to our red and black kit, then he/she would probably just point to the league table and believe their point was proved. However, if Mr Tan was being entirely honest with himself this morning, would he still say red was lucky after witnessing his Cardiff City side lose 2-0 to Brighton last night?
Before I go on, I have to be fair to Brighton and say that I rate them as a team and consider that their current position of seventh represents under achievement given the strength of their squad. I thought they defended very well at times and their goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak gave a reminder why he was once a Manchester United player. Brighton passed their ball around slickly at times in the first half as well, but, when all’s said and done, they were so, so lucky.
Walking away from the ground listening to Radio Wales’ summary of the game, I found myself wondering what match Jason Perry had been watching as he constantly went on about how poorly we had played in the first half. Now, I thought the opening forty five minutes offered a decent spectacle as two sides who wanted to get the ball down and play strived for what was always going to be a very important first goal (given that Brighton have not been beaten this season when they have scored first). our opponents got themselves into threatening positions quite often, but until they got that first goal, they only troubled David Marshall once when he had to dive full length to keep out a shot by the impressive Jose Ulloa.
Contrast that to what was going on at the other end as the catalogue of efforts against the woodwork and great saves by the keeper grew. My reaction to Brighton taking the lead was to say that, on chances created, it was a “travesty” – the words of someone expressing their disappointment at their team going behind maybe, but I still believe they were based in reality. If City could consider themselves unfortunate at half time, then the second half must have had them wondering just what they had done to deserve such bad luck – the tally of balls hitting the frame of the Brighton goal rose to four and the number of brilliant stops by Kuszczak reached almost double that. There was also a blatant penalty missed by the referee Keith Stroud apparently (I didn’t believe it was a foul on Bellamy and was in no position to judge where the offence took place from where I was sat, but, the consensus seems to be that, if the officials thought an offence had been committed, it took place well inside the penalty area).
Cardiff City fans didn’t really cover themselves in glory last night and I don’t think the reaction of some to the players looking to retain possession and probe for an opening rather than just hammer the ball forward should be forgotten – this will sound snobbish, but I often find myself wondering about the footballing intelligence of many who watch us play and last night, some of the “stick it in the mixer” brigade surpassed themselves.
For what it’s worth, I thought that we played as well as we have done in a home game for months in terms of quality of football and creativity. However, our recent goalscoring record at Cardiff City Stadium is nowhere near as good as you would expect it to be for a team with our record and, for close to three months now, we have only been averaging a goal a game wherever we have played. For much of that time, this poor scoring rate for a top of the table side could be explained away by the fact that our attacking players were having to live off scraps because of an inability to create chances and a decline in the quality of dead ball delivery from Peter Whittingham in particular, but, in the last two home games, there have been chances galore.
The Bristol City match has been described as a 2-1 thrashing and it’s true that, given our dominance, the victory margin should have been much more than one goal. I mentioned earlier the number of times we hit the post and the number of saves by the opposing goalkeeper, but it’s also true to say that some of those goal attempts should never have given the woodwork or Kuszczak the chance to intervene. We had more goalscoring opportunities against Brighton than we did against the wurzels and it’s a sobering to think that Fraizer Campbell (who wasn’t blameless when it came to missed chances) apart, virtually all of the team, as well as some who were on the bench last night, are currently going through their longest goal drought of the season.
I like the way we have been trying to play recently and we shouldn’t have a problem if we keep on performing like we did in our last two matches, but we really could do with someone other than Campbell scoring and for the likes of Bellamy, Whittingham and Gunnarsson to rediscover some confidence in their finishing. So far, the team have reacted very well to defeats and, with our next three matches against sides who aren’t in great form at the moment, there’s certainly no need to panic. There’s no sign whatsoever so far of the tiredness which has helped disrupt Cardiff City seasons from this stage onwards in the past and Malky Mackay can make changes for Sunday if he wants to and still field a side that would be the envy of most others in this league.
Of course, it’s impossible to do a piece on last night and not mention the “reward” us supporters were given by the club before the game. Speaking as someone who was fully behind the “Blue Tuesday” campaign, it was certainly disappointing to see it turn into something of a damp squib as, for the first time, I experienced the feeling of helplessness that I’m sure many of those who have chosen to boycott matches have faced many times in the past nine months.
However, they have it easy in some ways because their disillusionment with the club is so complete in many cases that they aren’t bothered now how we do. In my case though, I desperately wanted the team in red to win last night and went through agonies as the near misses piled up in the second half. Unless or until the re-branding process goes further, that situation isn’t going to change – I cannot boycott matches currently and so I will just carry on with my personal protest of wearing a blue shirt (I now have a scarf to go with it!) to games.
At the moment, that looks like a futile gesture, but it’s virtually certain that there will soon come a time when wearing red will not be the recipe for success that so many, apparently, feel it is now. That time may be early in the summer as we come to terms with yet another failed promotion bid or it may be delayed until the autumn as the reality of the Premiership dream dawns when, for the first time since many of them started following the club, City supporters have to face up to the fact that we are into a season where we are going to lose more matches than we win. I believe that it is important at a time like that for a blue presence to be seen at games because it’ll be a reminder that there is an alternative to a colour that will by then be losing it’s lustre for many of those so eager to snap up the red scarves last night.