Sometimes you’re just fated not to win.

CoymayBack in September, a team from Yorkshire came to Cardiff City Stadium and won 2-0 to inflict a first home league defeat on the team and last night another side from the same county departed 2-0 winners as City lost on their own ground in the league for the first time since then.

However, any similarity between the two occasions ends with the result and scoreline. True, Hull City needed some help from the utterly appalling Christopher Sarginson (who has been almost completely consigned to officiating in the lower divisions since his horror show in Cardiff six months ago), but they were able to keep a City side that played well on two thirds of the pitch at arm’s length with some resolute and canny defending which meant that their keeper Alan McGregor was barely ever called into serious action.

Many City fans rate Hull as the best side to visit our ground this season, but I doubt whether there’ll be any who place Leeds United in the same exalted category after their victory last night.

Having seen all of our home games this season, I must say that I thought Leeds were one of the worst sides to come here so far. I’ve read a lot of post match guff from Steve Evans and some Yorkshire based journalists about how Leeds’ win was down to discipline and hard work – laughably, the manager even claimed his side deserved their win!

What Leeds did have last night was a goalkeeper in top form, a pretty dominant centreback in Sol Bamba, a speed on the break which they used to fine effect on one occasion and lashings and lashings of good fortune.

Where Hull were able to ensure their keeper had a pretty quiet night, Leeds, despite usually having plenty of men behind the ball, were, at times, almost completely reliant on Marco Silvestri as they, somehow, managed to preserve their clean sheet. The keeper spent the final two thirds of the game making a string of fine saves, but, even then, Leeds needed the assistance of the officials and the woodwork to keep their goal intact.

While referee Darren Deadman was hardly in the Sarginson class when it came to ineptitude, he did enrage Russell Slade with his failure to award a penalty early in the second half when Giuseppe Bellusci blocked Matt Connolly’s cross with his arm and the City manager was critical of the official’s overall performance.

I had a very good view of the penalty claim which took place about twenty yards in front of my seat in the Ninian Stand and I was amazed that no spot kick was given at the time. Having now seen these highlights of the game, I’m even more convinced that the officials got it wrong – Bellusci had his arms out to the side in an unnatural position and was about five yards away from Connolly when he crossed it.

It seemed to me that Deadman was weak when dealing with the time wasting and play acting which Leeds indulged in throughout the second half as well. He did add on six minutes at the end, but, with both teams making three substitutions each, one or two injuries which held up play and the time needed to sort out a dust up between the two managers as well, a couple of additional minutes more seemed justified on this occasion, given that the official had started warning visiting players about their time wasting as early as five minutes into the second half.

The aftermath of Fabio's foul which led to his ,justified, sending off - quite why some Leeds players had to run thirty yards or so to remonstrate with the ref to produce a red card is beyond me, but it was a typical of the approach of a team which employed every trick in the book to try to cling on to their lead - in that respect, Leeds were worthy representatives of the club which took cynicism to new levels in their so called glory days in the 60s and 70s.*

The aftermath of Fabio’s foul which led to his, justified, sending off. Quite why some Leeds players had to run thirty yards or so to remonstrate with the ref to produce a red card is beyond me, but it was a typical of the approach of a team that employed every trick in the book to try to cling on to their lead – in that respect, Leeds were worthy representatives of the club which took cynicism to new levels in their so called glory days in the 60s and 70s.*

That said, I believe the ref had no alternative but to send Fabio off for the second of two reckless lunges within a few minutes. The first foul drew a justified yellow card and, although Fabio had reason to feel he was put into an awkward position by a very poor,  intercepted Bruno Manga pass, he did have alternatives in trying to deal with the situation that did not involve him receiving a tenth caution of the season.

One of the reasons Fabio is a crowd favourite is because he “gets stuck in” when it comes to tackling, but that’s a dangerous policy for any defender to employ in these days when the slightest mistiming in making a challenge leads to a red or yellow card. Flying into tackles while a few yards away and getting them spot on has to owe as much to luck as it does judgement and it’s indicative of a lack of discipline on the part of the player who makes them.

That failing was also apparent in the first Leeds goal. While I’ve seen Scott Malone being criticised for the way he defended the situation, the fact of the matter is that he was left in complete isolation after the other player charged with defensive duties from the corner we were taking (Fabio) went chasing the ball when it was about thirty yards away from him. In the event, given how far out of position he had got himself, Fabio did well to get back and try to block Souleymane Doukara’s scoring shot (the BBC’s match report claimed the ball deflected off the defender on it’s way into the net, but the video evidence is inconclusive on this), but we would have stood a much better chance of dealing with what was a good and incisive counter attack if he had stuck to doing the job he had been tasked with.

Fabio’s indiscretions and the sort of carelessness seen in the pass which led to his second booking offer proof that it would be wrong for City to claim that their defeat was entirely down to a combination of bad luck and inept refereeing.

With the confidence built up over a good recent run of results and performances, it would have been good to have seen the team start the game with a real attacking intent against an outfit which found themselves 4-0 down inside forty minutes in their last away match, but, as is the case in so many Championship matches these days, it was hard to tell which side was at home and which one away in a cagey opening quarter that  resembled so many others seen at the ground this season.

So much of our recent upturn in fortunes has been down to the Pilkington/Immers/Lawrence combination up front, but only the last named looked capable of making things happen in an attacking sense for us in the opening half an hour and I was a little disappointed that it was him who made way for Sammy Ameobi, because I thought the on loan Leicester man had posed a threat every time he received the ball.

By contrast, Pilkington (a nominee for Championship Player of the month in February) had the occasional inspired moment, but was generally the quietest he has been in any game since his move up front. Immers grew into the match after contributing little in the opening stages and typified the drive and spirit in the team which I will come back to later, but, overall, I believe we would have won the game if the front three had been as influential as a combination as they have been in so many other matches recently.

So, City were not perfect by any means on the night and, when all’s said and done, a team that have not gone into too many games this season with their fans, generally, expecting them to win failed to deliver when expectation levels were raised. Nevertheless, it was impossible not to sympathise with them when what they got out of the game so manifestly failed to match what they put into it.

Truly, the last half an hour of the match offered a first for me despite the more than half a century’s worth of football watching I’ve racked up now – I’ve never seen a side with ten men so dominant against eleven man opponents as City were last night.

With Silvestri making save after save and the woodwork taking a battering (the television pictures are, once again, inconclusive as to whether Craig Noone’s free kick was one of three instances of City hitting the frame of the goal or whether it was another wonder save by the keeper), I should have been thinking that an equaliser was inevitable, but, just as Leeds’ opening goal went in, my mate and both said “it’s going to be one of those nights isn’t it” to each other at the same time.

As the onslaught continued, I was reminded of another game with Leeds in October 2004 in which they somehow escaped with a 0-0 draw as City peppered the posts and crossbar and Andy Campbell took just about the feeblest penalty I’ve seen.

That match was played during the period when we enjoyed almost total domination over Leeds in terms of results, but, I’m sure there were lost games then that left their fans bemoaning their bad luck. So, it’s probably fair to say that they were due some good fortune when they played us, but, with this match and that one from twelve years ago, I think that debt has been repaid and then some – it’s us who are now due some luck when we meet again.

City substitute Kenneth Zohere was blamed by some for missing two very late chances to equalise. Perhaps he should have done better with the one he stretched to put onto the crossbar from six yards out, but I wouldn't blame for not scoring from this header - I'd rather praise keeper Marco Silvestri for what was, arguably, the best of the series of fine saves he made to keep City out.*

City substitute Kenneth Zohere was blamed by some for missing two very late chances to equalise. Perhaps he should have done better with the one he stretched to put onto the crossbar from six yards out, but I wouldn’t blame him for not scoring from this header – I’d rather praise keeper Marco Silvestri for what was, arguably, the best of the series of fine saves he made to keep City out.*

As to when that will be, the strong likelihood is that we will be kept waiting months rather than years. Having flirted with the relegation zone in recent weeks, two successive wins mean that Leeds will only need something like six or seven point from their last eleven games to stay up, while last night represented another of those Rotherham/MKDons/Charlton type occasions for us where we come up short in the sort of game managers would have down as three pointers on their wall chart fixture lists.

It was a bizarre night on the pitch for us then, but that adjective could be applied to other aspects of the evening as well. Firstly, strangely enough, our defeat didn’t make too much difference to our Play Off prospects (in terms of the table at least) because while Burnley were tightening their grip on top spot with a 3-2 win at Fulham, none of the other teams in the top ten in action last night were able to win.

Middlesbrough were beaten at Rotherham and while Sheffield Wednesday will be pleased with their draw at Brighton, they’ve only managed one goal in five matches now. Of the others who would appear to be in direct competition with us, there were 2-0 losses for Derby and Birmingham at QPR and Blackburn respectively, while Preston cannot afford too many more defeats like their 1-0 setback against an out of form Forest side. Finally, I went to bed believing Ipswich had won at Bolton, only to discover that a penalty seven minutes into added time for the bottom club meant the game finished 2-2.

Perhaps the strangest thing of all though was the reaction of the home fans at Cardiff when the final whistle was blown. So often over the past season and three quarters, the end of the game has seen fans shuffling off out of the ground pretty quietly whether we have won, drawn or lost. If the outcome had been one of the latter two, then you’d know full well that the messageboards would be full of calls for the manager to be sacked, but not last night.

Instead, there were loud applause for a team which had so obviously not got what they deserved from the evening, while it seems that Russell Slade’s messageboard critics share my opinion – I may have that small gripe about Lawrence being withdrawn, but there’s no way our manager can be blamed for that defeat.

For all of the time we’ve been in the Championship since our relegation, I’ve felt there has not been the same bond between players and fans which has so often been the norm at Cardiff and, needless to say, there have been plenty of City managers who have enjoyed a better relationship with the support than Russell Slade has.

It’s odd therefore that it’s a defeat which may well have brought about the renewing of that bond. When you see recently arrived players like Immers chasing back twenty yards to win the ball back deep into added time, when you see the dejection and devastation of the team when Leeds’ second goal went in and when you see the manager demonstrating how much he cares about his team, I defy any City fan not to identify with them.

If Leeds have a club song, then it’s probably “Marching on together” – wouldn’t it be ironic if it was a defeat by that team which finally got so many of those with Cardiff City’s best interests at heart to start marching on together after so many years of bickering, ineptitude and apathy at the club!

*pictures courtesy of





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13 Responses to Sometimes you’re just fated not to win.

  1. Colin Phillips says:

    Too angry to make a sensible reply at the moment.

    If I do calm down I’ll be back.

  2. Dai Woosnam says:

    Thanks Paul, for a superbly well-crafted piece.

    I expected last night’s result.

    How come?

    Well, it is cleat to me that Steve Evans has the Indian Sign on Russell. That play-off Wembley final with the Alex Revell wonder goal, thwarted dear Russell’s hopes, despite Orient being pre-match favourites.

    Evans reminds me of Robbie Savage: one hates him when he is connected to the opposing team, but loves him when connected to one’s own !! He is a very effective manager when it comes to a “siege mentality – everybody hates us so we must be doing something right”…a quality he has engendered in his teams since his amazing feats with Boston United.

    Last night was a Reality Check. Not before time.

    True, it is a singularly poor Championship this year, but even so, our position is an artificial one, way too high.

    I have a huge regard for “Sir” Vincent Tan, and believe his appointment of Russell Slade was a sound one, in that he needed a man of unimpeachable integrity after being shafted by our personable Scot and made a mockery of by the Smiling Assassin/Grinning Kamikaze, but anyone like me, living in Grimsby as I do, knew from the outset of Russell’s limitations.

    A safe pair if hands, and no more. But a good man who – unlike some – will never be disloyal to a Chairman who had put his faith in him.


  3. Anthony O'Brien says:

    You’ve summed up much of the game in brilliant fashion, so I’d like to quote your words of wisdom verbatim: what Leeds had “was a goalkeeper in top form, a pretty dominant centre back, and speed on the break —– and lashings of good fortune”. And I agree that Cardiff could and should have won easily.
    Even so, the Cardiff performance left me feeling frustrated, even angry. For example, if the Leeds centre back was so dominant, why did the Cardiff goalkeeper and others on many occasions rely on hoofball tactics? A stream of high balls which Pilkington, to his credit, was always willing to try for. In fact, I felt sorry for him.
    Also, why didn’t Malone sprint forward when, time after time, there was clear space ahead of him. Did he lack the confidence; was he simply not fit enough to press forward; was he under orders not to do so in case he was left exposed by Whittingham?; why did he inevitably turn a short ball back to Whittingham who then contributed to its return whence it came through a series of short passes, or gave it away in a long pass (so-called) which was intercepted by a defender?
    Cardiff simply seemed to lack the speed of thought (or the physical capacity) to provide the front men with an incisive pass towards goal. Both Pilkington and Immers continually took up intelligent positions but were ill-served by their colleagues. (Immers again showed that he is better suited to a slightly withdrawn role rather than the absolute front man).
    Another point: every corner taken by Whittingham was exactly the same, and always cleared. From the left, he swerves the ball too far towards the penalty spot. The only way to head a goal from that distance is to have the incoming ball moving at high speed and to connect with it cleanly. Leeds defenders made sure this connection didn’t happen. Corners from the right were equally ineffective. Why not occasionally have different corner kick tactics, I wonder. Only once was there a different approach, and even then the players made a mess of it. Are they not allowed to show any initiative whatsoever?
    I also question the substitutions and the long time they took to be implemented. Noone deserved to come on, but he insisted on cutting inside and then failing to benefit from his skill and energy. Zahore was more or less a disappointment . He has the Joe Mason habit of ducking under high balls. At least Mason, unlike Zahore, has the excuse that he does not have the physical presence to challenge towering defenders.
    The game was calling out for a strong-running forward to link with Pilkington, but this did not happen. I seem to remember a man with those very attributes who, I think, was called Idriss Saadi. Does anyone remember him? If so, please contact Rusell Slade ASAP.

    And who in the Cardiff team has the speed and bust-a-gut attitude which led to the first Leeds goal – a brilliant goal in many ways, but no-one really tracked the scorer, either because they were not aware of what was happening, couldn’t be bothered, or were in some other way, just too slow.
    It embarrasses me somewhat to think that I always seem these days to be complaining about some aspect or another of Cardiff’s performance, but as I’ve said already, Cardiff deserved to win, and some of their play was very good. Overall, however, they were brought low by moribund tactics and a predictable, pedestrian approach to moving the ball accurately and incisively. What will Saturday bring.?Same old, same old, I suppose, though I live in hope.

  4. Russell says:

    It was one the best ” lost ” games I have seen in many a year, and the fans thought so by the applause and chanting at the end .

    Their keeper was inspired , two breakaways and poor defending cost us dearly, our lack of positioning by the strikers cost us as well , they needed to be in front of the keeper when crosses came in, headers on goal were also poorly directed .

    I don’t want to dwell of Fabio or Whitt’s as I though the team did us proud just couldn’t get that final strike on goal that out witted the keeper

    Leeds were a poor side ,even when we were down to 10 men it looked an eleven v eleven

    Great night though thoroughly enjoyed it.

  5. Richard Holt says:

    Thanks for the brilliant write up Paul. After a long spell away I enjoyed being at a live game and even though the result was what I feared ( after such a long spell without losing to Leeds there seemed an inevitability that one loss would lead to another one) I drove home in a fairly positive frame of mind. A couple of points – I still feel that Manga looks a better player than he really is – ( the reverse of what I think about Morrison) and the last time I saw 10 dominate 11 as much as last night was the win v Reading last season when our 11 were outplayed by their 10 in the second half. I still think we’re heading for 8th or 9th but heading there with a better spirit and that seems to count more than I thought it would.

  6. Colin Phillips says:

    Still angry.

    Leeds – what a cynical cheating outfit. Silvestri was an outstanding shot-stopper for them (he’s done that to us before) but if the ref had any balls he would have been off for time-wasting. Bellusci, the centre-back (No.5) who couldn’t lie straight in bed. I wasn’t in a good enough position to make a call on the penalty shout (again, the ref was fresh out of courage) but his time-wasting in the second-half was unbelievable, feigning injury at every opportunity not sure if he was even given a yellow for it. To top it all, in the celebrations after the game , he removed his shorts, presumably to gift to a supporter, and was walking around in his underpants. Sol Bamba was the only one of theirs to come out of the game with credit and if football is always going to be played the Leeds way, I, for one, am not interested.

    Referee – It’s easy to slag off a referee, I realise it’s not an easy job but Mr. Deadman was weak and allowed himself to be bullied.

    Frustration with Whittingham’s refusal to take anyone on or run into a dangerous position. I felt sorry for Malone, Whitts gave him very few options and the number of times he refused to attack the right-back area was unbelievable.

    Frustration with Connolly’s dwelling on the ball in the opposition’s box when we had over-committed at a set-piece, of course that led to their first goal.

    Fabio?? I was in a good position to see the two tackles and am not convinced they were fouls alone yellow cards. Alright, I know refs don’t like players diving in these days but Fabio did make contact with the ball on both occasions.

    Frustration that the size of the Leeds goal got smaller as the game went on, a combination of great shot-stopping by Silvestri (spit!!) and a lack of precision from Cardiff.

    Surprisingly, the result doesn’t seem to have done too much damage to our league position.

    On to Saturday and Ipswich with the hope that Mick’s men won’t be quite as cynical as the Leeds arseholes.

  7. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Thanks to all of you for your replies – I’m just about to go out for the day now, so won’t be able to answer you all in any detail (sighs of relief all round I daresay!).

    All I’ll say is that, a day further on from writing my piece, I still feel the same way. We played almost as well as we did in beating Brighton and there was a freakish element to the game – if the way the match panned out could be transferred into data form and fed into a computer for it to analyse and predict an outcome, it would come out with a Leeds win about two or three per cent of the time, we won’t be far off the top six if we play like that for the rest of the season.

  8. Dai Woosnam says:

    I salute Colin for his tour-de-force of a contribution.
    Loved it.
    All I can say though, is “plus ca change” !!
    I remember the first Don Revie Leeds team of the very early 1960s before they gained promotion circa 1964. They were extraordinarily cynical in their time-wasting, fouling and getting into the referee’s ear. And even when performingly inside the Laws of the Game, they were ultra-negative. They were for instance, the first team I ever saw at Ninian who took the ball into the corner flag.
    And if we think that Steve Evans is the Devil Incarnate…trust me, on such matters, Don Revie could get into that revolving door BEHIND him and get out IN FRONT of him.

  9. Clive Harry says:

    After the way Leeds and others like them play, I was so pleased that today I went to watch Wales U19 v Czech Republic (1-0 to Wales).
    Both teams were technically proficient, there was no referee pleading or baiting, no diving, and no time wasting by Wales towards the end even though the Czechs were pressing.
    Great facilities at Cardiff Met as well.
    A refreshing morning.

  10. The other Bob Wilson says:

    I see Wales beat the same opponents 3-2 earlier in the week as well Clive – three City players in the team for that game I think with one of them, Mark Harris, among the scorers. Reading the report on the FAW website of the game you watched, it seems another City player, Sam Williams, got the goal (I think we had one other player in the starting line up).

  11. Clive Harry says:

    Jarrad Welsh is a City youngster who played in midfield and looked very neat and tidy also took the free kicks and corners very well – he’s been sent on loan to Aberdare!

  12. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Really? That explains why I’ve not seen him playing for the Under 18s lately – only another 15 loans to go then and he might make it into our first team!

  13. Russell says:

    Perhaps Russell is trying to help the economy with all these loans

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