I saw all or part of four matches over the weekend and three of them were significantly effected by the warm and sultry conditions they were played in. The exception was England’s 1-0 win in Norway, but in the first of the two Play Off Finals at Wembley, Huddersfield and Sheffield United played out a turgid 0-0 draw in which caution reigned supreme with the stifling conditions preventing midfield players making runs into dangerous areas on the rare occasions when there was a willingness to do so. Crewe v Cheltenham yesterday, was better with both sides showing much more enterprise in a lively first half, but Cheltenham in particular ran out of steam from around the hour mark onwards and. in the end, Crewe’s win was fairly straightforward.
Although the game took place over five and a half thousand miles away from Wembley, Wales’ match with Mexico in New York last night followed a similar pattern, but there was a difference in that in London all four sides found it tough going, but at the MetLife Stadium, Mexico were able to defy the conditions in impressive fashion to earn a 2-0 win which did not flatter them in the slightest. Indeed, if had not been for some fine saves from Jason Brown (making a rare start in goal due to the unavailability of Messrs Hennessey, Myhill and Price) Wales’ margin of defeat could have equalled Scotland’s in their 5-1 loss to the USA, just under twenty four hours earlier.
Brown, who must have wondered why he was at Cardiff for a short spell at the end of the 2101/11 campaign as he watched fellow loannee Steven Bywater’s error strewn performances from the bench, was an obvious man of the match for his country – he had no chance with either goal and made two or three exceptional stops including somehow keeping out a second half header by Dos Santos from point blank range.
The thing that I noticed most when comparing the two sides was how much more quickly Welsh players were closed down when in possession than the Mexicans were. Obviously the conditions, which favoured the Central American team so much more than the Northern European one, had a bit to do with this, but there was a sluggishness about many of those in a Welsh shirt which suggested that the match would have gone the same way if the temperature had been, say, fifteen degrees cooler.
Wales looked like a team at the end of their domestic season and, apart from a header wide by the disappointing Robson-Kanu and a snapshot from Bellamy after he had been set up by Sam Vokes (who did quite well when he came off the bench to replace Steve Morrison) which did not miss by too much, they never threatened to score. There was no shame in losing to a Mexican side who don’t very often fail against sides they should be beating when you look at the FIFA rankings, but, historically, they seem to struggle against the “big” teams who, often, don’t look to have as good a starting eleven as they do.
If Mexico do have an inferiority complex, then it was never going to be an issue yesterday during Chris Coleman’s first game in which he has been fully in charge since taking the job in December. Although I am one of what I would guess is a large number of Welsh fans who are not overly optimistic of him being able to repeat the results and performances seen in the last few months of Gary Speed’s time in charge, it’s hard to see a great deal he could have done differently to effect yesterday’s outcome which, in the grand scheme of things, was not particularly important anyway.
In saying that though, you have to wonder whether it would have been preferable to have started with someone more used to the centreback position than Chris Gunter. I’ve already commented on the strange ignoring of Ben Turner by someone who has managed him at club level and was fulsome in his praise of our centre back after the Carling Cup Final, but even more odd was Wales’ new manager’s non use of Gunter’s Forest team mate Joel Lynch who stayed sat on the subs bench after his out of the blue call up to the squad ten days ago – you would have thought a match like yesterday’s would have been an ideal opportunity to see how Lynch, who had an impressive season at club level apparently, would cope with International football.
by The other Bob Wilson
It had been known for some time that David Marshall has been suffering with an elbow injury for most of this season and he has now been ruled out for the rest of the campaign because he needs an operation on it. However, what comes as a surprise is that Tom Heaton, who has looked increasingly confident and competent in recent weeks, has picked up a groin injury which looks set to rule him out for a month or so. It was obvious then that City needed at least one new goalkeeper, hence the earlier moves for Andy Lonergan and Chris Kirkland, but it was still a shock to see that two of them have arrived in the past twenty four hours!
Firstly, Wales International Jason Brown has come in on a months loan from Blackburn. Brown has had spells at Leeds and Leyton Orient this season and was certainly highly thought of by Gillingham fans during his six seasons with them – at five foot eleven, he is short for a keeper, but has good reflexes and is decent shot stopper. As for Bywater, he is here until the end of the season, but Derby County have a twenty four hour recall on him – Bywater, who had a loan spell with us back in 01/02 , has been Derby’s first choice keeper for most of the season playing twenty four matches for them but has been unable to regain his place in their team after returning from injury a week or two ago.
Only insiders at Cardiff City Stadium will know the full circumstances behind all of this, but, to this outsider at least, it does seem a bit of an over reaction to bring in two keepers given that we can only have five loan players in our match day eighteen. Unless there is some sort of special dispensation which I am not aware of that enables emergency goalkeeping signings not to be counted as one of those five, it means that only three out of Bellamy, Olofinjana, Koumas and Emmanuel-Thomas can be included in our squad, but, worse than that, it leaves us in a tricky position when it comes to bringing in the central midfield player that I would like to see to give us the option of being able to switch from 4-4-2 to 4-5-1 when required. We were getting over run at times in midfield playing 4-4-2 when Aaron Ramsey was here, so I cannot see how it’s not going to happen now he’s gone.
Finally, unlike a few on the messageboards, I’m not going to prejudge our new keepers, but, it is true to say that between them they have conceded fifteen goals in their last three visits to Cardiff!by The other Bob Wilson