Teams that need to score two, at least, to win do not climb clear of relegation scraps.


Yesterday’s 3-1 loss at Villa Park, which dumped Cardiff City back into the relegation places, was another of those occasional away matches where I was unable to keep in touch with what was happening and so I am writing this having only read a few match reports and watched very brief highlights of the game.

Consequently, I will talk in more general terms about where our season stands now and the impact Neil Warnock has had in his seven games in charge in this shorter than normal piece.

I’m pretty sure it was while he was managing Bury nearly twenty years ago that it struck me how many 0-0 draws Warnock’s team was involved in. This was one of a few reasons why I spent the next fifteen years or so being far from a Neil Warnock fan before my attitude towards him mellowed somewhat in recent seasons.

To me, Warnock’s teams were boring, dirty, long ball merchants and all of those goalless draws had convinced me that they were also very defensive as well.

As I mentioned earlier, I’d changed my opinion somewhat on him even before he was appointed City manager, but anyone who has watched us for a little time over the past six weeks or so will see that we are a physical team that likes to get the ball forward quickly and never misses a chance to get our big defenders up for attacking set pieces, therefore it has to mean that we do play a lot of long ball stuff.

So, I think I was right in some ways about Warnock teams, but I didn’t appreciate enough that they had a bit more to offer than I was prepared to credit them with.

However, like virtually every manager who makes a long career for himself in the game I would guess, Neil Warnock appreciates that getting things right at the back is paramount if you are to achieve any lasting success. While it would be harsh, and wrong, to accuse him of sending teams out to get a 0-0 draw every time, I must admit that I associate Warnock teams more with defensive discipline and efficiency, rather than their free scoring attacking.

The best thing about yesterday was that Rickie Lambert went clear as our top scorer with another good finish from a missable chance.*

The best thing about yesterday was that Rickie Lambert went clear as our top scorer with another good finish from a missable chance.*

That’s why I’m fairly sure that, seven games into his time at Cardiff, our manager will be disappointed with himself because he has been unable to put an end to the single most concerning stat of this worrying season.

Back in early August, I couldn’t get too enthusiastic about our prospects for our upcoming campaign because I didn’t believe our squad had enough goals in it, but, in the event  of me being wrong about that, I was certain that we had a potential top six team on our hands because, defensively, I was convinced we would be among the best in the Championship.

In the near four months that have passed since then, my faith in our defence has been proven to be completely and utterly groundless I’m afraid. The extent to which I was in error can be gauged by noting that, since our opening day 0-0 draw at Birmingham, we have not kept a single clean sheet.

It’s now eighteen matches since we did not concede a goal and this has prompted me to do some research to try and find out where this thoroughly miserable record stands in the annals of longest runs without a clean sheet in our history.

I should say at the start that I wouldn’t like to stake my life on the validity of these figures, because I did rather skim through the fixture lists I looked at, but, at eighteen and counting, we are getting too close for comfort to the upper echelons of this roll call of shame.

Hardly surprisingly, the thirties, which compete with the nineties for the title of the worst decade in our history, feature heavily in the list. We, surely, will not match the “achievement” of the 1933/34 team that drew 0-0 with Aldershot at Ninian Park in the First Round of the FA Cup on 25 November and then had to wait until the second match of the following season (32 games later) for the next time the opposition was prevented from scoring!

However, are the twenty two games without a clean sheet in 34/35 and 36/37 really out of reach for us? Certainly, the worst post Second World War figure (twenty in my first season as a City fan in 63/64) is under threat, despite all of the work that our manager and his coaching staff must have been putting in on an issue that, surely, would have been recognised by them as their number one priority when they were appointed.

Appallingly, it’s going to be December, at the earliest, before City keep a clean sheet in a home match and, with second in the table Brighton due here next Saturday, it’s hard to see the run ending in our next game.

To be fair to the new managerial and coaching set up, it’s been a very testing introduction for them with four of their first eight matches against sides currently in the Championship’s top seven positions and yesterday’s game being against one of the league’s form sides.

However, once the Brighton match is out of the way, the next four fixtures see us up against teams with very similar, or worse, records than us over the period since Neil Warnock was appointed – Ipswich (A). Wolves (H), Barnsley (H) and Brentford (A) should offer reasonable opportunities for that elusive clean sheet and you’d like to think there is a chance there to prove our manager wrong when he says that he doesn’t expect us to really started climbing the table until January.

I've not seen the incident which led to the first yellow card, but I don't think Lee Peltier could have any complaints about the second one, even if it was for a foul on one of my least favourite current players - Jack Grealish, who plays faller over for Villa, is a flat track bully with a poor attitude who'll no doubt go missing missing again next season if his team go back up.*

I’ve not seen the incident which led to the first yellow card, but I don’t think Lee Peltier could have any complaints about the second one, even if it was for a foul on one of my least favourite current players – Jack Grealish, who plays faller over for Villa, is a flat track bully with a poor attitude who’ll, no doubt, go missing again next season if his team go back up.*

That said, we’ll still be needing to score at least two to win a match if we keep on being as soft defensively as we were for Villa’s first two goals – Amavi should never have been allowed to run almost from the halfway line to well inside our penalty area like he did for the first one and then his cross should have been cut out before it reached Adomah, while Kodjia was given too much time and room to score with a simple header for the second one.

Neil Warnock’s attitude is that we just have to keep going with what we’ve got until January, but is it time to contemplate changes at the back now? Well, there’ll have to be one anyway following Lee Peltier’s sending off (presumably, Matt Connolly will fill in at right back), so maybe next week will not be the time for further alterations in terms of personnel. However, given the way, we are defending, I’m not sure if we can continue with what is more of a 4-4-2 formation for Brighton – I’d be inclined to go with a 4-2-3-1 with one of Ralls, O’Keefe or Huws alongside Gunnarsson to offer more protection in front of the back four.

Finally, it was interesting to hear Neil Warnock say that the two or three new players he hopes to bring in during January will be with the intention of adding more pace and creativity to the team.

I’d been assuming that one of the new arrivals was likely to be a goalkeeper, another a striker and then, possibly, a central midfielder. However, given the pace and creativity comment, it would appear that, maybe, we’re looking at another winger – I suppose it depends on who our manager is prepared to lose from the squad while the window is open.

What I would say is that pace and creativity are hardly the qualities you go searching for if you’ve got a dodgy defence. Yes, you can never have too much pace, even at the back, but I don’t see a lack of speed among our defenders being one of the main reasons we are letting in so many goals, so it would appear therefore that our manager is pretty happy with the defenders he’s got and thinks that the clean sheets will come in time.

*pictures courtesy of


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6 Responses to Teams that need to score two, at least, to win do not climb clear of relegation scraps.

  1. Dai Woosnam says:

    Thanks for the usual fine reportage food, Paul.
    As I only saw the goals yesterday, there is not much I can say about the game, other than that Lambert took his chance well, and Morrison – like Steven Caulker before him – is a chap with all the physical BUILD of a centre half, but with lamentably few of the necessary mental defensive attributes for the job.
    And I noted another fine goal Rhys Healey scored for The Port. There is something of Joe Mason in him…and I worry he might end up a bit too lightweight, like Joe. But is there a case for ending his loan early?

  2. Barry Cole says:

    Not too much this week Paul but having to follow you and your thoughts most of what I need to say is covered above.
    Having been at the match yesterday I have no doubt we are improving as a team. To put the game into context we played our part in the first half and dominated the second.
    The game was only up when the penalty arrived as we still had a golden chance with peltier off the field.
    So where are we going wrong,
    1 we are still missing golden chances which had we had that bit more quality up front those would have been put away.
    2 defensively we have problems, I don’t think Morrison is the centre back that we require yet his forages forward do create a lot of problems . My suggestion and you may laugh is put him on the forward line, not in defence.
    3 I suggest that noone would be preferable to pilkington and would offer more cover than at present for the defence.
    That said I still believe we will hit the top six and the more I see the team playing now I am convinced that will happen.
    Looking forward to the Brighton game followed by a number of winnable games to spring us up the league.

  3. Dai Woosnam says:

    You are spot on.
    I have been saying for at least two years that Sean Morrison – like Steven Caulker before him – could make a heck of a centre forward.
    Methinks we now need Mr Warnock to read from the pages of Edward de Bono.

  4. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Barry, I’ve now watched the extended highlights on the club website and Junior Hoilett and, especially, Fred had chances that they should have done better with – tellingly, though, apart from Fred’s effort and the goal which came from Villa losing possession well in their own half, all of our best opportunities came from set pieces. Currently, we are a team which barely scores a goal from open play, we average exactly a goal a game and concede 1.66 goals per match (only two Championship sides have a worse goals against record than us), while only Rotherham have a worse goal difference than us – those stats point to a side that have got more problems at either of the pitch than everyone except for the team cast adrift at the bottom of the league.
    I think we’ve definitely improved under Warnock and am pretty confident that we’ll stay up, but we’re getting towards halfway through the season now and I’ve not seen anything at all from us to suggest we are a potential top six team – based on what I’ve seen so far, I think the best hope for us is a lower mid table finish (i.e. something like fourteenth), with the only cahnce I can see of us bettering that lying with Warnock really pulling some rabbits out of the hat in the January window.
    Regarding Sean Morrison, he struggled defensively on Saturday and I can see the temptation in playing him up front because I’ll always remember Paul Went making a more than decent job of the striker’s role in the seventies. However, Morrison would just give us more of what we have more than enough of up front already – that is, not very mobile target men, when we need someone who can inject some pace and movement up front.
    Dai mentions Rhys Healey. To me he is the sort of player we need, but I feel his career would be best served staying at Newport for now because he’s playing every week and scoring goals on a fairly regular basis. If he were to return to Cardiff in January, then I’d say the best he could hope for would be an occasional place on the bench – if he were to come back here on the back of scoring, say, fifteen times for a struggling Newport team, then I’d say that would be the time to incorporate him into the first team squad in the preparations for the 17/18 season, but I wouldn’t see him making a major impact in our first team for now.

  5. russell roberts says:

    Bit late to the thread ,thanks Paul , I listed to the game and felt they did a great job in the first half ,it sounded like the referee was from the midlands or knew we were the away team in front of a hostile noisy crowd,how ref’s can let people like Grealish who is a bully , to get to them is beyond me and suggest a fear factor at play .

    We were always going to lose this game and NW would know that deep down so woudl the players .

    NW in my view does play tough ,but he does allow flair,his greatest attribute is to tell it how it is ,whether thats enough to save us s this year time will tell.,

    We do need quality quickly we were so fortunate that Sol Bamba and Hoillet were available, I hope he gets his men one has to be low gravity slick striker to play off Lambert and share the burden ,a pacy tough central box to box midfielder, and a pacy tough full back .

  6. Barry Cole says:

    Well everyone to their own opinion and I remember bob Wilson being a great goalkeeper. So back to where we are. I am looking at getting to the six points from the top six at the turn of the year and then its the return with villa.
    Whether we are next to the bottom or not if we can get to that 6 points behind sixth place then I am sure we will be in the top six.
    The division is closing up quite dramatically and I note that the top six are about to play up and coming teams. All teams are about to drop points and we must be in a position to get our act together now and until the end of December. Watching the game against villa I see great strides forward with NW. There is a problem with the defence but the attacking is improving, it won’t be right as it’s lacking speed but that should come in January. Personally I think NW is already making serious notes on the ability of Morrison whittingham ralls and pilkington and maybe changes are not far away.
    Remember that our two goal hero From Blackburn is now plying his trade at Brighton so anything is possible.

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