“He must have been watching a different game to me”.

To the relief of many I suspect, these post match pieces on first team games have been getting shorter in recent weeks as it’s become clear that, to use Neil Warnock’s phrase, we were going to be “limping over the line” among the middle of the field also rans in this season’s Championship.

Of course, this finishing position is a lot better that it looked like being in the first half of the Championship marathon and, realistically, is as good as could be expected given the position we found ourselves in going into the season’s second international break. However, the truth is that City’s season has been winding down for around six weeks now and, although I would never accuse this squad of not trying, recent performances have tended to reflect this – consequently, our games have raised less talking points.

So, this was always going to be a fairly short piece, but, having just watched Neil Warnock’s post match press conference following our 2-0 loss to Newcastle, it’s going to be shorter still because he made precisely the two points that I was going to build this piece around – I’ll still make them though!

The first is that, although Newcastle scored from two quality strikes and at times showed why they can still finish the season as Champions, I felt we had the chances which could have led to a different outcome.

I generally find myself agreeing with Wales Online’s Chris Wathan and I would recommend his book recording Wales’ progress as a team in the years leading up to Euro 2016 to anyone interested in football in this country, but how he can say, as he does in this report on last night’s match, that the two opportunities sub Craig Noone had in the second half were the only ones we had on the night is beyond me.

Much was made of the reception Peter Whittingham got when he was substituted last night. My own feeling is that it is about 70/30 that it was the last time he will play for us at Cardiff City Stadium, but I’d say that the odds on Bruno Manga being here in 17/18 are longer than that. So, in all likelihood, that was the last time most City fans will see him playing for us. As usual, he was a mixture of class and solidity with the occasional “walkabout” moment thrown in – I’d like to see him stay, but I do think that those who say that he has never played enough games to justify what he was costing us do have a point.*

For me, the match epitomised the general lack of ruthlessness in front of goal we have shown for much of the season with Noone’s misses coming from chances from close in that he miscued pretty horribly. Visiting keeper Rob Elliot, who has been making a comeback from long term injury in recent weeks, was given little to do apart from deal with an early daisycutter by Aron Gunnarsson and turn away an effort from another sub, Anthony Pilkington, that I’m sure was meant as a cross rather than a shot, but this doesn’t mean chances weren’t created, it just offers more proof that too much of our finishing this season has been substandard.

There were chances from headers and promising positions wasted which should, at the very least, have resulted in Eliot being given a busier evening than he had. I thought, generally, our play up to the final third was pretty good last night, but all of our attacking players (including Kenneth Zohore, who it was announced had signed a new contract with us lasting until 202o) have dropped  a few notches in their performance levels since the first three months of the year when we were carrying a distinct threat going forward.

Junior Hoillet, Kadeem Harris and Zohore have not been as successful lately and the question has to be, is this due to that general loss of “edge” in the team since it became clear we were going to stay up, or have they been “found out” by defences who would have had little or no previous experience of them before this year?

There will be certainly be a degree of the latter, but my feeling is that you don’t lose pace in a period of weeks when you’re the age those three are and my hope and expectation is that, come August, that intensity they had in January and February will be back – always assuming Harris and Hoilett have agreed new deals with us of course.

However, although I can understand Warnock’s desire to extend Hoilett’s contract, the truth is that, even when he was playing better for us than he is now, his finishing was not that good and the same can be said, albeit to a lesser extent, about Harris who has not being able to carry his impressive strike rate from his Development side days into first team football.

Although I’m more confident about Zohore’s finishing ability than I was, it would be good to see him proving that his virtual goal a game spell over a period of ten weeks or so was not just one of those hot streaks that so many strikers have, maybe, two or three times in a long career in the game. I’m not saying that he should be a goal every other game merchant, but he needs to be looking to one in every three  at least (i.e. fifteen goals in a full league campaign) every year he’s with us from now on.

At half time last night, I would have nominated Greg Halford as our best player up to then, but his performance during the eighteen minutes when he was on the pitch in the second period undid all of that good work and I think it’s fair to say that he remains a player that our manager clearly rates, but a majority of supporters cannot see why that is – perhaps it’s a case of us punters only judging a player by what he does when he has the ball again?*

So, although the current squad have had a spell over a decent number of games when their goalscoring rate was at a level you would expect from a top six side, the general impression gained over the course of the season is that we need better than we’ve got when it comes to finishing if we are to be genuine challengers in 17/18 – on chances created last night, we should have scored two of our own to match Newcastle’s pair of goals.

As for the second point I wanted to make, I’ll say that, in some ways, last night reminded me of what it used be like when we were in the Premier League – a big crowd, good, and noisy, away support (not that this was always the case in 13/14 mind) and a constant stream of people going back and forth to the toilets/food or drink stores blocking your view of certain parts of the pitch!

There was one other similarity as well – a feeling that the so called big team would get the benefit of the doubt in any decisions the officials had to make. To be fair to ref Graham Scott, I’m not going to be able to get a second chance to see Sean Morrison’s disallowed goal until it’s posted on Cardiff City World, so I cannot comment on whether he made a right decision there or not and I did think that Newcastle had a strong case for a penalty at one time, but, overall, I tend to agree with Neil Warnock’s view that he was “terrible”.

Looking through his history, I see the number of City matches Mr Scott has taken charge of probably runs into double figures, but, while it’s true to say we’ve lost a lot of them, his is certainly not a name I look at beforehand and think “oh no”. So, I would guess that, rather than being a bad referee full stop, he was probably a decent ref having a bad night – whether their overall performance is good, bad or indifferent, I think it’s fair to expect consistency from a referee in the way they treat both sides and I’m not convinced that was the case with Mr Scott last night.

One last thing, perhaps someone who was closer to the incident or someone who saw it on television, could tell me whether the linesman on the Ninian Stand side of the ground really did make an absolute howler of a decision when one of the Newcastle defenders slipped on the ball in the second half and left Zohore with a run in on goal from the side of the penalty area? Yes, Zohore was originally in an offside position, but everyone around by me, sat about fifteen yards behind the official, thought the Newcastle player had touched the ball, thus playing our striker onside – was that how it happened or did the centreback just fall over and not touch the ball?

*pictures courtesy of http://www.walesonline.co.uk/

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8 Responses to “He must have been watching a different game to me”.

  1. Colin Phillips says:

    Nice report , Paul.

    As far as I am concerned Warnock made the wrong selection, what has Ralls done, or hasn’t done, to explain him starting the last two home games on the bench?

    Is Warnock really a softie at heart and want to give Whittingham his last game at home?

    Wonderful standing ovation when Whitts was subbed and as I see on one of the forums plenty of people voted for him as man of the match. Now I have to admit to not seeing Whitts in his pomp but in the last three seasons except for his corner assists and his goals from free kicks I have seen him do very little and a few (make that many) a viewing his performances these days through some what different spectacles to mine.

    You mention Halford, Paul, and I think you are right about the spectators seeing a different player to the manager, he did have a bed spell second half (much like Kadeem did in the last home game) but I think he has a role to play in the side. Again there were impatient and intolerant fans in the Ninian aiming “ger ‘Im orf” shouts to Warnock referring to Halford, their wish was granted.

    I hate to think that as a supporter I always blame the referee but he did seem to give the ‘barcodes’ everything they asked for, I did see a replay of Morrison’s ‘goal’ on Sky last night and it was one of those decisions that is sometimes given and sometimes not.

    As for the comment about our lack of attempts I’m just not seeing it, we had the ball in the net twice in the first half and we could easily have scored four (two for Noone, one each for Manga and Kenneth). I’m not saying we deserved to win but if one of those chances had been converted , who knows. Probably Newcastle would have upped their game and scored a couple more.

    I don’t know if Benitez was being disrespectful but the side he picked was not the strongest he could have selected.

    Lovely reception for Mr. Shelvey I thought!

  2. BJA says:

    Good Morning Paul, and every one else. Thanks for your report as always, but I do find it sad when NW come out and blames the ref for decisions that go against his ( our ) team, and conveniently ignores decisions that go in his ( our ) favour, such as when Halford pulled Perez’s shirt in the penalty area ( just in front of me ). I think the expression is a “nailed on penalty”, but it was not given.
    I have been watching professional football now for nigh on 67 years, and genuinely believe that no referee is going to favour one team over another. But referees make mistakes, but they are not made deliberately. Last night there may well have been a few, but some of which our leader was complaining about seemed not to be justified.fouls. Sky Sports felt the disallowed Morrison goal was correct, and having seen the incident that lead to the Atsu goal, that seemed correct also.
    My view was shielded from the Zahore “hand ball” claim, but if it was, then neither the referee nor his assistant felt that the incident warranted a penalty for the City.
    Finally, on this subject, there will always be differences of opinions about certain goings on in a game, but that is part of what makes watching football an attractive proposition. Supporters venting a little wrath at the man in the middle is natural.
    As to the City’s performance, I felt that we would struggle once I knew of the selected team. Great servant he may have been, but sadly Whittingham is absolutely not the player he once was – slow, and now does not seem capable of providing a penetrative pass, and has lost any ability he once had to tackle. But he was selected instead of Ralls.
    Also what was Halford doing there? I understood he was to be the defensive watch, but with he and the aforementioned Whittingham, not a particularly dynamic attacking combination. Poor Gunners.
    An unfortunate injury to Harris, brought on Noone who had an absolute nightmare. And with Hoillett also just as bad, I am staggered that we had thirteen attempts on goal, but only three on target.
    As you mention, the season has drifted and mid-table mediocrity attained.
    Some drastic surgery will be needed to remove a few from our ranks, but what an opportunity was lost last night to portray, in front of the TV cameras, what an attractive proposition a season ticket could be to those in our locality. Sad that.

  3. Barry Cole says:

    Great comments Paul and as usual pretty accurate. The two points you chose were the main topics in this end of the couldn’t care less approach which came over very clearly last night.
    There were a couple of additions to that from my side in that the quality of finishing was the difference in the teams but how they happened was directly the cause of not trying or doing stupid fouls when they needn’t have been done.
    Morrison first, after having a reasonable game made the most stupid foul I have seen this season on a player going no where. The resulting free kick was sublime up that should not have happened. Morrison I fear is a liability in defence as I have said all season. On the other side , his attacking prowess is totally the opposite. He just has to stop the silly mistakes and he could be brilliant. He won’t be the captain next year I am certain of that.
    The second goal was as bad as the player had so much time to pick his spot without any Cardiff player challenging for the ball. It was a quality finish executed because we seemed to be on the beach at that time.
    Now for the good news, for every quality shot by Newcastle you could double the chances we created and the poor finishing and lack of quality proved the difference between the teams.
    And finally, two players who I believe had stinkers, one who remained on the pitch even when he had done absolutely nothing to the game while whittingham was subbed, no wonder he didn’t look impressed.
    Halford is out of his depth in this league now and Newcastle should have had a penalty when he pulled the shirt of Perez? . We handed the midfield over by playing him instead of ralls.
    And the biggest disappointment was hoilett who it seems is getting worse and worse each game and by not taking him off and taking whittingham off instead contributed to the second goal.
    Everybody makes mistakes and I believe NW made an error with that move.
    I would like to go to the Huddersfield game but I would expect effort and a value for money after last night that is up in the air

  4. Anthony O'Brien says:

    Another excellent report. But, as frustrating as watching last night’s game is the fact that even though I click on the statement which says two messages, they do not appear. This is in line with the performance of my computer (or, in probable certainty, to my status as a dinosaur in the world of modern information technology) specifically when I try to make a comment for the MAYA site. Nevertheless, I continue to cherish the hope that the communication problem sorts itself out of its own volition some time later!

    There were certain highspots in the game from Cardiff, but by the end of play I felt embarrassment more than anything at the team’s performance. In the first half Halford and Bennett struck me as showing greater ability than I would sometimes suspect, but after the break it nearly all went wrong. I won’t bother to repeat my assessment of Zohore as given in my previous comment, but I should like to commend Noone’s energy and commitment, even though he missed two golden opportunities to score. In addition, I remain impressed by the intelligence which Pilkington displays running off the ball. Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be any Cardiff players with the foresight or skill to make his runs worthwhile.

    Sadly. in some respects, the season is sliding away “not with a bang but a whimper”. From this point of view I am glad it will soon be over. But, on the other side of the coin, I can hardly wait for next season to start. Let’s all hope for better things. By this time next year, Rodney, we’ll be — heading for the Premiership, ot am I just dreaming?

    Finally, thanks to Paul Evans for his magnificent blog, and to all the contributors who have made it a must-read experience throughout the season.

  5. Russell says:

    Thanks Paul for the report “yes we’re running on empty ” we had a few decent chances in the first 20 minutes ,where we looked like we had a game plan and some penetration, pity we didn’t get an early goal.

    Regarding Whittingham I feel he is going through the motions, there was a classic Whitt’s moment last night, that has always wound up fans and manager alike , where he only had to rush 10 yards forward with some intent, towards a incoming Newcastle player ,instead of using his presence to just stay in front or stop the player, he simply backed off , and allowed the ball to be passed around him .Back in the day ,when he was on top of his game, scoring goals , taking wonderful dead ball kicks , that was fine, and we were forgiving of those weaknesses, not now, not on his wages , I should imagine Warnock thinks the same ,were not a rich club , we should release and not renew his contract.

    Halford is in my view is a good all round player, who I think is still not a 90 minute fit player ,which perhaps explains last night good first half , folliwed by a poor second half, simply got tired. We will see his worth hopefully next year when we have tough Tuesday night aways where we need to dig out a draw .

    Our forwards just looked very tired, I think one or two wide man will go , hopefully , with new /fresh Warnock type players coming in.

    Manga is a luxury we simply cannot afford ,we have to think about the all round squads worth , not just an individual, this is a workmanlike league that is built on consticancy,particularly at centre back ,we are not far from that in my view.

    As we enter our final week, hopefully we have an opportunity to extend these chats in the close season ,with players comming and going, and applying our thoughts and wishes , on your excellent site .

    Thanks for this season Paul, one more to go .

  6. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Thanks everyone for an interesting set of replies. Colin, I agree with virtually everything you say. I thought Whitts had a quiet game last night and was a long way from being my City man of the match (I’d probably have given it to McGregor or one of the full backs) – unusually for him, he was caught on his heels a couple of times. I’d disagree with you slightly on Benitez – as the only things that could be influenced by him fielding what might be construed as a weakened line up was Newcastle’s finishing position and some of the standings in the middle of the table, I don’t see that he was being disrespectful. As for Shelvey, I don’t see why City fans gave him such a hard time – he was our best player when we beat the jacks the last time they came here!
    BJA, I thought it was a foul by Morrison for the first goal, I had a good view of the shout for handball and there’s no way it was a penalty and I also felt Jazz Richards could have been given a straight red on another day for his challenge. Nevertheless, I thought in general that Mr Scott tended to favour the “bigger” team in his decision making – as I mention in the piece, he’s done quite a few of our matches in the past, most of which I’ve seen live, and he’s not been one of those officials that have you dreading the next time he’s in charge of one of our games.
    Barry, I differ with your opinion on Morrison, but wouldn’t argue much with what you say about the other players you mention – I also think you are right when you say that although, rather like Colin, I have a feeling Newcastle could have raised their game if we has scored first, we more than matched them in terms of decent chances, but their two goals showed a technique that we never came close to matching in our finishing.
    Anthony, all of the other replies received so far just appear on the website, whereas yours always has to be approved and whereas the others all mention a posting name when I get an e-mail notification of them, yours is shown as being from “WordPress”, so it would appear that the problem may be something to do with the software which runs the blog – although, why it just effects your messages is anyone’s guess. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but have you tried posting something to me using a different browser? I’d be surprised if that sorted things out, but it’s worth a try.
    As for what you’ve said about the game, I’ll never criticise his attitude or work rate, but in the last few seasons, Nooney’s execution has not been as good and last night it was a lot worse than normal (I think I’m right in saying both of his chances came to him on his stronger foot?) and it seems to me as if he may have lost a bit of pace. I think he and Pilkington are players Neil Warnock wouldn’t be too bothered about losing this summer – I don’t think Pilks has had a good season, but I’m like you in believing that he is an intelligent and,potentially, effective player who I hope is still here for 17/18. I’m also looking forward to next season already!
    Russell, don’t take the fact that I’m not writing much in reply to you the wrong way, but it’s hard to come up with much when your thoughts match mine so much – as for the summer, my plan is to do the same weekly review that I’ve done for the last few years and it would be great to get a few replies to them to continue what I think has been a very high quality of discussion throughout the season.

  7. Barry Cole says:

    Very pleased that you aim to continue the weekly blog through the closed season
    So can anyone on here name the matches that we actually played in mauve and yellow
    Mine was the fa cup tie at southport where we lost 2-0
    How many more ???

  8. The other Bob Wilson says:

    That kit which appears on here was one we used in 72/73 Barry and I believe it was only worn in three games. I was there for the first of them in August 72 (it was a couple of days before I got my O level results) when we took to the field at Fratton Park to wolf whistles from the Portsmouth fans. Derek Showers put us ahead that day, but we collapsed in the second period as our 1-0 half time lead turned into a 3-1 loss at the final whistle. I wanted to go to the League Cup tie at Bristol Rovers three days later as well, but my parents stuck to their decision that I could go to one of the matches, not the two of them. We wore the mauve and yellow kit at Eastville and were again beaten 3-1 (I think we might have been a goal up at the interval in that match as well). The kit made it’s final appearance almost a month later when we were stuffed 4-0 up at Carlisle and then I think that, much in the way that Man United ditched that grey kit all of those years ago, a decision was made that enough was enough.
    We wore another strange kit in our next away match where there was a colour clash as well – we were in red shirts and yellow shorts for a televised match at QPR, but our luck didn’t change in what was the last match Ian Gibson played for us and the final game of Brian Clark’s first spell with the club, because we were beaten 3-0 to stay at the bottom of the league – we didn’t win an away match in the league that season, but from mid September onwards, we weren’t being beating in mauve and yellow when we had to wear a change kit!

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