If you like to see your team firing in goal attempts from all angles, then Cardiff City isn’t the club for you these days – on the other hand, if you like plenty of honest endeavour with little or no sign of an end product, then they might just be your team. A Cardiff City first team player has not scored in three matches, our Academy side have lost their last two games 1-0 and today, the Under 21 Development team turned in a pretty miserable showing in losing to the Nike Academy at Leckwith.
Before I go any further, it would be best to show who the Nike Academy are – this link to their Wikipedia page explains the set up, while their website has links to highlights of 2-2 draws against Arsenal and Inter Milan’s development teams on it’s front page. You can tell therefore, that the Nike Academy are no mugs and there’s no real shame in what was a young side lacking players such as Heaton, Quinn, Naylor, Meades, Harris (could it mean that he’ll be in the sixteen tomorrow?) and Ralls, who might all have been expected to feature for at least some of the match, being beaten today. The manner of the defeat was disappointing though as it followed the pattern of so many City matches I’ve seen at all levels recently in that there was a virtual absence of creativity and goalscoring chances.
For a few minutes at the start, City looked the better side, but this period of dominance did not last long and the first half settled down to become the sort of tame affair that I’ve seen so much of recently. French winger Kevin Sainte-Luce did cause some excitement with a couple of mazy dribbles with the first resulting in a chance that right back Adam Davies missed, but, in general, he was handled pretty well by the Nike left back while, Jesse Darko fired over when a strong tackle from captain Mamadou Diallo presented him with a half chance. Apart from that, there was little to suggest a City goal was likely until a frantic scramble in the visitors area just before half time saw efforts at goal from Anthony Gerrard, Sainte-Luce and our number eleven as Nike defenders and keeper did well to get a series of blocks in.
With Gerrard and Dekel Keinan looking solid at the back, there were even fewer chances for the Nike Academy despite an effective and hard working showing by their number ten in the lone striking role and there was no score after an evenly contested, but pretty dreary, first half. To be honest, the second half wasn’t too much better either, but at least there were some goals - the first arrived around the hour mark when Keinan gave the ball away in a dangerous position and the visitors did well to work an opening for their number fourteen who calmly slotted the ball past Elliot Parish. About ten minutes later, the game was as good as over when a deep cross from the left was emphatically headed into the corner of the net with Parish, once again, helpless.
Nike didn’t do a great deal more than that going forward, but both of their goals revealed a poise and ruthlessness in front of goal of a type that we have seen very little of from City sides at all levels recently. It wasn’t just in their finishing though that the visitors looked composed – although a typically bobbly Leckwith pitch caused it’s fair share of problems for both sides, the visitor’s first touch and decision making became increasingly more assured than City’s as they chased the game and, with the way things have been going in front of goal at the club recently, a two goal deficit always looked too much for them to make up.
City did get the ball in the net shortly after following behind when Keinan blasted in from close range, but the goal was disallowed for a foul by Gerrard on the Academy keeper as they contested a free kick by sub Ibby Farah. Given their lack of invention and punch in front of goal, it seemed that the only way City would score was from an opposition mistake and one duly arrived with about ten minutes left when the keeper missed a corner and Sainte-Luce headed in, but Nike were able to see out the rest of the match pretty comfortably – if anything it looked more likely that they might add to their lead as City pushed more and more players forward.
There wasn’t a great deal between the sides in truth, but I thought the result was about right because Nike had that little bit more quality all over the park than us. Best players for City for me were Gerrard, Wharton (who always impresses when I see him lately) and Sainte-Luce, but those days of autumn and early winter when you could turn up at Cardiff City or Leckwith Stadiums and rely on a couple of goals, at least, for the home team seem a long, long way off at the moment!