| Cardiff 1 Burnley 0
Championship, November 11th 2006
"Good, good, good, good vibrations..."
Widely regarded by pre-match alehouse pundits as the most important game of the season, Cardiff put in a magnificent performance today to rob Burnley of their daunting unbeaten away record and edge 3 points clear of Preston and Birmingham at the top of the table.
Time, once again, for the faint-hearted worrywarts, nay-sayers, bubble-bursting cynics, sceptics, peddlers of bad vibes and chasers of the egg (who are just dying for us to do a "Norwegian Blue" and plummet from the perch) to chow down on a freshly baked helping of steaming hot humble Cardiff pie, and recognise these proud Bluebirds as the titans of the turf.
This was an epic gladiatorial contest, and was a ringing endorsement of the guts and the braveheart backbone which underpins the sexy football with which the Bluebirds have bamboozled opponents this year.
When it comes to toughing it out with the brawny hod-carrying Championship scufflers who have crept quietly but effectively up the league, Cardiff stood toe-to-toe and matched their opponents in the roll-up-your-sleeves department, standing resolute against a barrage of questionable challenges, finessing the physicality of the Burnley Brawlers with a skilful goal worthy of winning any top-of-the-table clash.
The first 45 minutes were not pleasant to watch, as Burnley attempted to impose their roughhouse tactics upon a team who are more comfortable with quick darting passing movements.
A patchy, scrappy half left many punters scratching their heads in puzzlement as to how Burnley had arrived at their impressive elevated position.
Tough and uncompromising in the tackle (their tally of five yellow cards told its own story), they suffocated the game at every opportunity, but were powerless to prevent a well worked Cardiff goal, Campbell controlling a Loovens header and setting up the brilliant Scimeca who lashed home a powerful drive from 20 yards.
Cardiff had been impressively sound at the back, Chambers and McNaughton fired up after a couple of mediocre performances, whilst the dynamic duo of Purse and Loovens proved to be an impregnable barrier, chasing, harrying and blocking Burnley's best efforts on goal. Alexander, once again, was fearless, and didn't put a foot wrong throughout.
Ledley and McPhail seemed rejuvenated, Scimeca was a rock, and whilst the early exit of Parry adds another worry to this emaciated squad, his replacement Willo Flood made the most of this opportunity, running at the Burnley back four time and again.
Up front, Chopra ploughed a lonesome furrow, clearly missing his man-mountain of a partner Steve Thompson. Apart from the assist,Campbell was industrious but largely ineffective, he barely won a header all afternoon and rarely troubled Burnley's defence.
The lack of options in attack was highlighted in the last quarter, when the run-ragged Campbell was replaced by centre back Roger Johnson, whose brief was clearly to get in the faces of the Burnley defenders.
Burnley had been a different proposition in the second half, launching raid after raid down the left flank - only a resolute defensive performance and the width of the Canton crossbar kept the opposition at bay. James O'Connor had been a neat nagging thorn in the side of the City midfield and ex-City man Alan Mahon (strangely relegated to the bench) had an equally impressive performance.
Cardiff contributed greatly to a buzzing second 45 of end-to-end stuff, and should have killed the game off in the last five minutes when Chopra inexplicably hoofed his shot over the bar with the goal gaping in front of him.
With four minutes of added time on the clock, Burnley ensured that the final moments of the game were a nerve-shredding test of character, the mighty Bluebirds were equal to the challenge and held on to secure a massive morale-boosting victory.
Another 3 points against a resurgent QPR on Friday and this bandwagon keeps rolling along (with or without United's fancydan homebird Alan Smith, who could do a lot worse than spend 4-6 weeks getting fit at the summit of the Championship).
Top of the shop for 3 months solid now, 3 points clear, +15 on the GD - it's going to be a rocking old Christmas.
Thumbs down - to the meatheads on the Grange End who embarrassed the club by failing to keep their traps shut for 60 seconds during the Remembrance silence.
Thumbs up - to the crowd; shocking to think that more people attended this fixture in 1993 when we were locking horns in the Jurassic swamps of Div 2 in the days of Eddie Eddie Eddie May. And yet, the atmosphere in the second half was outstanding, when the whistle went at full time the Ninian roar nearly took the roof off.
Paul Davies © 2006
"We should have put the game out of sight but we had to battle and scrap and show another side to our play.
You have to do that when playing against a very physical side.
No-one is going to come here and let us have our own way all the time. We have come through a difficult test."
Dave Jones, Cardiff manager."
Cardiff: Alexander, Chambers, Purse, Loovens, McNaughton, Parry (Flood 34), McPhail, Scimeca, Ledley, Campbell (Johnson 74), Chopra.
Subs Not Used: Howard, Kamara, Gunter. Booked: Chambers. Goals: Scimeca 23.
Burnley: Jensen, Thomas, Sinclair, Duff, Harley, James O'Connor, Elliott (Mahon 66), McCann, Jones, Gray, Noel-Williams (Lafferty 82).
Subs Not Used: Coyne, Spicer, Foster.
Booked: Gray, James O'Connor, Sinclair, Lafferty, McCann.
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