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Cambridge 2 Cardiff City 1
15th Sept 2001
The Abbey, er, 'Stadium'
Suitably fuelled by the high-octane tales of Cardiff's explosive performance on the pitch at Reading last week, I came to bottom of the table Cambridge with high expectations. It seemed so simple. A goal feast was surely in store. Cambridge's collection of nondescript hoofers would be no match against Cardiff's in-form collection of expensive talent and a good day out was guaranteed. No?
Sadly, it was not to be. In fact, Cardiff turned in a performance that should serve as a benchmark of poor management and coaching. Anyone who may have harboured doubts about Cork's managerial ability before the game would have had their worst fears realised.
To say we were tactically inept would be an understatement. To say it was one of the worst City performances I can ever recall seeing would only touch on just how bad we were. It was a disaster from start to finish. The nearest thing we had to tactics was to hoof the ball high in the air in the hope of finding Leo Fortune West. Even when Leo was taken off in the second half, the approach didn't change. Naturally our record breaking £1.8m new striker remained on the bench for the greater part of the game and then looked hopelessly out of position. It was almost comical.
In a rare attack, Cardiff managed to shoot wide. We struggled to stay awake.
The late substitution that brought Legg on to the pitch and a late goal gave a glimmer of hope, but by then it was all too much too late. Even the most die hard City fans had long given up the ghost on this performance, which for me managed to rival the mid-90s Northampton vs. Cardiff 0-0 draw as the most boring, dispiriting game I'd ever seen.
You know the football's lacking when you find yourself discussing the makeup of the lineman's shirt (it's very clingy -100% polyester perhaps? But wouldn't that chafe? Or maybe a cotton mix?) and start reminiscing over third division games from years ago.
Our players strutted on the pitch as though the game was already won. Our manager had clearly decided that such a pushover match would have no need for tactics and we got the humiliating defeat such arrogance deserves.
City have got a clutch of games coming up in the next two weeks to put things right. If we don't learn to perform against teams of all calibres, Sam Hamman won't be the first to start asking some serious questions about the squad and the manager.
Comment on the ground: OK, they're currently rebuilding one of the stands so things must be improving, but the ground facilities were unacceptably poor. There weren't enough toilets and the refreshment facilities were truly abysmal. Why the likes of Cambridge can't put together a decent menu and enough people to serve the fans promptly is anyone's guess: after all, a decent snack bar can provide much-needed revenue.
More importantly, the Cardiff end seemed dangerously overcrowded too, with stewards unable to keep the emergency pathways clear due to sheer bulk of numbers.
Being inconveniently situated miles away from any decent public transport makes it open to flashpoints of violence: we had to walk all the way back into town and it was clear that this could offer all manner of unpleasant opportunities at high profile games.