Cardiff 2 Blackpool 0
Championship, October 28th 2008
"BORING BORING CARDIFF !".
Plunging temperatures and ankle-threatening gritters in the streets
surrounding Ninian Park sorted the men from the boys as the crowds
gathered for the first almost-Winter floodlit fixture. The absent
fairweathers warming their toes by the fire were offset by the freezing-
their-butts-off kids for a squid ('can we go home yet? Can I have
another burger? Who's the team in the blue?') and a well respectable
crowd of 17.5 K gave the Bluebirds a rousing reception as they took to
the pitch, still rubbing their eyes in relative disbelief as the table
Blackpool had a lively five minutes and a couple of promising efforts
before Cardiff found an agreeable gear and begun to run them ragged for
a solid 20 minute spell. Parry, who owed the crowd a decent performance
after recent dispiriting shows, quickly realised he had the edge over
the Blackpool left back, and left the poor guy spinning helplessly with
vertigo, such was the number of times the right winger turned him inside
out. Approach play was exemplary, but familiar faults were evident as
good possession was squandered when in sight of the goals, hasty long
range shots and attempts to pass their way into the net were equally
repelled by the tangerine dreamers, who were unrecognisable from the
team that turfed Brum over a few weeks back. Blackpool were a big pile
of nothing, and seemed content to sit back, suck City in and block,
parry and repel the Blue invaders.
They defended valiantly, but had little ambition but to keep their score
down to zero. City gamely swallowed every frustrating setback and pushed
forward constantly, winning corner after corner but not looking
especially dangerous. Best chance of the half fell to Ross McCormack -
Comminges played a neat pass to Bothroyd, whose calculated ball to
McCormack found the striker with the opportunity to accelerate ominously
towards goal, cutting inside the full back and firing a powerful shot goalwards -
only to see keeper Paul Rachubka smother the ball. Rae burst
through the centre of midfield and let a decent shot go, McCormack
volleyed over, Bothroyd went close and Ledley had a couple of opportunities.
After that positive spell, City seemed to flag, losing the midfield
momentum which drove them forward, and Blackpool dug in, won more
possession and started picking up the second balls. Either side of
half-time the match degenerated into a scrappy, scruffy disjointed
encounter, which neither side appeared to have the wit or ambition to
win. Blackpool never really bothered or tested the back four, who still
managed to look a little uncomfortable. Purse had one of his worst
performances since striding back into the team, booked for a cynical
body slam on 5 minutes there was widespread disbelief on the terraces
when he didn't see red for a wild challenge in the second half.
timing and decision-making were suspect and his distribution was
dreadful at times. His indecision seemed to give Kevin McNaughton the
wobbles as well, failing to offer Parry the support he can usually rely
upon. Heaton is looking more and more comfortable between the sticks, but
his poor kicking and reluctance to feed his full backs is an irritation
that should be rectified.
Comminges was given a hard time by some City fans, but hardly put a foot
wrong as far as I could see - apart from being a little cautious in
possession. Midfield were misfiring - Parry failed to reproduce his
combustible form of the first half, Joe Ledley was a spare part and Rae
and McPhail were unable to make the breakthrough. Up front there were
few complaints. McCormack was a threat, and his reputation as the
hottest striker in the Championship (imagine saying that six weeks
ago), meant that Blackpool were doubling and trebling up on his marking.
This inevitably gave Bothroyd more time on the ball, and his touch and
technique were again impressive, if not entirely in keeping with his
allotted role as central striker. Jay ain't really found his groove yet,
and may benefit from a formation change and a deeper-lying position
behind McCormack - in a 4-5-1 or 4-4-1-1.
The game looked to be heading towards a grinding no-score bore draw, which would have been
especially frustrating given that Burnley had gone 1-0 up against Reading.
The crowd stayed on-message and responded to renewed efforts from the
team to blast through the deadlock with some rousing vocal support.
Comminges was brought off on 55 minutes to allow for the introduction of
Whittingham, Ledley dropping back to cover. There was an almost
immediate improvement, Whittingham making repeated inroads into the
heart of the Blackpool defence.
City finally broke through on 83 minutes, a sweet move down the left
hand side saw Bothroyd evade the defenders and flight a beautiful cross
directly onto the noggin of substitute Whitts, who headed powerfully
past the desperate challenge of the keeper. Once again Johnson was
introduced to add to the strike-power, once again he did little of
consequence. A case for the defence might argue that apart from the full 45 at Swansea,
he has barely been given enough time to make a significant contribution to any team's performance -
the odd 10 or 15 minutes here and there is currently helping nobody. Jones must decide whether he is an asset or liability - if the former then he needs more game time.
The great thing about the current City team is that any free kick on the
edge of the area is looking like an alomost certain goal - McCormack is
deadly from the 20 yard set piece and with the clinical left boot of
Whittingham on standby we are currently supremely well served in that
department. On 86 minutes McCormack was pulled down on the edge and you
somehow just knew that he would convert - a superb dipping rocketing
shot into the keeper's top right hand corner of the net ended the game, propelled
us into third place and left the punters in frozen raptures as they
jumped up and down to get the feeling back in their frost-bitten
In contrast to the previous two seasons, progress this year has been
slow, steady and consistent - large patches of dull as ditchwater footy
have shared space with some of the fierce fancy dan stuff we have come
to expect. For the moment, dull is good if it grinds out results like
this - we'll save the entertainment for later. One of the best defences
in the division, an ever-improving goal difference and the standout
striker of the moment, how could you not be happy with the way things
are going? Admittedly resources are stretched and we still urgently
require genuine striking alternatives, midfield and defensive cover -
you'd like to think that the appropriate reinforcements in January can
be brought in without sacrificing the existing talent - but, as ever,
no-one is holding their breath.
Saturday's teatime TV clash with leaders Wolves is sure to be a sell-out
and could be a belter of a game. Confidence is vaulting with each accrued point and step up the table - a
victory over our Black Country nemeses is expected, and predicted.
Paul Davies © 2008.
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