| Cardiff 0 Hull City 1
Championship, April 28th 2007
"...walk away, in silence..."
Well - if that is fighting for your place for next season, you might as well rip up your season ticket now. Like a particularly painful extended tooth extraction, the season crawled towards its miserable conclusion with yet another performance that sucked the very lifeblood out of your soul.
Of course it was a foregone conclusion, but the eternal optimist which cruelly resides inside the heads of all CCFC supporters just imagined that maybe on the final home match of the season, the players might just play with a smattering of pride and belief, to pay back the fans just a little for the catastrophic capitulation which has seen the season turn to ashes in the past six weeks.
But no, every flaw and failing which has seen us exposed and flailing like a skewered fish on the end of a spear flapping its lifeless last, was dismally on display in this purgatorial 90 minutes.
Hull City, were, by contrast, up for it bigtime, and totally deserved their victory.
Staring down the throat of relegation, their mediocre band of players ran their hearts out and made us look like relegation fodder. The match does not bear close scrutiny, but suffice it to say, when a 38 year old grizzled wrinkly like Dean Windass can waltz through your defence and run them ragged, you know it is not going to be your day.
Their fans, too, turned up in numbers and were a formidable presence, outsinging the whispering Bob Harrises on the Grange End, who only seemed to come to life in their ceaseless and petty barracking of Sam Ricketts.
There were moments of encouragement in the first half when the movement and interplay between the proud and ever-present Joe Ledley and the slightly coming back to form Peter Whittingham threatened to open up the Tigers' defence.
But this soon subsided, and the punchless presence of Feeney and Thompson up front gave Hull keeper Boaz Myhill his quietest afternoon of the season.
It may be slightly unfair to judge Feeney on a handful of appearances, but a club in this much of a hurry cannot wait for him to start scoring goals. We want goals and success, and we want them/it now.
Feeney is a game lad and runs around a lot, but so does my hamster, and I wouldn't want him spearheading the attack either. As for Thommo, come in no. 9 - your time is up. Six goals over the course of a season (he got more yellow cards) is just not cutting it.
The Bluebirds had opportunities in the first half, two Thompson headers, a couple of Whittingham longshots and a Roger Johnson screamer from outside the box, but did not really look like scoring.
Cardiff had the ball, Hull had the balls, they hunted in packs, chased down second balls and just generally wanted it more. No surprise that they should take the lead at the start of the second half.
Forde saved well from McPhee, only to parry unfortunately into the path of Grandad Windass, who buried the ball in the back of the net and let the Hull jubilation wash down over him.
Like the players, Cardiff fans drifted off and started thinking about their Summer holidays. Jones' inept tactical substitutions changed nothing - Gunter on for McNaughton - why? Flood on for Whittingham - why?
The only striker on the bench was inexplicably left there. One substitution did garner real applause - the introduction of the youngest player ever to play for Cardiff City - Aaron Ramsey, at the grand old age of 16 years and a 100+ days - big up to him, but at this stage, blooding the youngsters was the only meaningful contribution Dave Jones could make to the match.
As the game creaked towards its inevitable ending, there was an eruption of cheering in the Hull end, which indicated that they'd got wind of the Leeds result and the confirmation of Leeds' relegation and Hull's survival.
Cardiff fans joined in the applause, their antipathy to their chosen nemeses being again a seemingly more powerful force than the love of their own club. I actually heard some muppets on the Bob Bank saying how they hoped Hull would win today to send Leeds down. How lame is that?
As the game wound down, MC Ali Yassine announced that the players would be performing a lap of appreciation at the end of the game. "Don't bother!" came the automated response from hundreds of voices, and yet, amazingly, after the final whistle, thousands stayed behind to applaud the players as they walked around the pitch thanking the fans for their support. True supporters.
Loyal supporters, whose passion for the club should be noted by both management and players as they mull over the grisly season's post mortem. A fraction of their enthusiasm and belief, and we would have waltzed into the play-offs this season.
As various teams fade away and fluff their lines, a glance at the table tonight makes desperately despondent viewing. We remain marooned in the mire of mid-table mediocrity, but 3/4/5 weeks ago the target of 75 points was so within our grasp.
Anyway, time to move on and deliver urban75's verdict on the season:
David Forde - not good enough - need a new keeper.
Neil Alexander - despite his flaws, it was a dunderheaded decision to axe and humiliate this man as the season reached its climax. Alexander has been a terrific servant for the club, and deserved much better. It was an emotional moment as he walked around the pitch saluting the fans with his daughter today. DJ should hang his head in shame.
Chris Gunter - a talent, gained good experience and should become a first-team regular.
Kerrea Gilbert - again, Jones' decision to sideline Gilbert was incomprehensible. His form at the start of the season was key to the start we got - an explosive attacking full back with class to spare - even if he was always due to go back to Arsenal at the end of the season, we should have made more of him. Another Jones clanger.
Kevin McNaughton - excellent acquisition, excellent season - not a centre back, not a midfielder, but a cracking full back.
Joe Ledley - a candidate for player of the season, despite dips in form, he is a tireless worker and a skilled individual. Not a full back, a creative midfielder - played out of position most of the season, another Jones mistake.
Darren Purse - of the trio of centre backs, Purse is probably weakest - lacks pace, poor distribution, but no doubting his bottle or commitment - worth another season unless there really is a £2 million pound bid on the table, in which case, bite their bleedin' hands off.
Glenn Loovens - sometimes you wonder what Glenn is doing with us, tougher than he looks, he is a formidable presence at the back, and has the stereotypical skills of a total Dutch footballer - should be a part of the spine of this team for years to come.
Roger Johnson - earned his spurs this year, another rock at the back, bursts with enthusiasm and passion. He has his wayward moments but has done enough to claim the centre back slot and captain's armband.
Darcy Blake - promising youngster, a squad player next year.
Paul Parry - a talented but frustrating performer who has not done enough to justify another season at NP.
Stephen McPhail - one of the biggest disappointments this season, has an abundance of skill, but fades to invisibility in the majority of matches - a luxury we cannot afford.
Riccy Scimeca - without doubt player of the season - no coincidence that our fall from grace has coincided with Scimeca's absence. He has become a vital part of this team, driving the team forward and breaking up opposition attacks at will. Need him to stay injury-free next year.
Peter Whittingham - another frustrating, inconsistent player, who nevertheless has done enough to indicate that he is worth another season - needs to perform at a higher level week in and week out.
Willo Flood - not good enough.
Michael Chopra - to be honest, I'll be glad when he's gone. Despite being top scorer by a mile and being the catalyst which kick-started the season, he has somehow managed to finish the season as one of the least popular players.
His gobby indiscipline not only cost the team dear at crucial moments, but robbed the man himself of the glory of lording it over all the other Championship strikers - now he is playing second fiddle to the talented but distinctly workaday Jamie Cureton.
He may have inspired one of the few decent original songs to be heard at Ninian over the past couple of years, but he has never convinced that he would be here longer than one season - his comments that he would be playing in the Premiership next season with or without Cardiff endeared him to no-one.
Instead of touting yourself around the Premiership, it might have been a better idea to at least pretend you love the club. Thanks Michael, and goodbye.
Steve Thompson - Steve has the heart of a lion, but a lion that's lost a few claws and has really bad toothache. He won't be here next year.
Iwan Redan, Kevin Campbell, Jason Byrne, Warren Feeney - ta ra.
Matt Green - worth hanging onto, has raw talent and exceptional pace - could be great.
Dave Jones - big, big disappointment - we don't know whether he's lost the dressing room - he has certainly lost the fans. Continuing questions about his tactical awareness, ability to change a game and motivational skills. His endless whingeing has become a royal pain in the ass. On top of all that, the team needs a complete rebuild over the Summer. Can he do it again?
Players to consider: with the £4 million from Chopra's sale, our priority is strikers, so how about two or three of the following - Cureton and Iwelumo (Colchester), Saganowski (Southampton), Varney and Maynard (Crewe), Sharp (Scunthorpe), McLeod (MK Dons), Easter (Wycombe). Also need a grizzly ball-winning midfielder to partner Shimmy, a speedy right winger, plus some defensive cover and a quality keeper. Easy.
So that's it then. Another season over, and despite Ridsdale's kind offer of a free bus to Ipswich next week, there's this really good Basil Rathbone movie on BBC2, so I think I'll pass on that one. One positive note today - at the final whistle a collective psychedelic love-in seemed to develop - Cardiff fans applauded Hull supporters and players, who reciprocated. Hull fans walked off down Sloper Road chatting to Cardiff fans unmolested. Small but important steps forwards.
Only 97 days till the new season starts - I can't wait!
Paul Davies © 2007.
It's been the same old story since the turn of the year.
We had several good clear-cut chances to take the lead and we dominated the game but we just couldn't score.
The finish to the season has shown me that we are not good enough even though we have the nucleus of a good side.
It may be that wholesale changes will not be necessary but it is a fact that we do not score enough goals.
We have gone from being the division's top scorers to not being able to score at all and it has shown me that certain players at the club are just not good enough to take us where we want to go
Dave Jones, Cardiff manager.
Cardiff: Forde, Blake, Purse, Johnson, McNaughton (Gunter 80), Parry (Ramsey 90), McPhail, Ledley, Whittingham (Flood 64), Thompson, Feeney.
Subs Not Used:: Alexander, Green.
Hull: Myhill, Ricketts, Turner, Delaney, Dawson, Parlour (Marney 46), Ashbee, Peltier, Windass, Forster, McPhee (Barmby 63).
Subs Not Used: Duke, Parkin, Coles.
Booked: Windass, Dawson.
Goal: Windass 52
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