Cardiff 1 Southampton 0
Championship, March 29th 2008
Eng-er-land, are you listening...
This was neither pretty, slick nor clever, but thumpingly effective and almost a carbon-copy of the result/performance against Hull just over two weeks ago. As a precursor to next week's West Brom game and the Wembley semi-final, all the buttons were righteously pushed. In contrast, our FA Cup opponents Barnsley are on a dreadful run of form and lost yet again, making that 3 defeats on the bounce.
In all honesty, today's was a dull and dreary game, but one which solidifies our mid-table safety and gives the wild-eyed loons still harbouring fanciful delusions of a play-off place something to hang onto. With three or four more points in the bag, a late surge towards the play-offs would have been eminently do-able, especially with many of our rivals crashing and burning in enjoyably bewildering disarray, but with just 7 games left, including tough away trips to Wolves, Ipswich and Burnley, we now need to seriously concentrate on the FA Cup.
The bizarre prospect of Hull, Bristol and Stoke City playing in the Premiership next season is now beckoning, unless West Brom knuckle down to some serious catch-up as they fight to gain an automatic place with one distracted eye on Wembley. The likelihood of any of the above staying there for more than one season is, of course, negligible.
With this being our seventh 1-0 League win, we are now officially the Arsenal of the Championship, able to grind out results in a functional fashion when not wiping the floor with opponents with our Champagne Charlie football. Leaving aside our Cup runs for the moment, this has been a truly weird and wonderful season thus far, with the hint of something spectacular on the horizon.
The day started early with the inaugural public meeting of the Cardiff City Supporters Trust at Sophia Gardens. Representing the trust on the top table were acting chairman Paul Corkery and acting secretary Paul Russell, with invited guests Kevin Rye from the national Supporters Direct organisation, and Nick Illingsworth, chairman of the Southampton Saints' trust. A decent crowd of approximately 120 turned up, including ambos, stubbers, messageboard regulars and lots of other varieties of Cardiff City supporters.
Familiar faces including Tony Jeffries, Leighton Andrews AM, and the voice of Ninian Park Ali Yassine were also on hand to lend their support (Ali made some kind of history this week as the first football club Tannoy man to make a Welsh language programme about Lawrence of Arabia. Any excuse to do the Ayatollah!) The panel discussed the aims and ambitions of the trust, and were indebted to the efforts of our two visitors to contextualise the growing importance of trusts nationwide, with specific reference to the challenges and experiences of the Saints' trust.
A brief question and answer session followed before the meeting voted unanimously to officially set up the trust. As the panellists emphasised more than once, this is where the hard work starts, with contributions being solicited from all those present to take the trust forward. At a critical juncture in the club's history, this is an excellent time to harness the energies and enthusiasm of our supporters to unite behind a truly representative and democratically elected organisation which can articulate the concerns of fans and work towards a direct input in the running of the club, with the ultimate aim of securing a place on the Board of Directors. More information can be found at the trust's website www.ccfctrust.org.
Fast forward to Sloper Road at 2.45 PM and a pretty miserable crowd of less than 13,000 schlepped their way through the rain-splashed streets towards Fortess Ninian. Doubly depressing that the same fans who are willing to queue up in the rain for several hours to ensure their semi-final ticket couldn't be bothered to turn up and support the boys in a critical League match.
The crowd were subdued and off-colour, as were the Bluebirds themselves. A fantastic goal from Paul Parry on 6 minutes (his tenth of the season) promised much, and there were early expectations of an enjoyable rout in the rain, and a hatful of goals to get us in the mood for Wembley, but this never materialised. The goal was a strike of some quality, Ramsey having provided the ball to Thompson on the right wing, who took it to the bye line then sent across a tempting cross for Parry, who leathered it into the back of the net.
After that, the game deteriorated into a moribund mess, both teams squandering possession and looking blunt and bankrupt in front of goal. Southampton will have left Ninian Park feeling more than a little downhearted that they hadn't made more of the vast amount of possession they had. They were, though, poor beyond belief, and looked every inch a side freefalling towards relegation. (Further evidence, if needed, of what can happen when a club's footballing assets are hawked off to the highest bidder - the loss of Walcott, Jones, Rasiak and coach George Burley has mortally wounded the club).
Goalmouth action was limited, Ledley had a decent effort saved by Richard Wright, Whittingham let fly with a couple of half-tidy shots, but Cardiff never looked like extending their lead, and despite a humongous amount of ball, Southampton never looked like scoring.
Apart from a sumptuous performance from Ramsey at right back, there was little to applaud in this City display. Johnson and Loovens both looked ropey at the back, the midfield were generally ineffective, and up front Thompson was completely hopeless. The decision not to take advantage of the emergency loan window to bring in cover at full back and up front looks to have been a massive miscalculation, and whilst DJ's assertion that the club will not be held to ransom by the extortionate loan payments being demanded for off-form, unwanted strikers (hi Earnie!) is absolutely right, there must surely be someone somewhere who could add some finesse to a desperately impoverished forward line (and who isn't cup tied).
Thankfully, JFH completes his three match ban on Tuesday, and will return to the Wembley starting line-up fully refuelled on 5 star rock 'n' roll petrol, and raring to go. Before that, the game against WBA will provide Dave Jones (and Tony Mowbray) with some interesting selection posers. Presumably Ramsey will be rested, Sinclair will drop back into the right back berth, and if fully fit, Scimeca may well be given the nod in midfield. Whatever happens, it has the potential to be a cracking encounter, with two seriously talented footballing sides who have both looked superb at times this season. A few more bums on seats and a bit more atmos is required to send our boys on their way to Wembley.
Paul Davies © 2008.
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