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Cardiff 0 Peterborough 2
13th Jan 2002
Ever had one of those hangovers when a team of small men wearing hob-nailed boots have moved into your cranium and start attacking the brain with hammers and cattle prods?
Well, every last one of the 11,000 Cardiff supporters shared in a colossal communal hangover today. A deeply strange end to a long and painful week.
This football club has been rocked to its very foundations by a venomous external conspiracy which has been gnawing at our vitals with unbelievable ferocity.
Cardiff City have been crucified over the past few days, a community of football fans stitched up and shafted by a criminally and cynically (well it sells papers dunnit) mendacious media.
Two banners announced the feelings of some of the crowd: "English media = racist scum" and "No more lies Daily Mirror Sun Daily Mail and Daily Express - We Are Family".
The list of newspapers would easily have stretched around the ground, the hoity toity chattering class broadsheets being even more culpable of twisting the events of Sunday Jan 6th into a full-blown apocalypse.
The forest fires of exaggeration were still smouldering on Saturday morning, outraged Colonel David Lacey of The Guardian opining thus: "Not that crowd violence is news in Cardiff, even now.
Ninian Park is a land that time forgot, a place where raptors still rule". But, as the great John Lydon said, anger is an energy, it must be channelled in the right direction, so that the club can leave behind the slime trail of hostile media and hooligans alike, and move onwards and upwards.
We came today to salute our 11 heroes, to re-affirm the faith and to pay homage to Sam Hammam, the mischievous, misguided sometimes barking but honourable man who has rescued the club from the wastelands and propelled it towards a bright future.
An 8 page glossy pamphlet was dished out at the turnstiles, articulating Sam's commitment and resolve. Along the lines of what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, Hammam's belief is that the club will emerge from this poisonous period with renewed vitality.
The atmosphere inside the ground was spookily sombre, several thousand down on what might have been expected after last week's titanic victory - in case you missed it in the media overswill, "fair to middling Second division team Cardiff City" ( David Lacey of the Guardian) comprehensively outplayed Premiership leaders Leeds United.
Instead of the mood of celebration, it was like being at a wake, emotions of simmering unfocused anger combining with deep depression and frustration.
The one compensatory moment was Sam Hammam emerging from the tunnel and greeting the crowd. The response from the fans was intensely emotional and thunderously vocal. The man is already a living legend in these parts, and deserves a large pat on the back for keeping the faith under these exceptional and troubling circumstances.
The players were clearly as affected by the mood, only sporadically playing the kind of football which destroyed Leeds. Brayson rightly kept his place, and after half an hour of scrappy play, the Blues started getting busy in the opposition penalty box.
Earnie's terrific shot from close range forced a miraculous point blank save from the Posh keeper. A tidy spell of pressure followed, with the ball stubbornly reluctant to worm its way into the Peterborough net.
Looking forward to a half time stretch of the legs, calamity struck. "Scotland's No. 1" Neil Alexander made a hash of an incoming cross and allowed Leon McKenzie to connect with a goalbound header which just heightened the misery.
There was no FA Cup style fightback in the second half, the game being killed off in the 54th minute, as Neale Fenn latched onto a speculative upfield clearance to hoof a ball hopefully over Alexander's head.
Substitutions were made, injured Prior replaced by the fragile but OK Rhys Weston, Boland replaced strangely by the eager but ineffective Josh Low, and big lummox no 1 Gordon replaced by big lummox no 2 Leo FW. Once again the big guy/little guy combo wasn't happening.
Isn't it about time we tried an alternative option - play Brayson and Earnie upfront with Jason Bowen operating in the "hole" (whatever that is). This must be the way forward, until Peter Thorne returns, at least.
We are sliding fast out of the promotion race, closer to the basement than the summit, with the play-offs now looking the only reasonable method of escape from this division.
Today was all about coming to terms with the bewildering media overkill - now is the time to turn a corner and start cranking up the energy levels for the rest of this crucial season.
© Paul Davies 2002
> BBC report