| Cardiff 2 Plymouth Argyle 2
Championship Dec 26 2006
After the elation of Cardiff's 11th hour release from panto villain Sam Hammam (see below), the Bluebirds rained on everyone's Boxing Day parade by throwing away another desperately needed two points.
Fluttering down from the top of the metaphorical Xmas tree like some badly damaged papier mache decoration, the team are now in full-on slomo freefall, losing touch with the big-time Charlies from St. Andrew's and scrabbling around with the chasing pack of promotion wannabes.
2006 cannot end quickly enough for this team, the influx of cash and players in January is now the only thing that can salvage this season, which is beginning to curdle, groan and rumble like the innards of the world's most hungover man.
Incredibly, with Derby and Preston both losing and Southampton also dropping points at home, The Bluebirds move up to 5th after this indifferent performance, but could have moved to within one point of 2nd spot, had they done the necessary and finished off an average team from the West Country.
Loath as this writer is to bemoan the officials in charge of yesterday's game, I cannot recall a more inept refereeing performance in 40 years of suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous officialdom at NP.
Chopra and Thompson were simply offered no protection by the referee, and were battered, bruised, kicked, pushed, tripped, shoved and fouled relentlessly over the course of the match by Plymouth's central defensive pairing.
Like Burnley and Colchester before them, these low-grade hod-carriers from the mediocre swamplands of the Championship kicked lumps out of the Cardiff boys, and incredibly, were allowed to get away with it time after time after time.
Cardiff were denied at least two stonewall penalties, McNaughton blatantly felled in the first half, and Thompson pushed over in the second.
A cynical performance by the Argyle was rewarded by four yellows for dissent and unsporting behaviour, when in the real world they should have had about three players sent off.
Cardiff were mugged bigtime, and it is shameful that a footballing side were robbed of the opportunity of winning this game by street-fighting tactics that would have warmed the cockles of the Leeds United team of the 1970s.
Having said that, it was an enjoyable game which see-sawed from end-to-end as both sides sought to make the most of the chances created.
In the first 45 Cardiff were poor, looking every inch the team which hadn't won for seven games, their play was nervous, tentative, drained of confidence and lacking the zing and penetration of early-season performances.
Seemingly brought back too early against Leicester, the indispensable Kerrea Gilbert didn't even make the bench today, McNaughton swapping to his less favoured right hand side with Alan Wright filling in at left back.
Loovens is still injured, so the central defensive pair of Purse and Johnson held things together (mainly) at the back.. A full-strength midfield of Parry, Scimeca, McPhail and Ledley failed to make any significant inroads, whilst Thompson and Chopra worked hard with the frugal fodder dribbled through to them by the quartet behind.
Ever-present Alexander performed reasonably well, but questions were asked of his handling of incoming crosses, and he may have done better with Plymouth's second goal.
Up front, Plymouth were lively, with both Hayles and Ebanks-Blake causing problems with pacey runs in and around the sometimes static Cardiff defence.
Plymouth's domination was rewarded in the 34th minute, when David Nosher/Chuck Norris steamed through a gaping hole in the Bluebirds defence and shot past Alexander.
Gloom, doom and botheration, as Cardiff fans sought consolation in the bizarre half-time comestibles on offer in the deluxe catering facilities - bacon and stuffing rolls anyone?
Second half saw a vastly improved Cardiff side go about their business in a steely revitalised fashion, and the first genuine attack of the second period resulted in a goal for the embattled but resilient Steve Thompson, a desperately needed low strike which was the Scot's first goal for two months.
On 52 minutes, the crowd went crazy apeshit as Thompson saw off the muscular challenges of the grim grapplers at the back and rose to half-shoulder/half head the ball into the back of the net and ease the Bluebirds towards what everyone hoped would be a titanic, season-changing victory.
Plymouth, however, had other ideas, and reacted competitively to the home side's resurgence, grabbing an equaliser just five minutes later, as Cardiff's frail defence allowed Nosher the opportunity to strike from a tight angle on the edge of the box.
With thirty minutes left on the clock, there was room for optimism, and Cardiff swarmed forward to try and restore their briefly held advantage, but they appeared psychologically down and out, and only McPhail's effort from fifteen yards looked like breaking the deadlock.
Substitute Willo Flood, on for Alan Wright, brought further attacking options, and was effective with a few runs down the left, but ultimately Cardiff did not have the nous or wherewithal to break through the Green Wall. The referee capped a shocking display by booking Willo for taking a free kick too early, which just about summed the man in black up really.
A decent crowd of 17,299 (augmented by a well-tidy and very vocal contingent of 1300 Plymouth fans) shuffled off home, ruing more missed points, cursing the referee and vowing that Crystal Palace is now the must-win game of the holiday period.
So, he finally did it. Sam Hammam will go down in history - not as he may have scripted, atop a white charger clad in the vestments of St David with a gleaming halo firmly visible throughout South Wales, but instead as the most despised chairman in the club's history - taking the club to the brink of extinction not once, but twice in the space of two years, outflanking and out-trumping a panoply of duplicitous, rapacious, mendacious sharks and weasels who have sought to extract their thirty pieces of silver from this glorious football club.
The events of this week have rubbished Sam's claims that all he ever cared about was the club, revealing him stark naked in the halogen glare of local and national media, as just another money-grubbing power-mad fat cat turning the screw with one hand, whilst holding the club to ransom with the other.
In so doing, he has made his ever dwindling coterie of Burberry cap doffing serfs and yes-men look like a hapless bunch of gullible fools.
Sam's bloated ego has cast a dark shadow over the creaking rusting facade of Ninian Park for years, and the vast majority of supporters tired of his ridiculous puffed-up self-aggrandising posturing many moons ago, happy to reap the dividends of promotion to the Promised Land if it came, but refusing to pay homage to the prima donna.
His lies and empty promises had long since alienated him from the supporters, and truthfully, how many people were surprised by this week's developments?
His supporters may stupidly claim that this was merely a canny piece of brinkmanship performed in order to get his just rewards for doing the donkey work over the past five years.
But anyone who can publicly threaten the very existence of this football club should hang their head in shame instead of largeing it in the Director's box. Thanks for the promotion(s), the memories, the £24 million debt, the sleepless nights, the nightmare prospect of administration, the dismantling of the team in 2005. Now turn the light off on your way out and disappear.
Life presidency? I wouldn't even let the old goat sell programmes in the new stadium.
Paul Davies © 2006. Photos ©urban75/Paul Davies.
"The first half was a non-event and we were never going to create anything.
I gave them a rocket at the interval and in the second half we picked up and played the game more at our tempo.
The players are low on confidence at the moment and the side needs help so hopefully we can bring in some fresh faces to liven up the squad. "
Dave Jones, Cardiff manager.
Cardiff: Alexander, McNaughton, Purse, Johnson, Wright (Flood 64), Parry (Blake 80), McPhail, Scimeca, Ledley, Chopra, Thompson. Subs Not Used: Howard, Campbell, Gunter
Booked: Purse, Flood.. Goals: Thompson 47, 52.
Plymouth: Larrieu, Connolly (Samba 63), Aljofree, Doumbe, Seip, Capaldi, Norris, Nalis, Buzsaky, Ebanks-Blake, Hayles.
Subs Not Used: McCormick, Sawyer, Dickson, Summerfield.
Booked: Hayles, Ebanks-Blake, Doumbe, Aljofree.
Goals: Norris 34, 59.
» BBC report
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