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Cardiff 4 Plymouth Argyle 1
20th January 2001
A huge 9,000 crowd braved the January chill to watch City (eventually) triumph.
Whatever you're paying him Sam, it's not enough. The brilliant Robert Earnshaw, on a rocket-powered mission to the Premiership, was once again the difference between two sides who never really threatened to set the world on fire.
Despite the eighth minute sending off of Plymouth's Sean McCarthy, Cardiff struggled to put the game out of reach in the first half and were painfully ponderous in their build-up play.
Until the somersaulting superstar came on, City were completely devoid of a penetrative edge - Leo cannot be faulted for his efforts and commitment, but he is just another in a long line of big strapping ungainly centre forwards who have tramped the turf at Ninian Park.
He can just about cut it in the 3rd Division, even though the number of successful knock-down headers to supporting strikers and attacking midfielders are not justifying his massive transfer fee.
Apart from the deficiencies up front, City still lack a commanding midfield playmaker in the style of the great Paul Ramsey, who masterminded the Eddie May promotion campaign of 92/93 with fire in his belly and steel in his boots. And yet again, the Blues could not keep a clean sheet - individually the defenders perform adequately, and in the case of Andy Legg exceptionally, but as a collective unit they are often disconnected and frayed at the edges.
Keeper Walton is a nervous penalty box presence whose hesitation and refusal to move out of the six yard comfort zone frequently causes distress to his defensive colleagues. That needs sorting, and pronto. The closest 4-1 thrashing I have ever witnessed could so easily have been a soul-sapping 1-1 draw, were it not for the supelatively timed introduction of Earnshaw and his two goals.
His value to the side at the moment cannot be overstated - he appears to be over his jaded patch - he has the pace of a cheetah and the X-ray vision of Superman, a poacher par excellence.
Fortune-West added to his goal tally with the second and Scott McCulloch rounded off the game with a bundled goal which saw City climb up to third place in the table, with Brighton firmly in their sights.
Two notes of disquiet - Premiership loan boy James Harper who has impressed with his poise, confidence and style, blotted his copybook with a moronic kick at MacGlinchey after the Plymouth man had fouled him, an act of brattish petulance which led to his immediate dismissal. Seconds later the Plymouth man followed him down the tunnel, having already been booked.
Secondly, the increasing crowds at Ninian seem to be hoovering all the scummiest meatheads out of the cracks in the sewers where they've been hibernating for years. The atmosphere at the end of the game as the Plymouth fans moved towards the car park was venomous and nauseating.
© Paul Davies 2001