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A tooth-grindingly tedious end-of-season scrap was briefly sprinkled with
play-off fairy-dust as Peter Thorne rocketed home a 74th minute goal which
cemented City's place in the top 6, and kept them within gobbing distance of
Stoke, Huddersfield and Brentford.
Brighton and Reading are, realistically,
beyond catching, but finishing in 4th position with the 2nd leg home
"advantage" is now a serious proposition.
Cardiff are now unquestionably the
form team in the division, and who would want to confront the mighty Blues
at a frothing Millennium Stadium crammed to the gunwhales with
hyperventilating City fans, some of whom have waited thirty years for such
Such moments of note and import were cruelly lacking in a game for which
Port Vale had definitely not read the script.
In front of yet another
massive crowd (and if visiting supporters continue to travel in such
ridiculously small numbers, why not give over the whole of the Grange End to
the Cardiff fans - this would make sound economic sense and effectively
circumnavigate South Wales Police's ludicrous cap on the ground's capacity),
Cardiff showed little evidence of their promotion form, tentative and
lacking in ideas, the adventurous 4-3-3 formation only meant that Bonner,
Boland and Kavanagh were outrun and outgunned in a midfield congested by
yellow Vale shirts.
True to form, the one minute's silence was disrupted by a vocal contingent
of fierce republican / anti-anything with an English connection malcontents
(similar disrespect having historically been shown to both Bobby Moore and
Alf Ramsey, neither of whom are readily associated with the English
Establishment's oppression of the Welsh).
Cue the howls of self-satisfied
outrage from the local right wing tabloid rags and more bad publicity for
After a tame first 45 minutes, City's second half performance upped the ante
and a persistent spell of pressure brought the winning goal and a few close
calls, Kavanagh missing a sitter from close range when he blasted the ball
straight at the keeper.
The return of Earnshaw was a welcome sight, as was
the home debut of accomplished wing back Gary Croft, but overall this was a
match devoid of excitement.
Andy Legg's probing runs were sorely missed, and whilst the
not-so-solid-crew at the back coped adequately with Vale's sporadic forays,
Rhys Weston's reluctance to carry the ball forward from the right unbalanced
Scotland's Number One Neil Alexander was a whisker away from the
most embarrassing miskick of the season, as his attempted clearance from a
back pass sliced off the side of his boot and gifted an open goal to a Vale
forward, who luckily wellied the ball high over the bar.
The only other action to draw comment were the early substitution of a
limping referee's assistant and the subsequent Jeremy Beadle style injury
incurred by the referee, who tumbled over a City player as he nonchalantly
ran back towards the centre circle.
He was replaced by the other referee's
assistant, giving fifteen minutes of fame to home steward and qualified ref
Tony Jones, who ran the line for the rest of the game.
An awful game, a great result, and on the back of such a terrific run (seven
wins and two draws from the last nine League games) there is no reason to
doubt that Cardiff can win all of their remaining games, giving them a grand
total of 85 points, a semi-final cracker against Stoke or Huddersfield, and
a glorious victory against Brentford in the final. It's too late to stop
© Paul Davies 2002
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