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City reports 2000-20001
Here's where we'll be sticking up the odd report and rant about the forthcoming season.
Cardiff 1 Crewe 1 FA Cup 3rd Round 06.01.01
Woo Hoo ! What a rip-roaring snorting belteroonie of a Cup tie. Many over-confident City fans already had this game cut, dried, done, dusted and tucked up into a tidy parcel in preparation for a seamless passage into the next round.
The reality was a tad more uncomfortable. Mr Anagram, Dario Gradi, the longest serving football manager in the Nationwide League yada yada, has always produced good footballing sides and his current crop of Alexandrians are no exception.
They may be marooned at the bottom of the First Division, but they were clearly a cut above the rugged jobsworths who ply their trade in the barren wastelands of the basement. Solid at the back, they played neat passing football, launching a stream of dangerous counter-attacking moves in the first half which had the Bluebirds backpedalling furiously as they consulted their script for these unscheduled changes.
Daniel Gabbidon had a nightmare, he was turned inside out by Crewe's excellent left winger Rodney Jack, and was seeing stars as the half time whistle blew. The opening goal was a disastrous suicidal effort from the normally flawless Jason Bowen.
Caught in possession on the left hand side of the pitch with nowhere to go, he hit a brisk back pass towards dozy keeper Walton, whose reluctance to handle the ball and concede a free kick meant he could only flounder hopelessly in its wake, as the ball appeared to pick up pace and dribble into the corner of the net. 13,000 jaws dropped, a couple of hundred cheers rang out from the miserably populated away section, and we were one down.
City's fightback gathered momentum as the match progressed - a disallowed goal from Earnshaw put added fire in the bellies, and they trooped off at half time to a rousing reception from the superbly raucous and encouraging crowd.
The second half was all Cardiff, a relentless series of attacks rained down upon impressive keeper Bankole. The woodwork was struck on four occasions over the course of the match, the inevitable equalising goal was tucked away by Scott Young, and the roars of relief and excitement erupted into the twilight.
The ground was, once again, rocking in a way that only Ninian Park and its magnificent feverish supporters can, and the quest for a winner was balanced by a potentially over-cautious attitude which invited Crewe back into the game.
Man of the match award was given, amazingly, to Scott Young, who played well but was eclipsed by the brilliant Mr Versatile Andy Legg - a cool giant at the back tidying up attack after attack, then propelling the boys forward with accurate incisive passes and darting runs into hostile territory.
The man had a fantastic game and is surely on his way to a Welsh recall. The final result was a fair one, the replay's a tough one to call, but with an estimated 2-3,000 Bluebirds supporters behind them, outsinging the home fans at Gresty Road, I fancy the Blues to edge it into the next round.
© Paul Davies 2001
Cardiff 3 Cheltenham 1 9.12.00
"Go Earnie Go."
Is there a better place to be at twenty to five on a Saturday afternoon than at a frothing Ninian Park, as the evening draws in and the crowd are ratcheting up the volume in celebration of a thumping 3-1 victory ? It wasn' t quite the walkover suggested by the scoreline, the boys in blue making very hard work of what should have been a Saturday stroll given the circumstances, but the result was greedily gobbled up 9 thousand City fans.
Hewn out of finest Cotswold stone, Cheltenham took the field looking like a team of overgrown lumberjacks, dwarfing the 6'4" Leo Fortune West and offering a crystal clear explanation of how they have vaulted towards the top of the grip and grapple 3rd Division.
FA Cup day is always a little bit special, and the crowd were clearly up for it, noisily giving the home side a welcome prod in the correct direction. Unfortunately, City failed to take their cue and struggled fitfully for half an hour as the colossal Countryside Alliance huffed, puffed and imposed their physical football on a fretful nervous Cardiff side who insisted on playing a passing game but forgot to pass it to a player with the same colour shirt on.
A goal for the away side, however sumptuously executed, was not part of the script, but did eventually kick the sagging butts of the Bluebirds into synchronising their stylish brand of football, which soon began to make inroads into the Cheltenham half. A sweetly taken equaliser by the Earnster got the crowd on its feet, and City's hold on the game tightened as a gladly accepted deflected goal from Kevin Evans saw City squirm into the comfort zone with half time approaching.
Temperatures were pumped up by the sending off of ex-Swansea player Julian Alsop, whose poleaxing of Scott McCulloch in the penalty area led to the inevitable flash of the red card.
Shadows of previous capitulations streaked across the ground in the second half as City failed to take numerical advantage and sat back on the slenderest of leads - allowing Cheltenham to force the pace and lump balls rhythmically into the box.
Slack distribution stymied any forward threat from Cardiff, with the quicksilver Earnshaw, already floating several feet above his lower division brethren, struggling to hide his frustration as ball after ball failed to connect with his probing darting runs through and behind the Cheltenham defence. As nerves jangled the match was effectively killed off when Brayson was pulled down as he jinked his way through the Cheltenham box.
Despite the ill-timed unsporting Cheltenham substitution and much faffing about by the away side, Earnshaw calmly strode up and whacked the ball into the back of the net, somersaulting his way towards the corner flag and milking every last drop of applause out of a rapturous crowd who are only too aware that they are witnessing an exceptional talent at the very top of his game - his speed, skill and intuitive poaching instinct mark him out as a major talent.
Onward to the 3rd round, and with Earnshaw in this kind of form, there will be a few nervous managers checking out the draw on Sunday afternoon.
© Paul Davies 2000
Scunthorpe 0 Cardiff 2 17.09.00
" climbing up... "
A two-goal blast in two minutes ensured Cardiff City retained their unbeaten record and ended Scunthorpe's 100 per cent home record. A travelling crowd of 200 Bluebirds watched a tight first half with both teams performing strongly, and good saves being made at both ends.
The second half opened with Cardiff in the ascendency, and this pressure finally paid off when a deep cross by Legg was headed by Nugent over the Scunthorpe goalie. The travelling City fans had barely stopped celebrating when Earnshaw toe-poked in the second to seal a vital victory for the Blues. Now we're third in the league and still unbeaten...
Cardiff 1 Blackpool 1 19.08.00
" 'Ere we go ( again ) "
Seasoned City watchers felt the dull hammer blow of familiarity smote them an unforgiving whack as the final whistle blew on a serenely sun-splashed Ninian Park today. On 91 minutes all four sides of the ground were up on their feet tearing the roof off the sucker, the orchestrated singing causing the very foundations of the ground to shudder and shake as the mighty Bluebirds fans celebrated ( a tad prematurely ) the opening home victory at Fortress Ninian. A sound to remember, it was as if the Blues had won promotion, the F.A. Cup and qualified for Europe simultaneously, instead of sneaking an effective yet somehow unconvincing win against a team of basement scufflers whose aspirations rarely stretched beyond the halfway line.
Seconds later, in an epilogue all too queasily reminiscent of a thousand and one disappointing grey days on the terraces, Blackpool scored the inevitable breakaway equaliser to ruin the party - City having tossed three points into the garbage as cheaply as if they were discarding a losing Golden Goal ticket. It all started brightly enough, the obligatory glorious sunshine ensuring an outbreak of happy faces in short sleeved shirts as they crammed into the ground 11,000 strong.
After the reams and reams of turgid tiresome Hammam hoopla and hype it was a relief to be within gobbing distance of the kick-off. Just in case anyone hadn't noticed that Sam was indeed the Man, the opening moments were given up to a ludicrous self-aggrandising chest-puffing display of vanity as the multi-millionaire club owner strutted onto the pitch with a Welsh dragon in one hand and a cringe-inducing "Welsh Army" banner in the other. Needless to say the ovation was enormous, the crowd appreciative of the Hammam millions, if still a little suspicious of his methods.
The opening half hour was full of bright and promising football from the Blues, neat passing interplay which somehow found it difficult to penetrate a stubborn Tangerine rearguard. Brayson, the Man of The Match pocket dynamo striker, was excellent, full of sharp movement, clever runs and incisive passing. One wonders whether the puffing giant Kevin Nugent will be able to keep up with him this season - at times he looked like a clod-hopping dinosaur as he ambled about the pitch. He is, though, a proven goalscorer and should prosper against the kind of rugged defences he will face in the grim frozen North of the 3rd Division.
Other impressive turns came from goalkeeper Mark Walton - solid and decisive, centre back Dave Greene who gobbled up everything that was thrown at him, and full back Danny Gabbidon who looked the part as soon as he came on to replace captain Andy Thompson after a couple of minutes, and wheedled his way into the Bluebirds fans' hearts with a blistering 50 yard run when he took on and beat half the Blackpool defence.
The opening goal on 35 minutes followed a mazy run from Brayson, the ball breaking loose to Nugent who hammered it into the net. More pressure followed before and after the break, but as with so many previous Bluebirds teams they were simply unable to hang onto their prey long enough to be able to kill the game stone dead. Closure was postponed and the final capitualtion was a bitter opening day pill to swallow. Many City fans have already started placing the Championship champagne on ice, but they should remember that if you don't win your home games you ain't going nowhere. This team have some exciting component parts but have yet to gell into a fully-fledged unit.
One thing was unmistakeable, the strength of the fans' desire is as palpable as ever. And if Sam Hammam is the man to bankroll the long march up the divisions then so be it - but please let us have no more degrading circus-like gimmicks. A successful team will ensure the self-fulfilling-prophecy takes its own course - we do not need the party tricks and the craven media-flirting japes. Let's get on with the footy.
©Paul Davies 2000
Exeter 1 Cardiff 2 12.08.00
City got the season off to a great start with an impressive victory over Exeter. Cardiff dominated proceedings from the start and should have beaten Exeter more comfortably. A big City crowd of 1,500+ made the journey to see the new new crazy gang partnership of Sam Hammam and Bobby Gould get off to a winning start.
Trouble at Newport 08.08.00
The season hasn't even started and the Neanderthals are already doing their best to wreck City's future. After a 1-0 victory against Newport in a friendly match at Spytty Park, trouble broke out in and around the Newport ground, with the police making eight arrests. The trouble comes just days before the publication of a criminal intelligence league table showing that Cardiff fans have one of the worst records for hooliganism in the UK. And then some people wonder why we have trouble attracting investors...
Pre season there's been some very interesting developments with Sam Hamman finally buying the club and promising to deliver a team capable of reaching the Premiership.
Yeah, I know we've all heard that about a billion times before, but he has a proven track record, and frankly anything's got to be better than the debacle of the past decade...