Ninian Nerves

Posted by on Apr 12, 2010 in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

The dénouement to Cardiff City’s 2008-9 season was a shocker. A 6-0 defeat at Preston defied belief and the Bluebirds lost 1-0 at Sheffield Wednesday to agonisingly miss out on a play off place. The capital city club have been deserving a decent shot at promotion for some time now and the nervousness on display in their slightly fortunate home draw with Reading on Saturday is perhaps understandable in the circumstances.

A string of convincing results including a barnstorming South Wales derby win and a comfortable draw at Forest have put Cardiff within touching distance of the two leggers, so Dave Jones will be happy at having chalked up another point here. Defensively, the signs were especially encouraging. Mark Kennedy did well against Jimmy Kébé – his pace a major asset against such a rapid opponent. On the right, Kevin McNaughton largely negated the threat of Jobi McAnuff and Adam Matthews’ absence from the full back positions hardly registered. Centrally, Anthony Gerrard continues to make progress and many a Bluebirds’ fan was praising the performance of ex-Plymouth loanee Darcy Blake on exiting the ground: his was a display of pride and not prejudice.

In midfield, Joe Ledley could be found easing himself back into action after a hip operation. Still slightly short of match fitness, City’s major capital asset had a quiet but effective game as he and Stephen McPhail battled gamely against a three man Reading central midfield. Unlikely top scorer Peter Whittingham tortured Andy Griffin in the early stages but just as with Jerome Thomas a couple of weeks previously, Reading’s own silver fox gained the upper hand by the end. At outside right, Kelvin Etuhu’s pace caused issues and he looked more effective on this occasion than find of the season Chris Burke, forced largely to defend after coming on late.

Up front, those twin diddy men Michael Chopra and Ross McCormack, each afforded a half of action, enjoyed little succour in the April sunshine and it was left to Jay Bothroyd, the lower divisions’ Bobby Zamora, to lead the line. Intensely annoying for opposing fans with his little elbows and niggles, the ex-Perugia man continues to be, in my opinion, hugely impressive. His was a performance of cleverness that might suggest another shot at the EPL is in order – with the equally astute Dave Jones at the helm, that might be at the City of Cardiff Stadium.

Rob Langham
Rob Langham (pen name: Lanterne Rouge) is co-founder of the defiantly non-partisan football league blog, The Two Unfortunates, a website that occasionally strays into covering issues of wider importance. He's 47 and lives in Oxford while retaining his boyhood support of Reading FC. He tweets as @twounfortunates and has written for a number of websites and publications including The Football Attic, The Inside Left, When Saturday Comes, In Bed with Maradona, Futbolgrad and The Blizzard as well as being nominated for the Football Supporters' Federation Blogger of the Year Award in 2013.

7 Comments

  1. mirkobolesan
    April 12, 2010

    Reading were as impressive a side as I've seen at Cardiff this season. (Though oddly I felt they caused us more problems at the Madejski during their dreadful run of form than on Saturday!)

    Cardiff's front players were very subdued. Whittingham is having one of his quiet periods of the season, Burke was coming back from injury, Chopra looked disinterested (perhaps the Grand National was on his mind?) and McCormack simply isn't the player who scored the hatful of goals last term.

    Bothroyd is always the main focus of our attacks, he played well again on Saturday. Dave Jones appears to have turned the guy's career around.

    After throwing away an 11 point lead and an advantage of +18 GD over Preston last season Cardiff fans are, in the main, delighted to see the club scrappily nudge their way toward a playoff place.

    If the season were only a couple of weeks longer I would expect Reading to be in there. They've timed their run badly, unfortunately for them!

    Reply
  2. Lanterne Rouge
    April 12, 2010

    Thanks “Mirko” – it was an enjoyable match and agree that Reading also played well in the Mad Stad encounter. My fellow blogger Lloyd was at that game with me back in the Autumn and felt that Royals lacked width that night, lining up as they did with 4 centre mid players stretched across the midfield. Although Kebe and McAnuff were comparatively quiet on saturday, the extra width is making a difference.

    Love the comment about the Grand National. I still think Cardiff look very handy indeed and that back 4 looks very strong – especially good to see Blake emrge as a decent option. Losing Johnson in the summer was a big blow, so to be in a slightly better position 12 months on is creditable.

    Reply
  3. mirkobolesan
    April 12, 2010

    What's odd is that last season Cardiff achieved 74 points. This season I suspect 70 will be enough to gain a playoff place – I actually think that Cardiff will be in the playoffs if they don't earn any more points this term.

    The defence has been of ongoing concern for most of the season. What's strange is that our last two matches have been 0-0 after a run of 65 matches without a goalless draw. Our recent good form in defence has come at a time when our first choice defenders: Gyepes, Hudson, Gerrard, McNaughton and Kennedy have all had time out with injuries and suspension.

    The truth is that Darcy Blake would simply not have been in the side (or even the club) had Cardiff City not had a transfer embargo placed upon them in November – stretching through until Feb. After an unsuccessful loan spell at Plymouth earlier this year I am amazed by his recent excellent form. 'Sometimes' managers do know better than fans, after all I think it's not long ago that Reading fans wanted to see the back of Jimmy Kebe!

    Reply
  4. Lanterne Rouge
    April 12, 2010

    Exactly – I always had faith in him as his pace is frightening but at the back end of last year, even I lost faith after one too many wayward cross. delighted to see him doing so well. Perhaps my fellwo Unfortunate Lloyd will have a view on Darcy Blake's spell at Home Park?

    Reply
  5. Lloyd
    April 12, 2010

    I wouldn't say that Blake's spell was unsuccessful, merely that it coincided with a horror period for Argyle when we had a massive squad which was rife with indiscipline. He also picked up a bad injury if I remember rightly. From the games that I saw him play, he looked fine and was tidy. Certainly good enough for fans to give him a good reception when he next plays at Home Park for Cardiff or whoever.

    Reply
  6. Ben
    April 12, 2010 Reply
  7. Ben
    April 12, 2010

    Funny you should mention Chopra and the Grand National, Mirko – we spotted him in a bookies down at the Bay on Friday night…

    Reply

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