Tuesday 10th February 2015
Cardiff City 0-0 Brighton & Hove Albion
Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff.
[ENGLISH PYRAMID WARNING: The match report and blog entry below is based on a football match that occurred in the English Pyramid, in Wales]
It’s fair to say that things have been fairly unexciting down at the Cardiff City Stadium as of late. Under the helm of Russell Slade, the Bluebirds have struggled for points during the Winter months. Gaining only 7 points from a possible 33 and holding a precarious position in the Skybet Championship, sitting only six points above the relegation zone.
I debated whether to actually write a blog entry at all about this match, I truly did. For the purposes of completion, I decided, the morning after the match, to be brave and try and make an interesting blog entry based on a match with a total of two shots on target in the whole 93 minutes of action. I apologise to any new readers, and in fact to any readers in advance. If you wish to skip this blog entry and come back on the weekend, when normal Welsh League service is resumed, I’ll completely understand, I promise.
The evening started on Caroline Street, the city’s go-to place for late night calorie binges. At 6.45pm on a Tuesday night, the street is a far more civilised place, where adults make sensible choices on their food needs. Give it five or six hours and the very same street will be a mess of sprawled bodies, lying lifeless across the pavement, plastic boxes stacked up next to bins and shirtless men punching each other into oblivion.
Students and ironic types label the street “Chippy Alley”, “Kebab Alley”, “Pizza Alley” or any other seemingly infinite variation on the term “Alley”. Everyone else with a modicum of intelligence and a birth certificate issued in the 20th century simply calls it Caroline Street.
I’d come straight to the match from work, parking the car in Cathays, about two miles from the Cardiff City Stadium. So this evening’s fine dining experience was undertaken at Dorothy’s Chip Shop, choosing the Cheese, Chips and Curry Sauce meal. A smorgasbord if you will. I walked down to the stadium, in an attempt to burn off a small amount of the 7000 calories consumed in this one plastic box.
The ground looks a little quiet this evening, the bar queues are minimal and there is the general acceptance in the air that City will go all out for a draw. Nothing provides more evidence of this than the fact that my entire row in the Canton Stand which is usually full with season ticket holders holds only two brave souls this evening (myself and a guy who sits about 5 or 6 seats down from me).
Cardiff City made a promising deadline day signing in Eoin Doyle, from Chesterfield. Doyle is currently the top goal scorer in the Football League. So the decision to leave him on the bench for a match against Championship strugglers Brighton is a strange one. Especially when it later transpires that City line up for the first half in a cautious 4-5-1 formation.
The first half is sorrowful. Both teams start the match so slowly, both afraid of coming away with no points to show. The ball is held up in midfield by both sides for so long, that it takes 15 minutes for the first meaningful attack to happen.
The crowd are lifted half way through the first half when City midfielder Aron Gunnarsson unleashes a volley from 35 yards out, the ball immediately slices to his left, comically looking like it is going to go straight out to touch, before it curls even further, falling conveniently to the feet of winger Craig Noone.
At half time, Russell Slade breaks the rigid 4-5-1 and makes in change in bringing off the largely ineffective Stuart O’Keefe and replacing him with new signing Eoin Doyle in an attempt to make the breakthrough.
Aron Gunnarsson comes close midway through the second half, as a deflected shot hits the target, but is saved easily by the Brighton goalkeeper. The same player also fires a header over the bar from a corner late on.
The Bluebirds perk up a little in the last fifteen minutes or so, and the crowd sense this and raise their voices accordingly, but Cardiff continually find themselves a pass short of a good move. Peter Whittingham, as good as he has been in previous years, is anonymous in the midfield, choosing to play safe 50 yard passes back to goalkeeper David Marshall, who in frustration at the lack of attacking guile in the side, boots the ball into Row Z of the Grandstand.
The biggest laugh of the night comes when Ali Yassine, the stadium announcer tells us tonight’s attendance is 19,206. The crowd errupts in laughter, and chants of “Empy seats!” fill the air. Of course, the club include all season ticket holders in the official attendance, regardless of whether they actually attended the match or not. This bloats the attendance somewhat. I’m no expert in attendance predictions, but in previous boring games I’ve worked out that each seating “block” holds about 500 people. On a rough calculation, I reckon we’re looking at about 14,000 people actually through the gates tonight, if that.
The game fizzles out in stoppage time, with no urgent attempts by either team to break the deadlock. Brighton have more than deserved the point, looking more comfortable in possession of the football and looking the more likely to score, despite being wasteful in the final third of the pitch.
The dissenting voices can be heard at the final whistle, as the boos echo around the Cardiff City Stadium for the second or third match in a row. As I walk out into the Canton night, all manner of expletives are coupled with the name of Russell Slade. Others swear to never attend again.
If you’ve managed to reach this far in the blog, you’re a braver person than me. I, like you, look forward to normal Welsh pyramid action on the weekend.