Wednesday 17th March 2015
Cardiff City 1-1 AFC Bournemouth.
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]
Being a Cardiff City fan at the moment is fraught with binary emotions, a barren wasteland of juxtaposition and confusion.
Vincent Tan starts the season as Public Enemy No.1, maintaining his hard stance on the red shirts debacle. A sudden change of heart brought about by a quiet word from his mother over the Christmas break leads to the Malaysian leader making a swift u-turn on his decision and allowing the club to once again grace the traditional blue shirts and embrace the traditional bluebird crest.
Cardiff City, for all their promise at the start of the season, let us not forget started the season as favourites to win the league and make an immediate return to the Premier League. On paper their squad looked by far and away the best in the division. They lined up with bags of Premier League experience from the likes of Kenwyne Jones, Federico Macheda and Fabio. Whilst lining up with the likes of Peter Whittingham, Craig Noone, Simon Morrison and Aron Gunnarsson. All of whom have spent the best part of the last five years or so skirting around the upper eschelons of the Championship.
The impressive squad however, have under-impressed on more than one occasion this year and they find themselves stuck in a state of mid-table obscurity, sitting about ten points safe from the relegation dogfight below them and a good fifteen points away being serious play-off contenders.
With a fortnight to go until the season ticket renewal deadline, having all but made the decision to not renew my season ticket next year (a decision I’ve made based on my current discontentment with the way the club is being run by Vincent Tan) I’ve come to the conclusion that I will most likely take a year out, or a gap year if you will, from being a season ticket holder at Cardiff City.
I’ve had the time of life so far going to these Welsh League matches and to be completely honest I’ve found myself on more than one occasion being a little bit gutted when Cardiff City matches come up, as they seem to be getting in the way of some storming games in the Welsh Premier and the Welsh League. I chose to miss out on the recent home defeat to Charlton for example, to attend the first leg of the Ceredigion Groundhop.
I’ve therefore made the decision that I’ll still attend some chosen home games next season and I’ll still attend the same number of away games as I currently do. But I think a year away from it all will do both myself and the club some good. I’ll always be a Cardiff City supporter, it’s in my blood. But until I get back that feeling of the match being the highlight of my day, regardless of the result and until I can feel the excitement of a match day train ride to Grangetown station and the feeling of the adrenaline pumping through my veins as I walk up the steps to my seat, then it’s best that I wait until that feeling returns.
With all of this in mind, watching Cardiff City at the moment feels like an elongated break up with a long term girlfriend. She knows the relationship is ending, you know the relationship is ending but both parties are too afraid to let go for fear of perhaps being alone.
My wife and I debate having a proper pub meal before the match but everywhere we try to grab a table is filled with students wearing ‘whacky’ Guinness hats, a quick check of the date and I remember that today is St. Patrick’s Day. So we skip the pub meal idea and go with the default choice of a Veggie Patty at Subway, again.
The walk down to the stadium is pretty telling. It’s a midweek night game under the floodlights and after the earlier realization that tonight is St. Patricks Night I recall that tonight roughly marks two years, nearly to the day, when we played Leicester City in what turned out to be a fairly uneventful 0-0 draw. I’d been working until 7pm in Newport, 10 miles or so away. I had to make the 10 mile journey through match day traffic and sprint the last mile or so from the last parking space I could find on Hadfield Road. I arrived at the stadium that night at 7.45pm sharp, just in time to hear the match kicking off as I joined the back of a queue that must have been 1000 people deep, all eager and still waiting to enter the turnstiles.
Tonight my wife and I walked into the stadium car park at the same time, to find a mere handful of people mulling around outside the turnstiles, mainly folks who were searching high and low for a misplaced ticket – or people who were just taking their last deep gulp of a can of Strongbow before discarding it and walking in to the concourse.
Gone were the thousands of ambitious hopefuls, awaiting the inevitable promotion to England’s green and pleasant land, replaced by hardy souls, looking forward to a schooling in football from Championship new boys AFC Bournemouth.
Bournemouth have been one of the surprise packages of this season, commanding the top spot in the league going into the last ten games after starting the season as relegation favourites.
It’s clear to see why they find themselves top of the league as they start the match at a frantic pace, playing some beautiful, attractive passing football and always looking calm with the ball at their feet. What’s noticeable about Bournemouth is the way they play the ball from the back at all times, in a similar way to the Swansea City of three or four seasons ago, but a little more direct.
Bournemouth come within inches of scoring after about a quarter of an hour when the creative and tricky Marc Pugh, an ex-Hereford player, picked up the ball about 25 yards from goal and unleashed a rocket of a shot which beat Simon Moore in the Cardiff goal but cannoned back off the crossbar. Pugh was afforded a second chance from the rebound but could only hit his second shot wide.
Artur Boruc, keeping goal for the Cherries was tested twice in quick succession shortly after, impressively saving shots from Alex Revell and Craig Noone.
The inevitable break through for Bournemouth came from the foot of Harry Arter, who had been afforded far too much space in the middle of the park. Arter picked up the ball about thirty yards from goal and was given too much space and time and was allowed to hit an absolute gem of a shot towards goal, in a similar fashion to his colleague Marc Pugh minutes earlier. Unlike Pugh however, Arter picked his spot and converted to put the Cherries in the lead.
The rest of the half passed away relatively quickly. Bournemouth for the most part, held the ball well and threatened the Bluebirds on a number of occasions and were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty close to half time when a clumsy challenge lead to a Bournemouth striker being upended. The referee and linesman waved the Bournemouth protests away.
Bournemouth came out for the second half with the same attacking mindset and were desperately unlucky not to put the game to bed ten minutes into the second half after a Matt Ritchie shot was deflected onto the post by way of Bruno Manga’s foot.
Cardiff presented very little attacking threat, other than by way of set pieces. After some fruitless efforts in the early stages of the second half, Peter Whittingham delivered a brilliant corner kick onto the forehead of centre back Bruno Manga who headed home powerfully from ten yards out, leveling the scores in the match.
The Bluebirds looked the more likely to secure a winner in the closing twenty minutes but never really tested Boruc in the Cherries goal. Their increased possession didn’t translate into increased attempts on goal.
The Bluebirds didn’t manage to close the game out without one real ‘hearts in mouths’ moments for their supporters, as a misplaced back pass by goal scorer Bruno Manga lead to a footrace to the ball for both goalkeeper Simon Moore and Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson. Luckily for Manga, his goalkeeper was able to boot the ball into the safety of the Ninian Stand.
The match ended with the points being shared among the teams. Both sides will probably feel this was a fair result on the balance of things. Bournemouth having much the better first half and Cardiff probably shading the second half.
Bournemouth look a very exciting prospect going into the final few games of the season and there is no doubt that on their day they could teach a few teams a lesson or two. I fully expect them to go up in the automatic promotion places come May.