A Spark Of Passion
I made my way down to Cardiff City Stadium on Tuesday night. It was a joyous occasion for me because as times are tight, and I don’t normally get the chance to go down and see City play two weeks in a row. It had been a week since I’d seen Ole Gunnar’s last hurrah against Middlesbrough (which turned out to be less of a hurrah and more of a damp squeak).
A turnaround, I though. It’s Bournemouth, if there’s anybody to turn it around against, these are the ones. Our fortunes would be changed, and a boost of confidence for the lads (and indeed, for the fans). But it wasn’t to be… In fact, it was such a shocker, I’ve not trusted myself to write about it until today. If I had thought our match against The Boro was poor, and lacking in discipline and confidence then somehow our Capital One Cup match against AFC Bournemouth was truly dire. Guerra and Kim being pulled off a little early was, while slightly surprising, certainly deserved. Bringing on Daehli after half an hour was probably the best thing that happened in the match, It was just unfortunate that within that thirty minutes, the cherries had already put three past our keeper for the night Simon Moore.
Another lackluster performance which made me angry in many ways. Yes, we lost the match which is never a nice thing, but that’s not what got to me. All I ask during any game, win, lose, or draw, is that the team put in a solid performance and try their best. Effort is all that’s required and, with the exception of Mats Muller, there seemed to be no enthusiasm or guts in the squad. 50/50 challenges were all won by Bournemouth, with City players pulling out at the last seconds, some of the team it seemed were too tired to run a meter to pick up a ball.
Whether our problems here stem just from team fitness or from a lack of enthusiasm, it was clear that something needed to be done by our caretaker managers Young and Gabbidon to get the squad moving. It was thought at first that this may have been their last game in charge but legal wranglings left them with at least one last game at home against Sheffield Wednesday. We did see Slade, not in the director’s Box (which is probably due to the legal issues mentioned) but high up in the gods of the grandstand watching over the match.
Steering aside from their 7-0 cup defeat to Manchester City, The Owls have had a fairly good Championship run this year, 9th in the table doesn’t reflect the fact that Sheffield have the second best defence in the league, behind 5th place wolves. Undefeated in 3 games, and with all of those being clean sheets it wasn’t going to be an easy ride for city, even in front of a home crowd (and especially not a home crowd who’ve been baying for blood for a few weeks now).
The first 20 minutes had my heart in my throat and my head in my hands, it seemed we were going the same way as we had with a lack of forward momentum and constantly playing catch up. There was nothing particularly special with regards to the Owls’ squad, no shining stars and no flamboyant Brazilian technique, quite the opposite in fact. Their team was regimented, and they played good, solid football. The Bluebirds’ boys seemed disjointed again and lacking direction. Luckily, the defensive team stayed strong, especially Manga and Fabio (who as well as being my Man Of the Match also cleared a certain goal off the line to keep us level).
Then, something turned around. I don’t know what it was, but it was the turning point for the match and I think also for a ot of city fans, who’d become bored and angry with the apathy shown over the last few weeks. Suddenly, there was a pace to City, a hunger which showed well and surprised the visitors. We were making inroads, getting into their half and, importantly, their penalty area. It came to a head in the 39th minute as Morrison got a powerful header onto Whittingham’s cross, finding the back of the net and giving Cardiff the spur they needed. We went into the break 1-0 up against a good side, and you can be certain that for the first time in a little while, the Cardiff fans went to get their half time refreshments with a spring in their step.
Unfortunately that wouldn’t have lasted long, as Sheffield came back out as the better side once again. It took just just five minutes for them to pile the pressure on enough for our account opener Morrison to open up his second of the match, this time unfortunately his own goal account. Bringing us back level and 1-1 with the visitors. This time, though, the crowd didn’t give up and the twelfth man, as well as the nudge given to the Bluebirds by the equaliser brought us right back into it. Once again, City surged forward and started creating problems for the Owls, leading to a long overdue goal by Pilkington around ten minutes later, which the Bluebirds managed to hold on to until the final whistle
While I love the result and the three points it brings us, the thing that gives me more hope about this match is the attitude of the players. apart from the few minutes at the start of each half, we showed willing, some momentum and direction once more. We were on the front foot for a good long time, and piling the pressure on the yellow shirts of Sheffield. It felt good, not just to get that extra inch up the table, but just to see some of the fire and passion which has been lacking. As ever, the next game, is a different story. Come on Bluebirds.