There’s usually one or two away matches a season when, for whatever reason, I’m not even able to listen on the radio. Yesterday’s 2-1 win at Leeds was one of those occasions, so, as usual when this happens, I’ll limit myself to a shorter piece containing a few general observations that occur to me.
The first one is to wonder how it is that teams can turn problematical home or away form around, but, so often, it’s at the expense of their previously stronger suit.
It’s just over five months since we beat Leeds 3-1 at Cardiff City Stadium, it was our fourth consecutive home league victory and, when we somehow managed to beat Reading in our next game there, supporters could be forgiven for thinking a promotion challenge built around powerful home form could still be on the cards.
Since then, we have managed to beat only a hopeless Fulham and a disinterested Birmingham in twelve home matches, half of which have been lost. By contrast, while we were seeing off Leeds for the first time, we were on a woeful away run from which we had got just four points, and no wins, from seven matches that had seen us score just five times.
One point and no.goals from our next three away days meant City travelled to Watford in late November with very little optimism, but an Alamo style 1-0 win to go with those five consecutive home wins meant that confidence was probably as high as at any time in the season apart from the opening weeks of the campaign when we were supposed to have the Championship’s strongest ever squad!
As I mentioned before, since then we have shown relegation form at Cardiff City Stadium and yet we’ve been doing fine on our travels – including the win at Vicarage Road, our away record since we went to pot at home reads five wins, four draws and three losses and it’s now seven away matches since we lost.
The manner of Monday’s defeat by Bolton suggests that confidence is an issue for the team when they play at home and yet they can go to Leeds without any City fans there and, by all accounts, be well worth their win – the team that couldn’t buy a goal on their travels in the autumn, had seventeen goal attempts.
Perhaps the lack of away supporters was in City’s favour given how hard they find playing in front of their fans lately? I’m not sure about that though, after all, it’s hardly as if they had no support in the six away games before yesterday.
Certainly, the loss of atmosphere over the past fifteen months or so at Cardiff City Stadium means that the home crowd are hardly the proverbial twelfth man for the team these days and there have been times when they have turned against the players – for example, Watford, Brighton and Bolton.
However, certainly around by me, the mood has been more one of resignation than anger – okay, that can’t be easy for the players I’m sure, but I’ve seen far worse stick handed out to other City sides in home matches down the years.
No, it’s a mystery to me why we’ve become so bad at home just as we have got things right on our travels, but I would say that I believe the problem is in the team’s collective head rather than anything tactical.
On the face of it, having our remaining home matches against a side that is already relegated and another that looks pretty certain to be playing in League One next season gives us a chance of signing off with a couple of wins, but the team have not carried their away form and confidence into home games before now and I won’t be counting any chickens.
Well, that went on longer than I meant it to – let’s see if I can be more succinct with my second point!
It’s another question actually. Regular readers of this blog will know that I have been a persistent critic of Peter Whittingham this season, but I have to wonder how many goals we would have scored without his dead ball accuracy – where would you place him in your list of best dead ball exponents you’ve seen at the club? I’d rate Jason Koumas above him when it came to free kicks, but I’m not sure I’ve seen a better corner taker.
Finally, I’ve got to say that if you told me in the 70s I could pick one side which City could beat virtually every time we played them, a side that would be unable to beat us in seventeen games over thirty one years, the only reason I wouldn’t have said Leeds United was because I never thought we would end up playing them that often.
No other club treats City supporters as if the soul crew was still alive and fighting these days except for Leeds and yet even in this miserable season, and when there were no City fans present, we still went up and completed our customary double over them. Thank you Leeds United, you were a source of a lot of despair and frustration in the first thirty years of my life, but you’ve made up for that by being responsible for much satisfaction and mirth in the second thirty!
* pictures courtesy of http://www.walesonline.co.uk/