Birmingham 0 - 1 Cardiff. Comment

Last updated : 14 April 2024 By Paul Evans

Once again Cardiff City showed they are a better side when they play away from home as they dropped Birmingham further into the relegation mix at St. Andrew’s tonight with a 1-0 win courtesy of a goal by Josh Bowler midway through the second half.

Apart from the 4-0 win at Huddersfield, I think I’m right in saying that all of our away wins have been by 1-0 or 2-1 and the closeness of the scores offers a big clue as to the nature of the matches – they have tended to be battles involving a lot of defending as we have shown that a perhaps unheralded virtue of ours is the ability to soak up sustained pressure, especially when we’re in the lead.

Actually, there is one other away win by more than a single goal victory margin, it was very early in the season and it was on the same ground as tonight’s match. The 3-1 victory at Birmingham in the Second Round of the League Cup is, from a footballing perspective, my favourite City game of this season.

Okay, it was against a Birmingham side that featured a few reserve players as you tend to get in the early rounds of that competition and they were reduced to ten men for most of the second half, but our team was hardly what most would have considered our strongest (a back three of Ebou Adams, Perry Ng and Mahlon Romeo would certainly not be Erol Bulut’s first choice defence).

Some of the names on the bench that night make for interesting reading now, Cian Ashford came on for his first team debut, Kieron Evans, who may well have played his last game for the club I suspect, came on and made a goal for Kion Etete that completed the scoring, while Joel Colwill, Jai Semenyo and Morgan Wigley were unused subs.

We played some really nice football that night and were doing so while it was eleven v eleven. Rubin Colwill scored a smooth early goal and the one that put us 2-0 up by Ryan Wintle was a beauty as well, but it was the inventive passing and slick movement of the ball which was most eye catching – City teams under this manager and others have not played like that in the Championship in recent seasons.

I dare say there’s an element of rose coloured spectacles involved in my memory of that game which has been intensified by the dross we’ve had to watch for much of the time from November onwards, but, for a few minutes at least tonight, it was a bit like being back in August when I was able to think for a short while that our new manager was someone with an attacking mind set who wanted his team to win, but also entertain.

After no end of false starts where he was selected as a sub, but didn’t get on, Ashford made a league debut tonight when he came on with twenty minutes to go. It was a shame that Joel Colwill had another evening in Birmingham kicking his heels on the bench, but his older brother was back after missing the last two games with injury.

Rubin was introduced as a half time substitute and by the time Ashford came on, he had probably become the most influential player on the pitch.

That’s not to say that Colwill senior took the game by the scruff of its neck as soon as he came on. It was quite the opposite actually as Birmingham, by simply upping their attacking pace, gave us an uncomfortable fifteen minutes or so under the cosh during which time Rubin was pretty anonymous.

There were one or two nice bits of skill to remind people he was on the pitch as the siege (maybe that’s too strong a word) started to lift and then for about a quarter of an hour, Colwill showed why he is such a much discussed subject among City fans as he started doing things that no one else in our first team squad can.

Okay, in an ideal world, you’d like a bit more than fifteen minutes of Colwill running the show (he did the same in our win at Watford in January), but, to be fair, he was only on the pitch for one half tonight and there were a few opportunities in the first forty five minutes when he might have been able to make a difference.

As for Ashford, he didn’t do anything spectacular, but, equally, he looked at home at this level and it would have been a help to him I would have thought that Colwill, the player he was most familiar with, was often close by as the debutante took over from Bowler on the right. I think if Ashford hadn’t been making his first appearance, he may have tried a shot himself from twenty yards rather than feed Jamilu Collins whose effort was blocked, but he, Colwill and David Turnbull, on for the last ten minutes for Joe Ralls, were able to make moving the ball forward look less laborious and less of a hardship than we usually make it appear.

This feels like a very significant defeat for Birmingham. I’m sure they would have been looking at Cardiff at home as a game they could definitely win and they would have had it down as a three pointer on the wall chart in the manager’s office, but now they find themselves with only relegated Rotherham below them. Birmingham are still only a point from safety and they have a better goal difference than Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield, but, apart from a trip to Rotherham, their remaining fixtures look pretty tough to me – play off contenders Coventry and Norwich at home, while their trip to Huddersfield at the end of this month is shaping up as a season defining game.

Birmingham had a couple of close misses in a first half where they played some neat stuff around the edge of the box at times, but looked a little lightweight and in need of an attacking focal point. First, they announced on their electric scoreboard that they were going to take a short corner (it was so bleeding obvious what they were going to do!) and yet still City stood off as Koji Miyoshi cut infield only to see his shot from the edge of the penalty area bounce out off Ethan Horvarth’s near post.

Jordan James, playing as a number ten and then bafflingly withdrawn for the last twenty minutes, had a shot from a similar range that beat Horvarth only to fly no more than a foot or two wide, but that was it really as far as the home side as an attacking force in the first half was concerned.

Up the other end, although there was little in the way of controlled attacking from City, Yakou Meite’s chaotic style was proving a bit more effective than usual, John Ruddy in the home goal made a bit of a meal of a low shot from twenty yards from the City striker, but did better in blocking a well struck effort from Meite from five yards further out after a good run by Karlan Grant.

Meite and Collins, having one of his best games of the season, both got to the bye line on the left as the first half ended on an encouraging note for City.

However, as mentioned earlier, Birmingham had their best spell of the match in the opening part of the second half, but City are good at coping with the ball coming back at them all of the time, it’s more when they have to face an isolated attack that they look vulnerable.

So it was that Birmingham’s pressure faded without them having a real chance to get that so important first goal and, as Colwill began to become an influence, so City began to believe they may yet get a win.

The goal came out of the blue as the home side lost possession in the middle of the pitch and suddenly there was a bit of space for Bowler and Colwill to work in and a perfectly worked one two saw the former beat Ruddy from twelve yards.

There were further chances which tended to fall to Grant with a shot that was deflected just wide coming the closest.  Birmingham stepped things up in the dying minutes, but, generally speaking, City held on comfortably with Horvarth a reassuring presence in goal.

I should just mention that it was Aaron Ramsey who went off at half time to bring about Colwill’s introduction. Ramsey, making his first start since the win over the jacks in mid September, may have felt a hamstring twinge and his withdrawal was a precaution, but I’m afraid it’s all got the look of the race being almost run as far as one of Welsh football’s greats is concerned.

Finally, there was an end of season feel to the under 21s 1-1 draw with Wigan at Cardiff City Stadium yesterday lunchtime, Fin Johnson scored early on for City, but then had a second half penalty saved after the visitors had equalised with a strange goal from a corner in which our trialist goalkeeper played a leading part.