Bristol City 0 - 1 Cardiff City. Comment

Last updated : 03 March 2024 By Paul Evans

Today’s just about deserved 1-0 win for Cardiff City at Ashton Gate in what has become known as the Severnside derby must surely mean that we’ll be playing Championship football again next season, but it also means City win this season’s Bristol Channel league, a tournament which only exists in my head and maybe the heads of one or two more who share my nerdish tendencies!


City have grown used to finishing bottom of the mini league based on the outcome of games between us, the jacks and the wurzels in recent years, but in 23/24 that’s three wins out of three now with one to play, while both Swansea and Bristol (who meet at Ashton Gate next weekend) are going to have at least two defeats each to their local rivals.

I suppose if there is such a thing as a typical Cardiff City away win in the 2020’s, then this encapsulates it – a tight game, low on goalmouth incident and talking points, decided by a solitary goal headed in from a free kick or corner by one of our defenders.
Former Bristol striker Leroy Rosenior was the guest summariser on the stream of the match I watched and, like all ex footballers commenting on a match in which one of his former clubs was taking part in, he was very biased. However, by the end he was admitting that Cardiff “had done what they do” in scoring from a set piece and there was a kind of grudging acceptance that City had done a job on the team he and his son had played for.
For me, City were more impressive this lunchtime than they were in beating Stoke last weekend and in the relatively recent away victories over Sheffield Wednesday and Watford. This was more like the win at QPR on New Years Day sandwiched in between those Sheffield and Watford matches because I felt pretty confident watching us at what I still call Loftus Road and, apart from one or two dodgy moments late on, it was like that today.
It wasn’t the fast, flowing attacking football we were playing which was responsible for my feeling of comfort (when was the last time the term “fast, flowing attacking football” could be applied to us unless we were the victims of it?), but the way we were able to keep the wurzels at arms length so easily.
Going back more then eighteen months to our previous visit to Ashton Gate in a game we lost 2-0, I can remember thinking that Bristol had a squad with so many goals in it. Tommy Conway had just broken into the team and scored a typical striker’s headed goal to open the scoring that day and there were experienced front men like Andreas Weizmann, Nahqi Wells and Chris Martin in their squad
Of course, there was also the very talented Alex Scott in midfield to prompt things, but, looking at Bristol from a distance it seems that a decision to tighten things up at the back has been made with the intention of turning them from streaky, fairly high scoring mid table mediocrity merchants into top six challengers, but all that has happened is that they’ve become streaky, lower scoring mid table mediocrity merchants.
Martin is still in Bristol, but is now playing for Rovers, Weimann has moved to West Brom and scored against us recently and Scott is now making an impact in the Premier League with Bournemouth. Wells is still there and started today, but is thirty three now and he looked all of those years this lunchtime. Wells was replaced quite early in the second half by Conway who is top scorer this season and received plenty of publicity for the couple of goals he scored in the two recent games with West Ham in the FA Cup, but he’s not scored a league goal since before Christmas.
Bristol scored three in their recent win over Southampton and it wasn’t too long ago that they scored seven in beating Watford and Hull in successive matches. We’ve not scored more than two in a match for almost five months, so they’re still capable of scoring bursts that we can’t match, but we’ve scored more goals than them overall this season and, based on their last three, goalless, games with us, which have all been lost, they are no nearer becoming serious Premier League contenders than they have been since they returned to the Championship under Steve Cotterill. This is despite their successful Academy which has helped raise tens of millions of pounds in transfer fees for them in recent years.
City recalled David Turnbull for the injured Karlan Grant in the only change from the Stoke win and the Scot was used in the central attacking midfield role behind Kion Etete with Rubin Colwill moving over to the left as a completely different type of operator to the missing Grant.
There was some snow overnight on both sides of the Bristol Channel, but it was persistent and often heavy rain which made the pitch into the sort of greasy, fast surface which can often lead to plenty of goalmouth thrills and spills. Here though, the slick surface was more of a factor in causing intended through balls and passes to shoot on out of play or through to goalkeepers – the surface also was a factor in exposing faulty techniques and the early stages included plenty of miscontrolled touches on both sides as the first half passed by with little in the way of incident.
Bristol did build up something of a head of steam as they forced a series of corners that City struggled to deal with. From one of them, the ball found its way to Mark Sykes who got away a ten yard shot that Ethan Horvath was able to block, but there wasn’t too much else to concern the away side.
In truth, it was they who came closer to scoring in the first period, first when Turnbull, giving his best display by a distance in a City shirt so far, turned a Josh Bowler pass wide and the winger then fired not too far over from twenty five yards, but it was Perry Ng’s well struck effort from a similar distance which seemed to gain pace off the pitch and was well held by home keeper Max O’Leary, which represented the highlight of a pretty dull first forty five minutes.
City looked the better team in the early minutes of the second half as Etete picked up the injury which forced him off shortly afterwards in gaining a free kick some thirty yards from goal Interestingly, it was perhaps proof of Turnbull’s increasing influence that it was he, not Ng, who had the shot from the free kick as O’Leary held on easily.
As the game reached the end of its third quarter, City still hadn’t had a corner or a free kick from which they could swing in a testing cross, but a weaving run by Josh Wilson-Esbrand carried on by Colwill finally got that elusive corner and it was Turnbull who flighted over a cross which was met by Ng with a firm header into the bottom corner from six yards which gave O’Leary no chance.
Turnbull took two more corners that caused some alarm for the home side and Etete’s replacement, Yakou Meite, making one of his more effective substitute’s appearances, drew another decent save from O’Leary with a shot which looked to get a slight deflection.
Up the other end, an unmarked Sykes headed straight at Horvarth from an angle that he was going to struggle to score from seconds after Ng’s goal, but, that apart, it was plain sailing for City really until the eighty fifth minute when centreback Rob Dickie’s header was well saved by Horvarth, but the ball dropped to Conway who netted from six yards out to spark home celebrations which died down when the fact the linesman was flagging for what replays showed was a correct offside call was noticed.
Nevertheless, the disallowed goal got the home team and their supporters going and for the first time in the second period, there was an air of desperation to some of City’s defending as the six minutes of added time were seen out safely to make it seven points from the last nine to leave us equidistant from the top six and the bottom three – the nine point gap in both directions should prove insurmountable barring a run even worse than the one we have emerged from in the last ten days or so or the sort of winning run that I feel this side is incapable of.
Finally, I’ve mentioned before on here that because we barely ever played the jacks in the league in my early years supporting the club, I’ve always regarded the wurzels as our main rivals and I wonder if there has ever been a season where we did the league double over them at first team, reserve team (under 21) and youth team (under 18) levels like we have in 23/24? Yet, you ask how many of those age group teams who have faced each other this season will end up playing for their club’s senior team and all of the available evidence since we opened our Academy suggests it will be Bristol City.