Cardiff 0 -2 Preston. Comment

Last updated : 13 February 2024 By Paul Evans

Well, all of the late additions in the January transfer window and the returning Aaron Ramsey have made no difference, we’re still not just bad at home – we’re pathetic.


Our early exit from the FA Cup meant that we did not have a chance to break up a schedule which had us not playing at home for four weeks, but, in a way, that was no bad thing because it gave the chance for the horror show that was Cardiff 0 Leeds 3 to fade from memories, while last week’s good win at Watford offered the hope that the feelgood factor that victory generated could spill over into the home game which followed.

Of course, if you are a cynic (I’m afraid I’m definitely one now when it comes to City playing at home) or, as I would argue, a realist, then you would remember that no end of good away wins have been followed within the next eight days by a turgid home defeat.

In fact, it’s happened so often over the past three and a half years that you know that no matter how much the personnel changes on or off the pitch, we are a lot more likely to lose than we are to win when we have what most other clubs regard as the advantage of playing at home.

I mentioned the Leeds game earlier, well, today’s 2-0 loss to Preston wasn’t as bad. Against Leeds there was a complete absence of hope that we could stem and then turn around the tide which saw play centred around our goal, but today there was hope for a while – a short while perhaps, but twenty minutes or so of “domination” is a scrag end bone to be fed on voraciously if you’re a City fan.

Before going on to the small amount I want to say about the game (this is going to be a shorter report of the actual match than normal because, as I’ve said before, it’s gets impossible to think of anything new to say about a problem that has existed for close to four seasons now), a few words about City’s starting line up.

Erol Bulut has been picking City teams and formulating match tactics for six months now and my opinion is that, like very many managers, entertainment does not figure high on his list of priorities, but I now think he is in the Jose Mourinho class when it comes to ensuring that his teams does not entertain. Bulut couldn’t have been more clear about what he expects from his players when they don’t have the ball and, although I accept that this is an important part of the game, I think it’s possible, or even probable, that he places more importance on it than he does on what they can do with the ball.

On second thoughts, that might be too harsh a judgement, but I definitely think Bulut’s tactical approach and selections are dictated by what he thinks the opposition will do. Using today as an example, Preston played with two strikers and a proper number ten in beating Ipswich last week and so, Bulut went even more defensive than usual today as, besides having his normal two sitting in front of the defence, he also instructed David Turnbull to play deeper than you’d expect him to on his home debut with the result that our striker (Kion Etete) was left even more isolated than usual and often dropped into the sort of areas that you’d expect a number ten to be filling.

So, while Preston, as the away side, went ahead with what was quite a bold approach, we got even less players into forward areas than we normally do in home games – and people wonder why we’ve only scored in two of the last seven games played at Cardiff City Stadium!

The area I’m talking about is the one Rubin Colwill has been occupying in recent games. Colwill was very influential last week at Watford and has, by general consent, been playing well lately. However, as someone who always fights the Colwill corner, I did make a point in my Watford reaction piece of saying that his performance, while very encouraging, wasn’t perfect.

Nevertheless, I think it’s fair to say that Colwill has been winning over some of his doubters recently and has been playing well on a pretty consistent basis. The question Erol Bulut was asked about Colwill in the pre game press conference on Thursday reflected that thinking, but the manager’s answer was a surprise as he once again voiced reservations about the player and came over to me at least as someone who was more intent on burying Colwill than praising him.

It came as no real surprise then to see that Colwill was back on the bench today, but what was a shock was that, with his team lacking invention and an X factor as they laboured to string two passes together once they went behind, Colwill was not introduced until the seventieth minute and was the last of the five substitutions. To my mind, he should never have been on the bench in the first place, but, having been put there, he should have been the first one to come off it, not the fifth.

Despite Bulut’s even more defensive selection and tactics though, City, playing towards the Canton Stand in the opening half for the first time in ages after Preston won the toss, made a bright start, by home game standards at least, by doing most of the attacking early on.

With Manolis Siopis dictating things and Preston looking pretty sloppy, there were even on target efforts from City early on, when in recent home games it’s often been a case of spot the shot.

However, the two shots by Etete and one by Karlan Grant were all straight at Freddie Woodman, not that well struck and were all from around twenty yards out.

Preston were toothless during this period and it really was against the run of play when Emil Riis cut in from the left in the space vacated by Perry Ng (one of several City players whose average level of performance in away games is some way above what we’re seeing from them in home matches) who had lost the ball deep in Preston territory, beat Dimitri Goutas too easily and shot home from eight yards.

The effect of that goal was dramatic as City collapsed like a house of cards and Preston were never troubled again until Goutas (having his worst game in months) had a very well struck effort from thirty yards held by Woodman deep into added time at the end of the game.

That shot represented City’s only worthwhile effort on goal in a second period which began with the introduction of an understandably rusty Aaron Ramsey and Josh Wilson-Esbrand for Ryan Wintle and Josh Bowler. The Welsh international was able to offer little to overturn Preston’s comfortable superiority and, in fact, the latter couldn’t either, but the Man City loanee was at least able to add some much needed pace to his pedestrian team.

Maybe City would have offered a bit more resistance were it not for the visitors doubling their lead five minutes before half time. The move which ended with Ben Whiteman besting Jak Alnwick from twelve yards was of a quality and slickness City never came close to matching, but the visitors’ cause was aided considerably by referee Dean Whitestone who first, bafflingly, decided to penalise Etete for some reason and then ignored a blatant two handed push on the striker by Jordan Storey which provided the possession for the visitors which led to the goal. Those decisions earned Bulut a yellow card for his protests regarding the first one and Etete one for dissent against the second one – the latter one in particular being a disgraceful decision in my opinion,

City cannot blame the ref for their defeat though, just like they cannot blame officials for the fact we’ve had more than three and a half seasons of rubbish being played on our own pitch. Although I doubt it myself, maybe today’s defeat will finally end the talk of a Play Off place – our home form since we last reached them in 2020 is just not good enough to think of such things now.