Cardiff 0 - 1 Birmingham. Comment

Last updated : 16 December 2023 By Paul Evans

I’d say Cardiff City played marginally better in losing 1-0 to Birmingham at home tonight than they did in beating Millwall by the same score on Saturday, but whether you disagree with me or not there, the simple truth is that if you throw in the home game before that against West Brom, we’ve played not far short of three hundred minutes and I’m struggling to remember a single chance we’ve created in open play.


We’ve now lost three home matches out of four and I’d say that we’ve played seven consecutive very mediocre halves of football on our own ground now since we scored twice just before half time to go in at the interval 2-1 up against Norwich. Unfortunately, having coped pretty well without Aaron Ramsey for a couple months, the last six weeks or so have really illustrated the lack of creativity and ability to deliver an effective final ball in our ranks – our set piece strength is all that we have to fall back on now it would seem when it comes to sticking the ball in the net.

Joe Ralls was missing tonight with what was described as a minor injury and I suppose he may have been able to pick out a pass or two which might have given Birmingham the odd problem, , without him though, we only had one player who drove us forward in the middle of the park and passed the ball with any cleverness.

Rubin Colwill made his first league start of the season tonight and I think the fact that Erol Bulut kept him on for the whole ninety five minutes tells the story that the player he has been critical of at times this season was the one he felt he could trust most tonight.

The problem is that, although Colwill. was my choice for City man of the match, his performance didn’t merit more than, say, a six or seven out of ten, yet I’d say that was two marks higher than any of the others in midfield and attack.

Actually, that’s probably a little unfair on Kion Etete, who was given a start and didn’t do badly until   he was, surprisingly, withdrawn around the hour mark and Yakou Meite who was selected on the right wing and, in his Boris Johnson shopping trolley way, gave visiting left back Lee Buchanan some awkward moments.

The central point remains though, City are just not creating anything. Even last season with all of those games we did not score in, there was usually the odd chance created where we could show that our finishing was crap, but, lately there’s been nothing – when’s the last time a City forward missed a sitter?

Etete put a  pretty good opportunity over the bar within seconds of him coming on against Millwall, but it wasn’t what I’d call a great chance – the last one I can remember is Karlan Grant in a one on one with the Norwich keeper over a month ago.

Just as on Saturday, City made basic ball control and the ability to deliver simple and effective passes look beyond them for much of the time and this time they could not use the weather conditions as an excuse for the inadequacies that marked them down as well below Championship standard when it came to the technical side of the game.

Let’s remember that tonight we were up against the team with the worst record in the Championship in the period since Wayne Rooney was appointed Birmingham manager and a team that had lost their previous eight away games. Yet, by the end, I don’t think you could deny that the visitors deserved their win even if their goal had an element of luck to it.

Referee Steve Martin had not had a bad first half really, but what happened in the time after the two minutes extra that had been shown by the fourth official rather blotted his copybook – City were attacking near the Birmingham corner flag when Etete went down under a challenge by ex City loanee Dion Sanderson and knocked his team mate Colwill over in the act of falling.

That would not have been a problem if we’d been given the free kick that most were expecting, but when the whistle didn’t come, we were left with two men out of the game as Birmingham went the length of the pitch at hardly what I’d call breakneck speed to find Juninho Bacuna who clipped the ball over an unconvincing Alex Runnarson challenge and walked it into the net with more than a minute extra having been played over the signalled two when there had been nothing that had happened to justify the addition of that extra sixty seconds.

To be honest, I’m not convinced Etete was fouled, but I don’t get why the ref didn’t blow the whistle for half time somewhere between that incident and the goal – it was hardly as if play switched from one end to the other that quickly.

After that, the ref and the linesman on the Ninian Stand side of the ground earned the wrath of the home crowd, for making most of the marginal calls in favour of the visitors. That said, it seemed to me that often the City player involved was looking for the free kick because that would give us a dead ball situation from which a goal was far more likely to come compared to anything they tried to do themselves.

When you think of all of the attacking players we brought in during the summer and the emergence of someone like Ollie Tanner, it’s rather depressing that we’re now going through a phase where we’re beginning to look even more toothless than we were last season.

If you discount Aaron Ramsey for now, I make it that we have five new attacking players this season plus the three or four who were here last year, yet we look incapable of coming up with anything from open play.

Any attacking threat tonight came from set pieces, apart from when visiting keeper John Ruddy got in a bit of a mess with a ballooned cross by Mahlon Romeo, who replaced Perry Ng after a quarter of an hour, and almost presented Etete with a tap in. Dimitrios Goutas forced Ruddy into his best save of the night with a header from a Ryan Wintle free kick and then was not far away from reaching Wintle’s subsequent corner as Mark McGuinness tried, but failed, to turn the ball in at the far post.

Forty five minutes of thud and blunder second half attacking only produced a free kick on the edge of the penalty area gained by another sub, Josh Bowler just as the signalled added five minutes was up – Colwill got his shot from the free kick on target, but Ruddy was able to make what was a pretty simple diving save and that was that.

Up the other end, Runnarson had to make a couple of decent saves in the first half and then was the busier keeper in the second period as the visitors created and wasted the chances to make the game safe – although the truth was that as long as they stayed vigilant when defending set pieces, the game was already won at 1-0.