So, with one home game to play, the number of home league defeats for the last two seasons reaches twenty one. We’ve hardly ever been a particularly strong team at Cardiff City Stadium, with something like four to six losses every year being the norm, so it’s hard to see how and why that hackneyed old term “Fortress Cardiff City Stadium” has ever been applied to what I still call our new ground. However, based on seasons 20/21 and 21/22, I understand an application will be made in the summer to turn the ground into a registered charity.
Now, it needs to be said that last season was exceptional in that all of our home games were played behind closed doors and this resulted in more away wins than normal – certainly, we were far from the only team to lose more than we won on their own ground and it was only by eight to nine.
So, there was something an excuse for very poor home record last season, but I find it impossible to come up with one this time around when supporters have been allowed back in for all but the Blackburn game in January I believe (Coventry and Derby, both due to be played behind closed doors, were postponed because of a Covid outbreak in the squad).
Even if we were to give Birmingham another 6-1 defeat to go with the one they got at Blackpool today in our final home match, it won’t alter the fact that today’s twelfth league loss at Cardiff City Stadium guarantees that more than half of the away sides to visit the ground this season for league matches will have returned home with three points.
That’s an appalling record – there’s been so many home losses in 21/22 that it becomes hard to recall them all, but, off the top of my head, I’d say only in the Reading and, maybe, Blackburn games could we legitimately claim to have been robbed.
Both of those sides, like Luton today, won by 1-0 as have Bournemouth, QPR, Hull and Fulham, so that’s seven times we’ve lost by that score at home to go with heavier losses (there’s three of them) where we didn’t find the net and with the goalless draw with Preston – that’s eleven, or fifty per cent, of our home games where we’ve failed to score.
They really are desperately poor figures and today was pretty typical of what the long suffering home support have had to put up with – not as bad as some of the others in the dirty dozen defeats, but that’s not saying much.
I’m not sure if Steve Morison was watching the same game as me, our manager says we dominated it from start to finish and had all of the chances. As for the first of those claims, I’ll concede that City, using the same system and approach that impressed me a lot in the win at Reading, had a good spell of about a quarter of an hour in the first half where they passed the ball pretty well, but that did not extend to the final, and most important, pass I’m afraid – we didn’t have any chances from set pieces either and the main reason for that was that our delivery just wasn’t good enough.
As for all of the chances, again I wonder what match he was watching – the game was about a minute old when Luton’s centreback Potts put a free header from a free kick over the bar, not too long after that, Onyedimna didn’t connect as well as he would have liked when well placed – either of those go in and City would have conceded in the first ten minutes for a fourth consecutive match. In the second half, substitute Harry Cornick’s fine shot from twenty five yards landed on the top of the net with Dillon Phillips beaten and the keeper made the save of the game to deny veteran Robert Snodgrass as Luton gradually began to edge things.
I thought the goal had been coming when Cornick expertly guided in Snodgrass’ cross with his head in the seventy first minute – the skills shown in the construction and execution of the goal were of a level City we’re not able to match.
In response City had, being charitable, three chances worthy of the name and the first of those came via Luton carelessly conceding possession in a bad position during the time when we were having the good spell I mentioned earlier. Tommy Doyle seized on the turnover and drove forward to feed Jordan Hugill – maybe Doyle’s pass could have been a bit better and Hugill might have been a little sharper in his finishing, but I’d prefer to give goalkeeper James Shea credit for a good save as he left his line very quickly to make the target Hugill had to aim at that much smaller than be too critical of our two players.
I’m afraid the same cannot be said about our second chance which came about from an excellent bit of hold up play by Hugill who took a couple of opponents out of the game to leave Doyle clear with just one defender and the keeper in front of him and an unmarked Isaak Davies to his right.
Credit should go to defender (Potts I believe) for the way he handled the situation I suppose, but, in truth, it shouldn’t have made any difference.
Doyle held on the ball too long and when his pass did come, it was slightly behind his team mate. This made life that bit harder for Davies, but, even so, he should have done better than blaze high and wide from ten yards.
The only other moment when I thought there was a chance we may score was when a good move down the right involving Cody Drameh, Rubin Colwill and Doyle saw the last named tee himself up nicely before hitting a shot which Luton’s under employed substitute keeper Harry Isted dealt with easily.
I must say that it’s not just that their manager Nathan Jones is from Blaenrhondda that I don’t feel as bad about this home defeat as I did with the other eleven. Jones has done a superb job in getting Luton to a stage where the Play Offs definitely look on for his team and automatic promotion is not quite an impossibility.
To have achieved this with the second smallest playing budget in the division would be fantastic, but in recent weeks Luton have also had a series of injuries which saw a succession of regular starters missing today – they then lost Shea, full back James Bree and Onyedimna to injuries which looked like they might keep them out for the rest of the season during the match, but, as teams in their position often do at this stage of the season, they found a way to dig out a victory from adversity against opponents they’d be lapping, probably for the second time, now if the Championship was really the long distance race that it is often compared to.
The success of Luton and Huddersfield (especially the latter who were very poor last season) offers City hope for next season though – two sides with smaller budgets than ours who have confounded the pundits this season and there’s no reason to think that it’s beyond either of them to be playing Premier League football next season.
However, the fundamental weaknesses that we have in terms of individual technique and passing ability mean that, when taken in conjunction with that awful home form, the challenge facing us this summer is probably greater than the one which faced Luton and Huddersfield this time last year.
Finally, I’ve just sent out the following message to Cardiff City Supporters’ Trust members – well done to all involved;-
“Generous Fans Donate To Cardiff Foodbank
We’re delighted to let everyone know that 665 items were donated by Bluebirds fans for the Cardiff Foodbank before yesterday’s game against Luton Town.
We’ve also had a number of cash donations from supporters (to be counted) and the Trust will also be making a £100 donation to the foodbank.
We’d like to thank everyone at Cardiff City for their fantastic support along with fans and members of the Trust who volunteered.
We were delighted to welcome Cardiff City players Sam Bowen and Eli King, who came along to see the food donated.
Thanks again to everyone that helped out and donated.