Sheffield Weds 1 - 2 Cardiff City. Comment

Last updated : 24 December 2023 By Paul Evans

When a team has been playing as badly as Cardiff City have been doing lately, the likelihood was always that they would start to come out of their slump with a scruffy draw or win in which their performance was no better than it had been in the games where a goal or even an on target shot would be a cause for celebration.


That’s what happened today when City, comfortably second best to Sheffield Wednesday for seventy plus minutes, scored two late goals with an element of fortune to them to leave the home crowd believing their team had been mugged and, although there were things to admire about City’s play in that last twenty minutes or so, I must say that we used up a fair portion of our luck for the season today. City really should have been more than a goal down when our fight back began.

I realise that I’m somewhat getting ahead of myself by hinting that we’ve turned some kind of corner today. A fortnight ago, we beat Millwall 1-0 and it was interesting to hear Erol Bulut select our game at Hull last weekend as the only one we’d been truly outplayed in this season, but then go on to mention that there was a lot wrong with our performance against Millwall despite the result.

I agree with our manager there, if Hull was our worst game of this season, and I think it probably was, Millwall was our second worst. So, there was a game where we got the win, but we gained nothing in terms of momentum from it – we were playing poorly going into the match and despite three points that all but propelled us into the top six, we carried on playing poorly after it.

Therefore, it certainly doesn’t automatically follow that it will be all sweetness and light from now on. For a start, we have an awful recent record on Boxing Day and the sort of start to a game that we’ve become all too used to on Tuesday will see the feelgood factor engendered by today’s result soon drain away.

However, there is something to note here about what’s happened in the last fortnight while we’ve been stinking the place out with our last four performances. Daft as it might seem to any City fan that has had to suffer that quartet of matches, we have taken six points out of a possible twelve from them!

Therefore, another way of looking at the last fortnight is to think that any team that breaks even in a four game run while playing so badly has to have something going for them and so, while, as a lifelong City fan, it would be nice now and again to put good things down to my team’s style and flair, rather than grit and determination, the truth is you do need those two more prosaic qualities to achieve anything in the professional game and we’ve proved that we don’t lack for those qualities at least by beating Millwall and Sheffield Wednesday.

Having got that preamble out of the way, I’ll now say that we were a pretty depressing watch today.. Erol Bulut said in his pre  game media briefing that a clear the air type meeting had been held on Monday and I can only imagine that there were a few home truths outlined and plenty of straight talking to go with it.

The intention of such a gathering would be that a reset of sorts could be implemented and that a return to the sort of form which marked the first fifteen or so games of our season could be brought about.

Erol Bulut’s selection was not a surprise, he was helped by the return of Joe Ralls and Ryan Wintle after our down to the bare bones midfield last week (the former was able to play the whole game, while the latter had to be content with a place on the bench). Josh Bowler came in, as did Callum Robinson as the manager opted for experience.

For about ten minutes the match shaped quite promisingly for City as they were able to push the home side back as we managed to retain the ball further up the pitch than had been the case recently.

Any optimism soon faded though, Wednesday have been the division’s whipping boys for much of the season with pundits, bloggers and podcasts tearing into them because of their idiotic  ownership- I heard it said on quite a few occasions that Wednesday were on their way to the lowest points total by any team in the history of the modern day Championship.

However, under their new German manager Danny Rohl, Wednesday followed up an eye catching 1-1 draw with table toppers Leicester with a 3-1 win over Blackburn, a 1-0 win at Stoke and a 2-1 victory over QPR with the last two being huge results if they were to have a chance of escaping the drop. There was a 3-1 defeat at Norwich in amongst the victories, but ten points out of fifteen is a great outcome for sides in the sort of position Wednesday are in and it was no surprise to see all of the prediction podcasts I watch on You Tube going for a home win today.

The predictions looked on the mark once Wednesday got going – they weren’t anything special, but they were physical and committed (they also had the talented Barry Bannan in their midfield) and, notwithstanding my earlier remarks on grit and determination, there were one or two in our starting line up who were too diffident for my liking.

Wednesday were not looking like they were capable of taking us apart like Hull did, but they were better than us – we were in the same how can we try to score when we’re not able to pass the ball to each other frame of mind. Even with our first choice midfield pairing of Ralls and Siopis, we could not get beyond those two players with our attempts to build from the back.

As has become the norm lately, our forwards were left to survive on scraps, but I also must say that they were shamed by the problems the teenager Bailey Cadamartari caused our defenders with his mobility and pace.

As has been the case recently, it was our defenders who were our best performers, but two of our most reliable players would not have been too happy with their parts in the goal which put Wednesday ahead on twenty eight minutes. Modern day defenders are told to stay on their feet as much as they can, but Perry Ng went to ground to try and intercept a pass by Marvin Johnson which reached Anthony Musaba who easily stepped inside  Dimitrios Goutas’ sliding tackle to blast high past Jak Alnwick from ten yards.

Apparently, City had two first half goal attempts – one was a thirty yarder from Mark McGuinness that almost cleared the Kop end roof, I can’t remember the other one, but it wasn’t on target.

In truth, City were not really interested in getting up to the other end of the pitch for the rest of the first half because all of their attention was on keeping the buoyant home team out as the corners and long throws they had to defend mounted.

City got to half time just the one down, but when the first ten minutes after the break did not see a change in the balance of the game, Bulut made two changes which sowed the seeds of our unlikely revival.  Callum Robinson is our best all round attacking player in Aaron Ramsey’s absence, but, again, he was a peripheral performer this afternoon and his withdrawal was not a surprise. On the other hand, seeing Manolis Siopis (very much Bulut’s man) go off was a shock, but it wasn’t a decision I could argue with given how the Greek international was playing.

In their places came Wintle and Ollie Tanner, but it was when Kion Etete came on for the ineffective Bowler that the balance of power began to shift a little.

Etete went up front as Yakou Meite moved out to the right with Tanner on the left and, for the first time this season, Karlan Grant moved from the left to play in the number ten role.

I think of number tens as inventive, creative players and Grant isn’t really that, but his mobility and stamina gave those behind him a target to aim for in the closing minutes.

Etete improved things as well, I think he’s got it in him to be a good centre forward at this level, but he’s a frustrating performer in that he can come off the bench in home games in particular and do very little, here though he looked up for it from the start and the home defence found him a tougher opponent to control than Meite had been.

However, it was Wintle who kick started the game’s transformation. Wintle has had it tough lately as he has got some stick for not being able to fill Ramsey’s boots as a number ten when he’s someone whose strengths lie elsewhere. Today though, he helped things along by simply passing the ball accurately and sympathetically to another claret shirted player.

Wintle got us playing a bit, but, before that Alnwick, with saves from Cadamartari and Johnson, kept us in the game.

On seventy four minutes the match’s second goal arrived and, although we were having a bit more of the ball, it was a real shock to see City score it. It’s something of an indictment of our squad that two of the best and most perceptive passers in it are the couple of players we got from fourth tier Crewe. Here Ng came up with pass slid through to Grant who had made a run in the inside right channel, it was no surprise to see Grant shoot from that position, but it was to see the ball nestle in the corner. Something didn’t quite look right until replays showed a slight deflection that turned a shot which looked to be going just wide into a goal.

Grant then saw a well struck volley from twenty yards blocked in a crowded penalty area, but Wednesday came much closer to taking the lead when the flag stayed down as Cadamartari cut in from the left and Alnwick made the save of the game to deny him.

The winning goal arrived in the eighty eighth minute as Tanner was given the ball in the sort of position he was causing havoc from earlier in the season before he became a defender. Rather than take on the full back as he once did, Tanner shot early from the edge of the area, it was not that well struck, but, once again, there was a slight deflection on it which may have caused home keeper Cameron Dawson to fumble in an unexpected manner, Etete was on to the rebound and knocked the ball towards goal from where it bobbled into the net off defender Akin Famewo – I see the BBC website  is giving it as an own goal, but I’m sure Etete will say it was his.

City were never going to see the game out easily given how things had gone through the previous eighty odd minutes and Alnwick, Goutas and McGuinness, with some help from Etete, dealt with an aerial barrage of free kicks in the seven minutes of added time as well as two big penalty shouts arising from sub Ashley Fletcher going to ground with City defenders close by.

Ref Samuel Barrett had been a homer all afternoon, but he waved play on both times and so earned the wrath of the home crowd – for my part, I thought the first one may have been a foul by Goutas even if Fletcher ’still was overly dramatic with his fall, while the second, involving McGuinness, was a pretty obvious dive.

City reach Christmas and the halfway point of the season still only three points off sixth place and will be thinking that something like four points from our three remaining holiday games will take us into the January window with a chance of a top six finish even if our last four performances make that notion seem laughable.

I’ll finish by wishing all readers of this blog a very Merry Christmas.