Bristol City 2 Cardiff 0. Match Report.

Last updated : 23 April 2003 By NigelBlues

Promotion remains mathematically possible but most City fans leaving the game were more worried whether the club can collect the 1 point still currently needed against Wigan and Crewe to guarantee a play-off place, now the most realistic outcome to this ultimately unhappy season.

Whoever said lightning never strikes the same place twice will think again as this clash at Ashton Gate was a mirror image of the mid-season encounter with Bristol City at Ninian Park. It was deja vu as the Bluebirds again dominated the 1st half but failed to turn possession into clear openings and goals before falling behind to a controversial early 2nd half penalty and then killed off by Christian Roberts.

Cardiff played well, gave their determined best and were applauded off the field by all supporters for their big effort but the cold reality is that City have now gone almost 5 hours without scoring and cannot stop conceding. The problems going forward are easy to spot but seemingly impossible to stop.

On a humid evening, 1,600 Bluebird fans set off for Ashton Gate by organised coach - police restrictions making it the only possible form of travel to the game, a tit-for-tat measure in line with the Robins visit to Ninian Park. We were met by police at Magor Services where we were thankfully allowed to disembark before being escorted straight into Ashton Gate past hundreds of police lining the roads into a specially penned coach park and a specially penned off away section too. The usual 45 minute journey took us almost two and a half hours.

As if that wasn't bad enough, our first sight entering Ashton Gate was watching the straw hatted, plaid waistcoasted Wurzels miming on the pitch - it was so excruciatingly bad that even the home Brizzle Wurzel-loving fans were doing their best to ignore them.

Ashton Gate is a good ground for football watchers - now all seated with their traditional two large stands either side of the pitch, a new-ish stand replacing what used to be open terrace behind one goal and the previous home terrace now the away end. City fans were penned to one side and fenced in (the club doing their best to create a mini-Hillsborough by stupidly having gates that only opened inwards towards City fans which the police struggled to open at the end of the match). The away end seats were as basic as they get - "planks" of plastic with no backs, much easier to stand on though.

The decline in Bluebird fortunes somehow seem to have revolved around both games against Bristol. Going into Christmas, 15,000 entered Ninian Park with the Sky tv watching in too as City took on Brizzle Zity hoping for victory to open a 5 point gap between themselves in 2nd and the chasing pack. City had won their 8 previous home league games and had lost just 3 of the opening 20 league games to collect 43 points at 2.15 points average per game.

We, of course, crashed and it set the tone for the stark contrast in the 2nd half of the season which has been a case of one step forward, two sideways and three backwards ever since - echoing our notorious passing moves really.

The last 24 games have now produced 8 defeats with City also failed to win 9 of the last 12 home fixtures. In collecting just 36 points in this spell at 1.5 points average per game, form has been little better than mid-table form since before Xmas.

It left Lennie Lawrence and his players with a major task especially with recent times the pre-match build up - City's freefall has been so dramatic since that they set off for tonight's return clash at Ashton Gate with the title well beyond them, automatic promotion dreams hanging on by its tiniest thread and, unthinkably, even a danger of missing out on the last resort play-offs.

The low point, we hoped, was reached after that Colchester mauling leaving the manager accepting mistakes and blaming players in equal measures, the owner preferring to blame himself for creating expectations and the Chief Executive throwing his toys out of the pram and taking the opportunity to blame the fans.

If all looked deep within themselves, the ultimate and undeniable truth however is that football is a results and performance business and Cardiff City have failed spectacularly to get either right in the second half of the season.

Lennie had a major task to reorganise and motivate his side after Saturday's woeful and spirit-sapping 3-0 home loss to Colchester. He had a reshuffle defensively and in midfield. At the back, the hapless Chris Barker was moved to left back, his pace meant to stop Bristol's flying winger Scott Murray. Spencer Prior returned at centre half on his 32nd birthday and putting in an excellent committed display of the type we expected to be his normal but which hasn't been that way, he must have won a header for every year of his life. Gabbi and Weston were also there.

In midfield, Alan Mahon was replaced by Andy Legg midst rumours that City curtailed Mahon's loan spell early with it due to be completed this weekend and it was Earnie and Thorne in attack.

Bristol had few starts but their defence was solid, their midfield due of Tinnion and Docherty shaded Kav and Boland although Kav did well and their pacey attack of Murray, Roberts and Peacock.

Somehow, amazingly, promotion still remained in Cardiff's hands but this was last chance saloon. Cardiff needed to win their final three games. They approached the challenge well and, in a high tempo, all action game where players where players were given no time or space, it was City making the biggest impression from the first whistle, the game being played in the home side's half with Bristol relying on breaks.

However City had little to show for it and the earliest chances went to Bristol as Boland, panicking, fouled on the edge of the area, the free-kick hitting the wall. Then hitting Cardiff at pace on the break, something Cardiff were never able to offer in return, Murray's cross missed Peacock's boot in front of goal by a fraction then Docherty shot wide. Bristol's pace on the break worried City again with Prior yellow carded for tripping Roberts getting plenty of stick from Cardiff's fans.

City's gameplan, encouraging as the display was, seemed one dimensional and lacked variation. Gareth Ainsworth was getting the ball time and again on the right but was suffering a dose of "Josh Low-itis" with his crossing which was pretty poor and rarely hitting the real danger spots. Very little went left and Kav/Boland and Co never threatened to run through the middle. Ainsworth so nearly opened the Wurzels as he hit a ball to the far side of the area where Leggy burst in and was unlucky as his shot into the ground looped over Phillips but came off the bar.

Bristol City's by contrast was more expansive. Tinnion and Docherty strong in midfield, Docherty standing out for his playmaking sweep of play to left and right, his silly hair and facial growth and doing his best to niggle Cardiff's players - he must be a nightmare to come up against. They were however looking like the away side soaking up Cardiff's play and attempted pressure and trying to hit us on the break and as the half progressed, so did City's domination of play.

Chances were swapped as Peacock made Alexander save well heading down low at close range from a corner then Bristol had major let offs as Peter Thorne met an Andy Legg throw, evading everyone, at the far post but his header pushed behind. From the resultant corner, there was a major goalmouth scramble and pinball-style action as efforts by Thorne, Kav and others were somehow blocked by home defenders.

The noise amongst Cardiff fans was tremendous before kick-off and encouraged by the action taking place, got better and better as the game progressed. It seemed to equal Bristol supporters getting quieter and quieter, not that they were singing much to start with. There were outbreaks of laughter as the only noise you could often hear from the home support was a drummer and trumpeter in their stand.

It was City's best 45 minute display for some time, they were the better side but worryingly they had no goals and hardly any chances to show for it.


The second half opened quietly but Bristol seemed to be raising their game and scared Cardiff as Peacock just missed connecting with a Roberts cross followed by another shot being screwed wide.

The difference in style could hardly have been greater as Cardiff were too slow coming forward and through midfield with central midfielders who don't run at defences or support our forwards and, overall, alarming lack quality or the ability and composure in the final third to open up opponents. Easy on the eye but ineffective.

It needed magic or controversy to change the game. Sadly for Cardiff, all our good work was undone on 54 minutes as we were yet again on the wrong end of unjust officiating, even admitted afterwards by Bristol boss, Danny Wilson.

A long ball hit out of Bristol's defence and behind City's defenders (they type of ball Earnie hasn't seen for several hours) left Scott Murray and Danny Gabbidon in a joint chase. It was the opposite end of the ground to us, all we saw was Gabbidon put the ball behind and the referee award a corner but then the linesman flag for a penalty award. TV replays showed Murray tried to flick the ball up which possibly caught Gabbi's hand, if it did, it was undoubtedly ball to hand rather than deliberate handball but the game is harsh and cruel sometimes.

The outcome was obvious as Neil Alexander maintained his 100% City record of never saving a penalty and near 100% record of diving the wrong way too as he went right, TINNION calmly slotted in the opposite corner. City players were furious, Gabbi and Ainsworth were booked for protests.

City tried fighting back but it was at this point that their game was breaking down and the frustration of their style of play really kicked in. It was the old story of 7 or 8 passes but going nowhere, nobody forcing the game and nobody running at ore past players. You wanted to scream watching City players floating the ball high towards Earnie to beat a marker one foot higher who had him in his pocket all night. Surprisingly, one of the worst culprits was Danny Gabbidon.

The game was completed after Chris Roberts amazingly missed in front of goal meeting a scorching Scott Murray run and cross by, moments later, CHRISTIAN ROBERTS squeezing the ball home in front of goal meeting a scorching Scott Murray run and cross.

Still City tried, Thorney was narrowly wide in a goalmouth melee after Phillips dropped the ball under pressure at a corner and a good move saw Kav unlucky too as he tried to place home meeting a Barker cross and caught the hell of a Bristol defender who knew nothing about it. Earnie was close too with a shot on the turn blocked.

But defeat was now inevitable even though City finished strongly with Campbell and Whalley replacing Boland and Legg. Campbell, in particular showing up strongly in comparison to Earnie who seems to have lost his way and his confidence trying to get his 31st league goal to break that City's record.

The game ended niggly. Brown booked for blocking Ainsworth for the umpteenth time but Ainsworth never looked like getting around or past defenders all night. Kav in an incident chasing a ball that went into the Bristol dugout that the home players held onto.

And when Campbell was held for an eternity by Brown, the emotions and frustrations spilled over as players converged and squared up. Campbell was booked, Brown was booked and sent off for his second yellow card then the same fate fell to Gareth Ainsworth - each one protesting their innocence, the only hard done by player was probably Campbell.

Whilst the incident was unfolding, the tannoy announced at least 3 minutes of added time but as the game restarted, ref Rob Styles seemed to accept that he had lost all control and blew the final whistle. About average refereeing for this season then.

You could not fault the effort of City's players, just their style of play, and they fully deserved the applause and ovation at final whistle showing that if they're seen to be trying and giving it everything, no fan will complain about them (take note Mr Temme).

The truth and tragedy of it all was that we never showed that same effort and commitment against Peterborough and Colchester. Had we done so, we would still be looking good for Division One despite this reverse. The mood coming home was predictably silent, ultimately another game to forget but should we have been surprised not having beaten Bristol in 22 league attempts dating back to 1967. That's what I call a bogey side.

Report from FootyMad
Brian Tinnion hit his sixth penalty of the season to give Cardiff's promotion hopes a devastating blow.

The spot-kick came early in the second half when a linesman signalled a handball by Cardiff defender Daniel Gabbidon.

The entire Cardiff side protested but when the rumpus died down, Tinnion calmly slotted his penalty to the left of keeper Neil Alexander.

Alexander, back in the side after missing five games with a groin injury, thought Tinnion would shoot to his right as he did when scoring from the spot at Ninian Park in December, another 2-0 win for Bristol City.

They have not been beaten by the Welsh club now in 21 League games.

With both clubs going for promotion the atmosphere was always highly charged and in the first half each side went close once to scoring.

Andy Legg from a narrow angle hit the Bristol City bar and then Alexander did well to drop on a powerful downward header by Lee Peacock following a corner.

Neither side though was getting in much in the way of shots although Cardiff stepped up the pressure after Tinnion's strike.

But Bristol City weathered the storm with Tommy Doherty and Tony Butler organising their back line and midfield.

Victory was assured for the home side when Christian Roberts turned in their second goal from a Scott Murray cross.

The tension which had been building since the disputed penalty boiled over in a fight in the last minute which saw the Robins' Aaron Brown and Gareth Ainsworth of Cardiff both sent off.

Bristol City Danny Wilson said after the game: "I didn't see the fight start but Aaron Brown told me his head was being held in an arm lock and he was trying to get free."This was Cardiff's third league defeat in a row undermining their bid for automatic promotion and their two final games are against promoted Wigan and second placed Crewe.

Wilson added: "Our dressing room firmly believes we can get automatic promotion ourselves. We have to win our last two games and hope either Crewe or Cardiff slip up again."

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