Cardiff City 0 Preston North End 1. Match Report

Last updated : 20 November 2004 By NigelBlues

Cardiff City lost their 5th home game in 10 league starts, failing to score in 7 of them as they dismally fell yet again, this time a disastrous 1-0 at Ninian Park in front of live Sky tv cameras to a Preston North End side getting their first away win in more than 10 months and 19 attempts. And yes, it was every bit as depressing as it sounds, it was yet another shocker.

Having done little more than having papered over the cracks in recent weeks, I'm afraid the club are getting no more than they deserve. Problem is, fans don't deserve this debacle. This was a Cardiff City side happy to go into a Championship game with 1 loan player, forced into using its only 2 available central midfielders, a makeshift striker and finish with an attack containing three teenagers. Their only recent attempts to strengthen the squad is to look at foreign triallists. You reap what you sow City.

The story was all too familiar and a virtual repeat of what happened last time we were live on Sky when we lost 1-0 at home to Plymouth in August. This time, it was all made worse because Preston were so unbelievably poor themselves and yet they still beat us. That says it all about City at present.

Plenty of possession but no idea what to do with it, no quality, no brains, no final ball, terrible passing and movement and the visitors score with a somewhat lucky goal with their only shot of the match and then sit back knowing full well we're not good enough to do much about it. Sure, City had some bad luck as we got increasingly desperate and frantic and this has happened too many times so it's all about play, players and style. Time to realise it.

The problems were patently obvious well before the game. Midfielders have left the club but never been replaced, we lose O'Neill on loan, Kav's red card last week means he is out for three games. We're left with Willie Boland, Lee Bullock and nobody else for the pivotal central positions yet Lennie announces that unless anything dramatic happens, this is how it will be for the next three matches. At this level, it is football suicide.

Lennie's line up was Warner, Williams-Collins-Gabbidon-Barker, McAnuff-Boland-Bullock-Ledley, Lee-Parry. The subs bench were Alexander-Barker-Vidmar-Danny Thomas - a teenage forward called up for the first time - and Jerome, another teenage forward on the bench.

Preston, like City, have had a poor 2004. They were doing well mid-season but fell away badly as we did. Their manager, ex-Scotland boss Craig Brown, was under pressure - just like Lennie - and when they started this season poorly too, they sacked him ... unlike Lennie! Billy Davies, their caretaker manager, made an impact so was given the role full-time. However their struggles go on as they visited Ninian with just 2 points in their last 4 games and only 3 points - from draws - in 9 away games all season. Perfect opponents for us and we still messed it up!

Davies' team were Gould (son of Bobby in goals), Mawene-Alexander-Lucketti-Curtis, Daley-Etuhu-McKenna, Lewis, Cresswell-Agyemang. Nobody to fear and distinctly average yet they still won! Foreigners in American Eddie Lewis, Nigerian Etuhu and Frenchman Mawene. The obligatory ex-City target in Chris Lucketti but a decent forward line in 12 goal Richard Cresswell and Agyemang signed in midweek for £350,000 from Gillingham who became a first time father 24 hours before kick-off.

On a bitterly cold night with temperatures not far above freezing, 10,950 were trying to keep warm inside Ninian - a poor crowd but still good given the current football and the temptation at watch in the warmth of home or a pub. Only 200 came from Lancashire.

The game started brightly with Jobi McAnuff full of direct running and trickery causing problems and pulling Lillywhites defenders about. He created two outstanding early chances.

Firstly his run and low cross was sliced into the air by Lucketti, Lee reacted as the ball came down but was adjudged to have handled the ball before nicely driving it home. Even tv showed it to be a tough call, at the game I had little doubt from his body movement that he handled too. Then a brilliant McAnuff darting run carved through defenders and saw him lay the ball into the path of Lee Bullock but the midfielder disappointingly scuffed his effort harmlessly to Gould.

For Preston, it was their lucky night. They hit two poor corners but both had results. The first one, a daisy cutter, saw Bullock slice the ball in the air behind him which Warner had to catch under his bar. The second, on 15 minutes, was no better but somehow travelled all the way to MAWENE. His shot was not cleanly hit but deflected off Lee and went in past a motionless Warner for 2nd goal in 75 British games.

Every incident described so far featured players making mistakes, it was a game bereft of quality and that was how it remained all night. The quality was shocking, I swear that games were no worse than this when we were crap in the bottom division.

City were poor for the rest of the half even though they had most of the possession. McAnuff lit up the evening again with a great run and blistering 25 yard effort that beat Gould but missed goal by a fraction. The rest was huff and puff stuff getting nowhere. When players got near goal, they always made the wrong choice ... or sometimes no choice and lost the ball doing nothing. Chris Barker mishit one shot across the face of goal that somehow went through 3 or 4 City bodies. Parry was closed out in the area and he was about to fire on goal and a strong run into the box.

Frustrations were everywhere. Passes went astray, balls hit high in the air and smashed aimlessly forward or behind players, yet again all the spare balls had to be removed as play was stopped a few times with more than one ball on the pitch. Preston's time wasting and gamemanship was awful, it was like watching a continental side as they stopped play at every chance, stole yards on throws and took an eternity with goal kicks and free kicks.

Yet they had the best chance of another goal as a linesman disgracefully penalised Warner for carrying the ball out of his area just before he booted upfield. He was a couple of yards inside his box. However if that was the decision, surely he could/should have been red carded but he wasn't spoken to. Lewis hit the free-kick well over the bar, it was pitiful stuff.

Half-time: CITY 0 PRESTON 1

The crowd who did their best to will City in the opening period were now losing the will to live as we endured more rubbish in the second half. Cardiff dominated it from start to finish, we had some bad luck but the football was, let's be frank, rubbish.

Preston looked poor defensively and Gould was flapping in goals but we just never looked like capitalising. Kavanagh was badly missed. As poor as he has been recently, this was a game crying out for someone to put their foot on the ball, organise and weigh up options. City were the proverbial headless chickens, only Ledley and Gabbidon stood out above the dross but that's precisely because they're the only two players who aren't afraid of the ball and do something with it.

With Preston showing little adventure or desire, our full backs needed to drive forward but that is not Barker's or Williams' game and neither could really do it. Ginge had an off night, either smashing balls up in the air or downfield with no direction. Boland and Bullock just haven't got what it takes, even so Bullock never took his chance at all as he gave away pass after pass to Preston. Parry tried but drifted out of the game as did McAnuff. Alan Lee just went to ground time and again. For crissake, someone teach him to stand up.

City got desperate bringing on Jerome for Boland (Lennie you clown - it really should have been Bullock) and going 4-3-3 for the final half hour then Weston for Williams with 20 togo to give us more guile pushing on and Danny Thomas for Barker in the last 10 minutes and trying 3-4-3. Thomas bizarrely was plonked in the middle and watched the game pass him completely by, I don't think he had a touch. City's style was Route One and fairly clueless but they had chances.

Gabbidon gave us the only buzz with superb 60 yard runs which put Preston in a panic. It never dawned on other players that taking on Preston players may get us somewhere. Gabbs 1st shot was low at Gould, the other hit Lucketti on the head and looped over a helpless Gould but also his bar by inches. Agony. Gould atoned for his general flapping antics in making superb saves to deny Lee and Ledley's high flying headers whilst Collins and Lee put side in goalmouth scrambles.

There was bad luck in that respect but City would be cheating themselves, and us, if they hide behind that or look for excuses. It was horrifying. O'Neill has returned to Pompey and he made us look a fluid and decent team. Now he's gone, we've returned to what we were which is depressing and deeply worrying about whether we can survive at this level. 19 points in 20 matches is a pathetic return.

Thank god that a couple of sides seem to be even worse than that, it may be our only salvation.

Report from FootyMad

Cardiff's depressing home form continued when they were beaten at Ninian Park for the fifth time this season.

Preston scored early in the opening period when Youl Mawene connected with a Graham Alexander corner to record their first victory in 19 away games.

It was a dire display by the Bluebirds that leaves them right back in the relegation mire once more.

Cardiff were forced to make one change with Lee Bullock coming in for the suspended Graham Kavanagh while Patrick Agyemang made his debut up front for the visitors.

The Bluebirds had the ball in the net in the sixth minute but the referee spotted Alan Lee using his arm to control a cross from Paul Parry.

Preston took the lead in the 15th minute when Alexander's corner was met by Mawene and his shot appeared to deflect off Lee and into the corner of the net.

City had a great chance to equalise when Chris Barker drilled over a low cross but Bullock completely missed his kick in front of goal.

Neither side made changes at half-time but Billy Davies was forced to bring on Omar Daley in the 50th minute when John Curtis suffered a hamstring strain.

Lenny Lawrence made a move to change things on the hour when he brought off midfielder Willie Boland and introduced another striker in youngster Cameron Jerome.

The Preston defence snuffed out all Cardiff's lame attacks, although a fine run by Danny Gabbidon did cause the visitors problems.

However, the struggling Bluebirds were unable to create any clear-cut scoring opportunities, despite forcing three quick corners.

Cardiff then resorted to long ball tactics in an effort to force an equaliser but the Preston defence held firm.

In a frantic last five minutes James Collins did have a goal-bound header tipped over by Jonathan Gould, but it was too little, too late.

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