Cardiff City 0 Watford 3. Match Report

Last updated : 15 September 2004 By NigelBlues

A worse than useless team on the pitch going through the motions and the atmosphere only audible rising above zero when chants for the Manager to quit went out, it was like being in a CCFC mid-90's time warp. All that was missing was Kumar in the director's box and Hibbitt in the dugout.

Sadly however this wasn't about watching a team of players barely good enough in the Third Division dungeon, the was the Coca-Cola Championship and as expensively assembled side of mostly international players supposedly good enough to Premiership play-off berth. Yet here they were being embarrassed yet again, getting whalloped 3-0 at home by Watford and firmly rooted in 23rd spot, the season in complete tatters just 5 weeks after it started.

The game, the performance of the team and the players individually (with just a couple of exceptions) were as bad as it gets and it is impossible for me to contemplate Lennie continuing any longer. His side are ramshackle, an embarrassment, they have no sprit, no motivation, no organization and the man himself - although badly let down by his players - is quite simply clueless and helpless to do anything about it. .

Lennie is not to blame for all the ills of the club which, to me, looks in a state of limbo and disorder from top to bottom at present and easily the worst it has been since Sam Hammam came to South Wales. Lennie, though, must be accountable for playing matters and fortunes on the pitch, no matter how much Sam pulls his strings. How much more evidence do we need that it's broken and gone? Nothing will alter my opinion that Sam made a massive mistake not moving Lennie out a fortnight ago and getting him to sack his coaching team instead. Tonight, the reality hit of that terrible piece of decision making hit him full in the face.

The goals, yet again, were all the result of inept and incompetent defending. Let's deal with them first, the game being secondary to the mood and feeling around the place.

10 minutes 0-1
John Robinson yet again conceded a completely needless free-kick with yet another of his increasing flying, reckless challenges. The problems started with that. The free-kick, 35 yards out, was played low along the ground, Helgusson flicked it on past Page and there was Danny Webber - the Championship's most dangerous striker - who spun away and found himself totally unmarked before brilliantly smashing home an unstoppable angled drive from 12 yards into Tony Warner's top corner. Great finish but it is unacceptable to watch us playing statues once more.

45 minutes 0-2
A truly pathetic first half showing was complete as Captain (Fantastic?) Kav, eclipsed by Gavin Mahon all night, allowed his Watford opposite to beat him not once but twice 35 yards out, then spin from Willie Boland too and slip the ball onto NEIL ARDLEY who took it in his stride and hit a low 20 yarder past Tony Warner who was more showed his inability to get down to low shots.

85 minutes 0-3
Even though City showed some spirit and some token professional pride in the 2nd half, everyone around me said Watford would score again and we would do nothing. It happened in more horrific fashion as Helgusson turned Danny Gabbidon wide inside the penalty area with a ball that he had no right to win. Like Kav before, Gabbs' embarrassment was completed as he stood and watched the ball played across the face of goal for WEBBER to turn home for his 2nd of the night and 8th in 7 games this season.

Now the goals are out of the way, let's deal with the players. Only three of them - Lee, Thorne and McAnuff - should be devoid of criticism. As for the rest;

Tony Warner - I would like to personally apologise to Martyn Margetson that this imposter is first choice over him. The man cannot get down to anything hit low, does not command his area as we were assured he would and tonight, his kicking was a sham. Four times in the first 20 minutes, he scuffed balls straight along the ground and it was only fortune that saw it go to City players. I would have taken off on 25 minutes when he lost the bottle to take a goal-kick and, schoolboy-like, touched the ball to an unsuspecting Danny Gabbidon standing just outside his box who was a whisker away from being dispossessed. While I am at it, I would also like to apologise to Neil Alexander who is not being given a chance and made to rot while all this is going on.

Rhys Weston & Tony Vidmar - both had better second halves but are both way, way off what they were. They both need to be taken out of the team but we didn't have anyone to replace them. Vidmar's place must be in imminent danger though with Chris Barker back from his loan spell at Stoke who, although never anything special, is generally solid and looked several times better in his brief substitute showing than anything Vids has accomplished this season. As for Weston, I'd love to smack his across the face with a wet packet of kippers just for his aimless, chipped and lofted balls to nobody ahead of him.

Robert Page - in fairness, he did nothing that bad but, by the same token, he did nothing that good either. His lack of pace is costly. He is only proving why Sheffield United were only too willing to release him a year early and for free too. We were mug enough to take him.

Danny Gabbidon - someone who should be pinned to the wall and sorted out. His lethargy is shocking and should not be allowed. Caught out on the ball, rarely marking players or space, trying to dribble in his own area. He is wasting his talent and quality by being a show-boater and completing giving up on doing the basics which is what he is there for.

John Robinson - a spent force who needs to be taken out of the team yesterday. Gone, for now, are the times when Robbo was inspirational to fans and his team-mates alike. The Robbo who used to organize, fight, cross balls and show some quality on the right area is currently replaced by someone who just gets angry with everyone and everything around him, runs about like the proverbial headless chicken and commits reckless challenges which will, sooner rather than later, see him sent off and probably cause someone injury too. The only debate should be whether Robbo can rediscover what he was and whether he's just deteriorating rapidly as he moves towards retirement.

Willie Boland and Kav - both invisible, both only interested in going sideways and backwards, both just not there when really needed. Kav's insistence on once again taking every set piece but doing nothing at all with them is grinding. You can't just blame these players but when the game stopped three or four times for injuries, all our players just stood there hands or hips. Nobody talking to anyone and no encouragement.

Andy Campbell - if I never see him in a Cardiff shirt again, it won't come soon enough. The only thing he ever did for Cardiff was score that play-off winner - his goalscoring spell came when on loan and before Lennie stupidly paid £950,000 for him. He doesn't run, he doesn't put himself about and he's no team player. Just stands around waiting for the ball to come to him and when I see him never closing down any player or space, never mind considering a challenge, he is taking money and claiming to be a professional footballer under false pretences. It's not good enough for any club, let alone this one.

There were a few players only who deserve some credit and praise.

I felt so sorry for Jobi McAnuff who was the only City player whose movement, intensity and creativeness matched Watford, he must have wondered if he was better off staying in West Ham's reserves than Cardiff's first team. Easily man of the match although he did again fade in the second half but with little or no help around him, I thought he was fantastic.

Alan Lee worked his socks off and deserved more luck than he had. He can't head a ball inside the penalty area but he's a trier who never gives up and that's so much more than can be said for most of his team-mates.

Peter Thorne appeared as a second half sub (Lennie had seen enough of Campbell after 45 minutes ... I had seen enough of Campbell after last season!) and quickly shook off the rustiness of his 7 month absence. He was close three or four times to grabbing a consolation and provided a threat and danger around the box that we have lacked all season. He is a target for crosses. When you see Thorney back, you know that we do have some hope to cling to.

Chris Barker showed effort and determination and did well in his late sub showing too. He came into the side on the buzz of doing well in a Stoke side who have started the season spectacularly. He was keen to join Stoke but Vidmar's loss of form and City's unwillingness or inability to splash out in the transfer market may now get him a run of games here. Even so, I bet he has some regrets seeing Stoke top of the table and some worries that this club will drag him down again.

As for the game, the gloom and doom were there as the teams ran out. Just 10,606 including 300 or so Hornets - City's lowest home crowd for a couple of years - sent a message that we're fed up with the way our club is currently being run. People had to vote with their feet eventually, especially at Ninian Park, where the side have now lost 11 of their last 21 league and cup games. This was the third successive home defeat and we haven't even scored a goal in them. The side have won just 2 of their last 15 games and collected a pathetic 32 points form 32 league games. This bad run of just 1 point in the last 18 is no flash in the pan, it's been this way for the past 9 months.

Lennie named an unchanged team as he hoped Saturday's 0-0 at Forest, one of only two teams as bad as us this season, was the turning of a corner but, let's be honest, it's not as if we're spoiled for choice with our squad either. It was therefore Warner, Weston-Gabbidon-Page-Vidmar, McAnuff-Boland-Kavanagh-Robinson, Lee-Campbell.

Watford came in 8th place after a strong start to the season and were never going to be pushed over but it is humiliating to see us being that way. The signs were all there in the opening action before the Watford's 10th minute first goal. Watford were at us from the start, we were slow, ponderous and rarely (if ever) got out of first gear. Watford's attacks contained menace and threat, as we got the ball forward, balls were hit and hope, crosses were too far or too high. Watford were buzzing, a team with confidence, working for and with each other. Cardiff looked a team in distress, the usual collection of individuals with no pattern or shape. The contrast was so stark, it was horrific.

Going behind was no shock, it has happened in every game bar Saturday's dullest of the dull nil-nils at Forest. City showing no appetite or ability to fight back was no surprise either. Watford's fans were loving it, they started the chants of "We want Lennie Out" - more to do with him being ex-boss of their hated rivals, Luton, than out of sympathy with us. Their other mock chants of "Are you Swansea in disguise?" was predictable but I did enjoy their, "Lennie, Lennie, scratch your head", taking the mickey out of one of his few touchline actions as his side disintegrated once more before his eyes.

City created two first half chances, both due to McAnuff, our one bright light who was the only player taking the game to Watford and who quickly realized he would have to do it on his own. One brilliant run and intelligent flick put Lee clear, his low shot well saved by Chamberlain, the keeper doing even better to deny McAnuff's outstanding 25 yard left foot drive. The rest of City's display belonged to Sunday League football and only just that level too. The home crowd were completely silent, moaning as things continually went wrong but that was as much as the team could expect. The half-time boos completely predictable.

In lambasting City, it would be wrong not to credit the visitors too. Watford were bright, clever, fast moving, kept their shape and every player knew and did their job to perfection, everything that we didn't have a clue how to do ... again! Players can have bad games and performances but it is City so frequently lacking in these particular basics that sickens me most.

As well as scoring two, The Hornets also forced Warner into a couple of decent saves to prevent it being even worse. The generosity of the referee maybe helped as Weston appeared to clip a forward getting in front of him for the umpteenth time but adjudged to be inches outside, rather than inside, the area. With the second goal arriving at half-time, any hopes among the crowd were completely evaporated, the players deserved to be booed off and I can even understand why some decided to walk out at that point, I decided to stay for more punishment.

Half-time: CITY 0 WATFORD 2

The second half was improved but it couldn't possibly have been as bad or worse than what went before. Thorney for Campbell was an undoubted help and City just had to show some belated professional pride. We should however also be realistic enough to appreciate that the game was already won and lost. Watford were generally happy to soak up what threat we offered and always fancied themselves to hit us again on the break and with a player like Webber, they had every reason to be like that.

Against this background, we did have some fight and several chances. Thorney was close three or four times getting his head or foot to balls that only he can but didn't quite get his range right as shots hit side netting, header just cleared the bar. John Robinson had an effort disallowed shortly after the interval with a good chest down and low shot meeting a far post Lee flick-on but he was flagged offside long before the ball got to him. Parry's first touch saw him try to angle home a ball after a scramble but he was cleared on the line whilst nothing quite came off for Lee inside the box, perhaps exemplified when a ball fell for him from height with the goal begging but he missed the ball altogether with his left foot swing. Watford got forward but their shooting was now well off, Dyche's effort from 30 yards out going 30 yards wide and hitting the Grange roof 30 yards up being the pick of them all.

It was better, nothing special but genuinely just a case of the clock getting to 90 minutes without further damage to City. The crowd knew it too as two thirds of them left long before then end. Those who stayed got to applaud Jobi getting man of the match and chant a few half-hearted Lennie Outs when the third flew in. Many City fans actually celebrated Watford's third goal as it made the result more emphatic and brought the problems more into focus, we lost both halves and were soundly beaten, there was no hiding from it. It seemed pointless booing the team too much or even registering our disgust greatly.

However we've been a patient crowd for too long and the club must now take severe action, not even the loyalist, die-hards and those who are supportive can possibly stomach anymore of this. It's now a forgone conclusion what supporters want to see and what must happen, they have no confidence in the club and no optimism things will change if nothing is done. No point in prolonging the agony any longer, we've a relegation battle that we must start fighting NOW! Over to you City and Sam.

Report from FootyMad
Cardiff City were condemned to their third home defeat in a row to set the alarms bells ringing at Ninian Park.

Under pressure boss Lennie Lawrence was unable to lift his side who went down to goals from Danny Webber (two) and Neal Ardley.

The lowest crowd for many years called for Lawrence's head as the game drew to a close.

Right from the opening whistle the Hornets swarmed on to the attack and City keeper Tony Warner needed two grabs to hold a vicious shot from Ardley.

The visitors took the lead when City failed to defend a free-kick. The ball was pushed down the right side by Gavin Mahon to Webber who beat Robert Page before blasting the ball high into the roof of the net.

The City defence was all at sea and a cross from Ardley left Mahon with an open goal but he lifted his shot high over the stand.

Just after the half hour City had a scare when Rhys Weston brought down Webber just inside the area but the match official inexplicably gave the Hornets a free-kick on the edge of the box which Ardley wasted.

Three minutes before the interval a header from Sean Dyche was acrobatically tipped over by Warner as once again City's defending at set pieces left a lot to be desired.

They were once again punished in injury time when Mahon shrugged off a weak tackle from Graham Kavanagh and slipped a pass sideways to Ardley who beat Warner with a low drive.

The Bluebirds made a change for the second half with Peter Thorne replacing the ineffective Andy Campbell.

Thorne's arrival and that of Paul Parry in the 67th minute gave City more attacking options but Watford looked the more dangerous on the break.

Watford were easily coping with a poor City display and it was no surprise when Webber finished them off with his second goal five minutes from time.

External reports
The Western Mail