CARDIFF CITY again let themselves down big-time and a willing support too as they incredibly conspired to produced an near perfect replica of the season opening Stoke home game. So close was it in all aspects that I could get away with a copy and paste of that report, simply changing player names and be done with it. But here's a couple of thousand new words same the same things said before instead.
It was hot again in the City - temperatures baking in the upper 70's and with no breeze - as a large expectant crowd showed their faith ... so much faith that we tore ourselves away from beer gardens to get to the game. 16.640 gave up a glorious start to a Bank Holiday weekend but which included another poor travelling support, only 500 or so Sky Blues bothered making the short journey from the Midlands.
It may be a new season with new players but the story's the same I'm afraid. Coventry, another average visiting side, managed to ride out City's impressive high tempo opening 25 minute salvo through a combination of staying organised and Cardiff wasting several guilt-edged openings once more. Then it's the turn of City's defence to switch off and assist gift a goal to opponents with one of their very few chances and after that we simply don't appear to have the confidence, belief, stomach and ability to fight back and change the game. Once more, Dave Jones leaves his substitutions until too late and isn't helped by selecting no strikers on his subs bench. You don't count Warren Feeney as one, do you?
I mentioned last week how Cardiff's game increasingly depend on the first goal, City score first and we'll be ok for a point or three, go behind and it's almost game over. It really is as simple as that with us at present.
Opponents, as well as City fans, now know it's over 2 years since Cardiff City fought back from behind to win under Dave Jones (it's only happened once with him, that in his first ever Cardiff home game) and so Cov were more than happy to sit back and try to seal the game on the break taking what little we have to offer.
However, being Cardiff, it still leaves room for more self-inflicted damage and in the desperate last gasp surge, Purse missed a free header, Feeney had miss of the season with an open goal and then they even missed a last minute penalty for the second home game in succession, the hapless Darren Purse being the culprit this time.
Had it not been for Michael Chopra's last gasp equaliser against Stoke last season, Dave Jones' Cardiff City would now delivered 6 straight home league defeats. Every game we've gone behind at home, just once we've shown the balls to right it a little. Just when was the last time City were so shockingly poor results-wise at Ninian Park?
Controversy started before kick-off with City taking the unusual step of naming an 18 man squad including the names Fowler and Hasslebaink. Guess which 2 names were missing once we arrived inside the ground? That's poor practise and whether Dave Jones or someone else at the club chose to do that, with heavy hints dropped to the media of their involvement. The club knew it would swell the crowd but that is cynical, out of order and dubious behaviour which loses respect.
Jones attempted to justify their absence post-match by claiming both would be involved against Orient in the Carling Cup instead - that 3 days will make all the difference - and had he put them on the bench today, he may have be tempted to use them early which could have set them back. Dave Jones and early substations? Who's he trying to kid? For some, he has been showing signs of LennieLawrence-itis for a while.
If Hasslebaink was good enough to play a half and score two midweek, his mere presence on the bench would have been a boost and 10 minutes of him could have been enough. It certainly would have been more worthwhile than Aaron Ramsey, no way would he ever have thrown the 16 year old into this clash. It was a mistake by Dave Jones but he'll never admit to it. It was later learned Hasslebaink and Fowler were training at Treforest on Saturday morning whilst our Under-18 Academy side stuffed Man United 5-1 after trailing at the interval going out live on MUTV as well, how many of is now wish we had gone to that game rather than this one?
After all the talk, City had only one enforced change from the side that won at QPR with Chris Gunter getting a chance to stake a claim whilst Kevin McNaughton is injured for upto 6 weeks. So it was Turnbull, McNaughton-Loovens-Johnson-Capaldi, Sinclair-Rae-McPhail-Ledley, MacLean-Parry. Subs were Oakes-Purse-Ramsey-Whittingham-Feeney with Oakes place assured as Luton's opted for a used Forde, David joining them on a one month loan. .
Coventry under Ian Dowie (owner of a face that almost makes me good looking) have started well, this win made them surprise early leaders of the Championship as they had a superb 4-1 win at Crystal Palace followed by a 1-1 home draw with Hull last week.
His team are attack-minded as he came to Ninian Park with a line up reading Konstantopoulos, Osbourne-Ward-Hall-Borrowdale, Tabb-Doyle-Hughes-Gray, Adebola-McKenzie 7. Greek keeper Dimitrios Konstantopoulos starred in Hartlepool's promotion last season and was claimed to be a summer target for City. An experienced midfield featured one-time City loan player Julian Gray whilst their attacking duo of Dele Adebola and Leon McKenzie were always like to give us some trouble.
Let's cover off those missed chances as Cardiff were exciting and a joy to watch for 25 minutes all roared on by a charged and willing crowd singing away all around the ground but Groundhog Day was underway as creative build up play created opening which nobody was good enough to take.
Steve MacLean missed a trio of chances, one fired over the bar when well placed, another shot from a Johnson knockdown straight at the keeper and, in from a brilliant piece of play involving Ledley, McPhail and Capaldi twice slicing through a jittering visiting defence, he was given a free header in front of goal but put in the only place he couldn't score, head height straight at Konstantopoulos. Some MacLean brilliance also got him into the area and at the by-line but one of Cardiff's deficiencies is a central midfield that suffers penalty box nausea so nobody was available for him.
Gavin Rae started brightly but why doesn't he go all the way on one of his runs? Three times he charged 30 to 50 yards but then stopped to find someone to pass to. Such was Cardiff's pressure and dominance that we also saw a two (yes, two) Steve McPhail shot! ... ok, one almost went out of the ground over the Canton Stand and the other almost landed on top of the corner flag but shots they were! The visiting keeper was also kept busy smothering to save twice from Parry with a low shot and header but it wasn't entirely one way as Coventry won a couple,of corners and Adebola in particular was having the better of Roger Johnson on their rare forays forward.
On 34 minutes, Coventry had another huge let off as a hanging McPhail free-kick evaded everyone and fell for Loovens 6 yards out but his sweeping leg simply helped the ball to Konstantopoulos and it proved to be one miss too many as the visitors took full advantage. The ball was sent to Adebola his ball upfield sent McKenzie clear down City's right with our defence asleep and hopelessly caught out, the player drew Ross Turnbull and squared across the face of goal leaving Coventry's attacking midfielder (attacking midfielder - there's a term we can't use) JAY TABB to slot into an empty net from 5 yards. Sky Blues rejoiced and sang out their Jimmy Hill inspired Boating Song, City fans hacked off as Cardiff were ready to restart but Coventry's players were all at the touchline drinking water, the ref making a futile attempt to get them back. Coventry were already taking the pace and tempo out of the game.
Sadly, and with great justification, Cardiff followers had that sinking feeling. We've now been here so many times and almost continually in home games during 2007. In fact, Cardiff were lucky not to be two down at the interval as Adebola again exposed Johnson, turning him with far too much ease deep inside the box, his shot across goal only narrowly missing. Cardiff did respond with a double save needed to deny Ledley then Parry, Sinclair's rasping drive was hit straight at the keeper and, when, better placed, Sinclair fed Rae, his effort far closer to the blue sky than the Sky Blues keeper.
Half-time: CARDIFF 0 COVENTRY 1
To call City's second half response as "disappointing" would be some understatement, it was almost enough to have hardened insomniacs contemplating some zzzz's under the sun although, credit to City fans, there were a considerable number still making a noise and trying to help inspire them. It was Coventry who again almost doubled their lead as, once more, poor defensive play saw a throw in intercepted, McKenzie burst away and, like Adebola, shot across Turnbull only to miss the far post by a fraction.
For Cardiff, the first notable action came shortly after the hour and it was a substitution. The disappointing Joe Ledley replaced by the just as disappointing Peter Whittingham. What has happened to Whitts? I don't know if he's moping from not starting but I do know he's really not taking his chances when they come along. I don't recall a single telling contribution from him.
The game drifted along until Dave Jones tried another change with less than 10 minutes when Warren Feeney replaced MacLean. It was just over 5 minutes remaining when Jones finally made the more obvious change with Darren Purse introduced at the expense of Chris Gunter (another who had a poor personal game) allowing Roger Johnson to be pushed up front for some much needed height and battle.
Purse came on at a corner and, perhaps, should have scored immediately as the kick came straight to him, he guided his header towards top corner but it was just over and just wide. "If that was the other end of the park, he would have done far better", I said about our own goal specialist and, as if to prove me right, a couple of minutes later he tried to cut out a cross and headed against the angle of his own bar and post then into Turnbull's arms - a novel way of getting the ball back to the keeper.
Time was almost up but City still twice managed to cock up golden opportunities, the first when Roger Johnson got himself clear but his poor first touch took him wide, his second touch - a shot - was almost as bad as he screwed it across the box but Konstantopoulos spilled it at the feet of then cult Warren Feeney (it sounded like they were calling him a cult) but he incredibly put it 10 yards wide when 6 yards out with the goal gaping in front of him. It was more than enough for many who walked out, more who stayed decided to vent their piled high frustrations of Feeney - to think, we still got him for another two and a half years!
Could it get any worse? Yes it could. A ball into the box, Feeney appeared to trip over his own laces but the ref, presumably feeling sorry for us, awarded a penalty. We wouldn't mess it up again, would we? Oh no, not when Darren Purse, captain courageous dived in, fought for the ball and placed it on the spot. We waited and waited, Purse strode up confidently, he always shoots low right or left and into the corner, doesn't he? Not anymore, he wellied it, smashed the bar, the ball came down wrong side of the line and away. You are now permitted to say 10 expletives of your choice which don't go together but express your emotions and anger as that's what I remember doing at this time!
Two home games, two defeats, no goals scored, loads of chances wasted, tow soft goals given away and two last minute penalties missed. The only time we've cheered a City home goal this season, we needed extra-time and be bored off our tits before seeing off the mighty Brighton late on. That's entertainment.
Dave Jones argued we were good enough for a point at least but when you miss good chances, fail to convert penalties and give away soft goals, then nothing is what Cardiff deserve. It really is time Jones and his teams learned their lessons ... there's already been far too much of this.
What can Dave Jones with this bigger, better, stronger squad of his do to change things. Optimists will say the imminent introduction of Hasslebaink and Fowler could be enough, surely they will convert enough of the chances created in periods when City are dominant but is that enough ... and, indeed, will they work anyway? If those two can't pull it off, we are in trouble. We're reasonably strong at the back but Roger Johnson showed he still has a lot of learning to do. Problem is, Darren Purse is hardly showing up well. Tony Capaldi is adequate, no more, at left back and you really wonder why Dave Jones never rated Chris Barker and he's never got anyone better in his place while Chris Gunter has to improve on today's display.
On a day, Coventry;s central midfielders got forward and supported at every opportunity, it shows where we have a problem with Cardiff's who do anything but that. Gavin Rae must be vulnerable the moment Ricky Scimeca is available. Trevor Sinclair is a great acquisition but can he be more than a 60 minute man? He faded badly today and tired last week at QPR too. I am dying to see Peter Whittingham stake a claim, he's talent going forward and a different option to Joe Ledley but he's not showing well right now. Neither striker did well today but many reckoned the MacLean-Parry combo would only be effective on the break in away games, their point was proved. It is transfer deadline in the coming week and Peter Ridsdale has said no signings unless we move players out, we can but hope and pray.
Report from FootyMad
Cardiff City's miserable home form continued with yet another defeat in a game they should have won against Coventry City.
They squandered a host of chances and were made to pay on the half hour when the unmarked Jay Tabb rolled the ball into an empty net.
They even missed a penalty in time added on when Darren Purse struck the crossbar after Warren Feeney had been brought down in the area.
There was no place in the Bluebirds' starting line-up or even on the bench for Robbie Fowler and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and the only change came at full-back where Chris Gunter replaced the injured Kevin McNorton.
Former Bluebird Julian Gray was in the Sky Blues midfield while Robert Page was on the bench.
Steve MacLean had two chances to open the scoring in the first five minutes but failed to trouble the Coventry keeper on either occasion.
In the 20th minute Cardiff should have taken the lead from a MacLean close-range header, but Dimitrios Konstantopoulos held the ball on his goal-line.
In the 35th minute, the visitors went ahead when Leon McKenzie crossed to the unmarked Tabb, who side-footed home into the empty net.
They could have doubled their lead six minutes later when Dele Adebola out-witted Roger Johnson before sending his cross shot wide of the far post.
The Bluebirds had plenty of possession in the second half but, once again, failed to trouble the visitors' goal.
Coventry was dangerous on the break and the busy Tabb flipped a long pass out to McKenzie on the hour, but his shot went beyond the far post.
Cardiff brought on all three subs and put Johnson at the front but, when Feeney was brought down in time added on for the second home match in succession, they missed the chance of gaining a draw by failing from the spot.
Wales On Sunday