We're the famous Cardiff City
And we're going to Wem-ber-lee
Well, Round 2 draw anyway but I've had more entertaining evenings watching QVC than tonight at Ninian Park and a game that didn't finish until almost 20 past 10. Those fans that survived a tortuous spectacle deserve a medal for gallantry.
In all honesty, it was same old, same old. It's difficult to write about watching the same deficiencies and finding something new to say about it. As seems to be the script, City had almost total domination, territory and possession. If football was about moving the ball sideways and across the park and occasionally down the sides but going nowhere in particular, we would strong contenders for the Champions League but that flatters to deceive.
It counts for little because City are clueless and lacking intelligence in attacking and breaking down sides in the final 30 yards. Creativity is almost non-existent, pace and movement certainly is non-existent, our central midfield seem to have contracts forbidding them getting into opposition penalty areas and it is bewildering to watch a small strike force being fed mostly by high back post crosses. Brighton were very limited, only threatening to score when City made errors but, even so, their keeper never had a difficult save to make all night long until Roger Johnson planted a firm header home breaking two hours of tedium in the name of football. It was celebrated in relief more than joy.
The Carling Cup (or as Dave Jones often treats it "The Can't Be Arsed Cup") is, truthfully, as valid to football today as a Leighton James late night drive home is to road safety. Only lower division sides seem to treat it with respect which is a shame really but, let's be fair, fans now see it the same way too. After Saturday's sell out, only 3,716 bothered tonight including 200 from the South Coast despite prices of just £10-£12 for adults in all parts of the ground. It was sparse with the Family Stand housing few and Bob Bank seats closed for the night.
However it does offer a Wembley final and European place but, more relevant to us, some decent revenue and prize money and the opportunity of playing Premiership giants with progress. OK, their kids and reserves then. Never mind Dave and Pete, with our bigger, stronger squad and your promotion vision, we won't be in it next season eh?
Peter Ridsdale's mind was probably distracted as the latest public war has broken out between Hammam and himself - didn't you just know Hammam would never go quietly? - rowing over debts, making threats of administration and accusing then counter-accusing each other. Brighton displayed the SKINT logo on their kit, maybe we should adopt it. Ridsdale moved quickly with calls and statements refuting matters but, let's be fair, did anyone really believe he had cleared our debts just like that? This problem, though, is the last thing City need but here we go again, we should be used to it by now.
PR sat in the Director's Box at what looked like a heavyweight Politbureau Convention with Toshack, Kinnock, Guy and Borley alongside him but he still found time to shout out despairing comments towards Roger Johnson and other remarks during extra-time. Credit to him for that, I'd almost lost the will to live, never mind shouting at anyone. In front of them was Robbie Fowler, I wouldn't mind being paid his money to sit in the stands.
However, Team News and it was a surprise to read Corporal Jones claim on the official website pre-game given his past contempt that, "I can only see me making three changes". It turned out to be 4, a huge improvement on last season's "third team" put out against Barnet but it emphasised the need for players to learn and develop. He went Turnbull, Gunter-Johnson-Purse-Capaldi, Parry-McPhail-Rae-Whittingham, Feeney-MacLean. Johnson and Purse were having their own play-off cup game - a contest to see which of the faltering season starters would play alongside Glenn Loovens this weekend. McPhail was a surprising inclusion, quickly recovering for his weekend knock. Gunter, Parry and Whittingham were being given a run-out.
With Chops gone, Fowler and Thommo injured, Green and Byrne ignored, the only strikers seen around Cardiff recently have been Post Office workers. DJ persevered with the Feeney MacLean dream ticket(!) and even added a striker to the bench this time in Matt Green.
Brighton have similarities with City. They play in blue and white (colours were swapped for white shirts and blue shorts tonight as they almost played in Cardiff's away colours as their kit apparently arrived late), they're spent the few years mostly talking about a new stadium but actually seem to be on the way at last and they opened the season disappointingly. Their being a 2-1 defeat at Crewe with signs that they'll be making up the numbers again in League One having finished just above the relegated sides last season despite having one of the very best away records. Their Bluebird links are no more with Charlie (Porridge) Oatway having to retire after a repeat serious injury pre-season and Richard "Chippy" Carpenter having moved on to non-league Welling.
Managed by Dean Wilkins (brother of 'super, interesting, fabulous' "Butch" Ray), he chose Kuipers, Whing-Lynch-Butters, El-Abd,- Elphick-Fraser-Hammond-Cox and Revell as a rather lonely striker.
With a damp night before, some heavy showers in the day and a couple of downpour in the hour before the game, the pitch looked immaculate and the ball could zip around but someone forgot to tell the City players to do that. "Support the boys, make some noizzzzzzzze" shouted Ali but the only zzzzzz's back were snores as this "festival of football" unfolded … slowly, very slowly.
The first half set the tone for the whole night with City having the run of the pitch to 35 yards from goal and then, with no pace or tempo, little to get excited about. Kuipers, the Brighton keeper, had only one save - a Parry drive straight at him otherwise it was poor to average crosses finding nobody, shots blocked or nowhere near target. Chris Gunter tried to push forward and press but must have had a mate in the Canton Stand as he sent three high efforts to the back of it but at least he was having a go, more than can be said for most. Warren Feeney hit the bar … the bar guttering of the Canton Stand roof that is. City's solitary moment of danger came when Turnbull was ponderous on a back pass and came within a whisker of being intercepted in front of goal. Entertainment seemed to be limited to early chants of "we need a striker" and "where's the money gone?" from the Grange End plus shots of "hi-ho" when Brighton's mascot/jockey height Cox was on the ball.
Half-time: CITY 0 BRIGHTON 0
As the teams came back, Ali was already praying on the tannoy shouting out,"I don't want extra-time and I know you don't either" but it already had that inevitability about the game.
If the first half was poor, the second was even worse. No complaints at how City play it around in areas of the pitch that present little danger i.e. 40 yards from goal but we completely lack inspiration and quality - the type of quality players like Koumas and Chops provided in the previous two seasons - and also someone to take charge out there. Too many players are nice and compact and lightweight in this "bigger, better, stronger" squad and it's a real worry.
There were a couple of minor scares each end, Turnbull let a back pass go under his boot, Purse almost got another o.g. whilst Cardiff's ineptness and Brighton's strong rearguard action meant another succession of shots and chances were snuffed, blocked or fired high and wide.
Entertainment this half was provided when Parry and a Brighton player got injured after a poor challenge on Parry on halfway in front of the Bob Bank. City's physio, Sean Connolly, was straight across the pitch. Brighton's overweight equivalent lost the dash by 30 yards and hailed with chants of "you fat b*stard". With little atmosphere in the ground, I also enjoyed Roger Johnson's occasional abuse to gee up his team-mates.
Final whistle brought a few boos of frustration. Quite a few had seen enough and decided to go anyway …wise people. Those who stayed wished both sides tossed a coin to decide the winners and spare us any more of this agony.
FULL-TIME: CITY 0 BRIGHTON 0
I felt strangely encouraged going into extra-time but only because 3 Brighton players were being treated for cramp, many were sitting whilst Cardiff's all stood, some stretching and jogging while an animated Dave Jones seemed to be venting his spleen in his own way.
And Cardiff finally started getting some meaningful efforts. A cracking volley by McPhail - one of the few good performers - missed Kuiper's bar by a couple of inches. An edge of area free-kick was surprisingly taken by Roger Johnson who curled over the bar, Ledley almost got past his marker twice - it was one of the very few times our widemen took on someone as opposed to checking out or moving the ball back. Better but not truly exciting, penalties look inevitable and I think many City fans had a feeling we would blow them.
EXTRA-TIME HALF-TIME 0-0 with Ali playing "I still haven't found what I'm looking for". 285 minutes at home with no goal, too true we hadn't.
It was now so late that a couple of players needed to check with their mothers if they could stay out to play for a bit longer. On the pitch, the action was just as yawn-worthy but City almost scored as a deflected stumble went a few inches wide whilst a corner was won … hurrah! … after a header was pushed wide.
From it, relief at last, the ball swung to ROGER JOHNSON who guided it home missile-like tucked inside the near post from where the corner came. Some kids asked their dads what it was that just happened, their fathers having to explain it's called a Cardiff City goal and we see them as often as a full moon currently. Johnson himself ran to halfway in front of the Director's Box and was signalling to someone there but presumably not Robbie Fowler who appeared to have upped and gone some time beforehand.
Aaron Ramsey came on for the closing 5 minutes but barely had a touch. Brighton tried to hit back but it was City who came closest to doubling their lead as a ball ran to MacLean whose screwed shot beat the keeper but also his far post by a fraction.
With only 2 minutes added, one final flutter as Chris Gunter - one of our few players to shine - immaculately headed back to Turnbull, the keeper incredibly messed up for a third time and gifted Brighton a corner who, fortunately, came to nought. Turnbull's confidence looks very low at present.
Final whistle went afterwards, City are through to Round Two but, by this point, I think I was far more grateful to be finally going home.
Report from FootyMad
Roger Johnson saved Cardiff City's blushes with an extra-time header as the Championship side sneaked past Brighton and into the second round of the Carling Cup.
The centre-back rose to nod Stephen McPhail's 110th minute corner into the back of the net to hand the Bluebirds a 1-0 win in a tepid affair at Ninian Park
The game always seemed destined to go the distance as the home side lacked class and often resorted to shooting from range.
Cardiff enjoyed the best of the early exchanges but failed to make the most of their possession with only a deflected Steven MacLean shot calling Brighton keeper Michels Kuipers into action.
A rasping effort from Paul Parry stung the keeper's hand after 25 minutes but the Seagulls stopper managed to get the ball before the lurking Warren Feeney could pounce.
Brighton did not threaten the Cardiff goal until late on in the first half when defender Tommy Elphick sent a 25-yard shot just wide of Ross Turnbull.
And after a lacklustre 45 minutes, things failed to improve for either side in the second period.
Cardiff always seemed in control but lacked the cutting edge leaving the Seagulls to almost snatch an unlikely lead on the hour mark with a long-range curler from Dean Cox just creeping past Turnbull's post.
Feeney nearly opened the scoring after 65 minutes as he picked up the ball on the edge of the Brighton box and created space, but his deflected shot only clipped the outside of the post
That was the last real chance of a turgid 90 minutes and the game petered out with both sides seeming to accept the inevitable extra time.
McPhail went close for the home side in the additional 30 minutes, but it looked like the game was set for penalties before Johnson broke free at the back post and headed the Bluebirds into the second round.
South Wales Echo