Cardiff City 1 Sheffield Wednesday 0. Match Report

Last updated : 14 January 2008 By Michael Morris
It's getting almost George Graham Arsenal-esque down at Ninian Park. For the third successive home game and fourth game out of six, you could almost hear yourself singing ONE - NIL TO THE BOYS IN THE BLUE. The exceptions to a near identical blueprint being the 4-1 trouncing of Colchester and the season-turning 2-0 home defeat to Charlton.

This time, Sheffield Wednesday fell in identical fashion as their town neighbours United, Plymouth and Ipswich have in recent weeks in the Principality. Cardiff thoroughly outplayed them all first half, grabbed a goal around the half -hour, missed the chances to kill them off leaving ugly second periods holding onto what we have.

This time, the recalled and resurgent Jimmy Floyd-Hasslebaink coolly collected a 36th minute winner in what proved to be his finest hour yet for Cardiff, City also hit the woodwork in both halves, Joe Ledley missed a sitter and they were rarely in trouble against a limited but physical and spirited Sheffield Wednesday side. The Bluebirds new found resilience is admirable but you do feel they will need to find a little more again if their rise is to continue.

However another 3 points it is, the plaudits and celebrations deserved and the transformation spectacular as City have shot from 20th place and 2 points off relegation to 8th and 2 points from the play-off spots in just 6 amazing weeks. Ninian Park is a happy place to be right now and City fans' singing showed that.

Two Dave Jones alterations from last week's win at Chasetown saw stand-in captain Steve McPhail return after his one match ban at the expense of Aaron Ramsey despite his man of the match full debut in that cup game while Hasselbaink's recall denied Steve MacLean the chance to face his previous club. MacLean may talk about getting a run in the side but he must grab the opportunity when he gets one and didn't show much last weekend.

New loan man Peter Enckleman was a sub having only arrived in Cardiff yesterday leaving Michael Oakes to continue in goals which meant City lined up with Oakes, McNaughton-Johnson-Loovens-Capaldi, Whittingham-Rae-McPhail-Parry, Hasselbaink-Parry. Subs were Enckleman-MacLean-Purse-Ramsey-Thompson.

On this showing, Sheffield Wednesday are nicknamed The Owls because they don't do much by day and it's a hoot to play them. For the second successive season, they started abysmally, this time with 6 straight defeats. However they turned things around but came to South Wales on the crest of a new slump under Brian Laws having taken just 5 of their last 24 points available to now stand 1 point and 1 place above the bottom.

The only brightness about their display today was their hideous all dayglo orange kit with their keeper in all purple, like 10 cans of Tango and a Ribena. Their defensive-minded 4-1-3-2 system featured Grant, Bullen-Hinds-Beevers-Spurr, Whelan-O'Brien-Esajas-Watson-Tudgay-Clarke. Leading scorer Akpo Sodje was absent and so was their best known name in Franny Jeffers but neither have been playing well.

Wednesday lost a director for confessing to racist remarks in the week but, in the transfer window, they have so far held onto key asset in midfielder Glenn Whelan, declining bids from Plymouth and Burnley for a player out of contract in May but the free transfer signing of Ronnie Wallwork from WBA, yesterday suggests they have got their replacement for him. Whelan started, Wallwork was on the bench but appeared late on.

With park games cancelled but a sunny mild day after torrential rain on Friday and a healthy 750 fans from South Yorkshire, the crowd was the best for a while with 14,015 inside Ninian Park but that is barely above budget. It's time for Ridsdale and Co to talk up the club, I don't think they do it enough as they seem too busy talking about themselves or the downside of the club.

Cardiff's first half display was excellent. A breathless start rarely let up until the interval with Wednesday rarely able to get out of their half and relieved to somehow still be in contention. City could have gone ahead in the opening exchanges as an exciting move saw Hasselbaink sent McPhail away, his squared ball saw Whittingham cut inside two defenders but his powerful low shot was straight at Grant. Moments later Hasslebaink, looking much livelier and, dare I say, more interested after his recent pedestrian outings hit a distance effort at Grant too. Then at 3:06pm, it happened. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink decided to jump in the air and win a header. I swear I saw him do that!

Wednesday's defending was cynical, going through with their challenges, backing into City players while in mid-air and, somehow, Paul Parry found himself being pulled about by Owls' beanstalk defender Hinds yet being penalised by ref Woolmer and a poor linesman in front of the Bob Bank. Another magic move, Hasselbaink central again, gave Whittingham another outstanding chance but his effort was blocked.

Wednesday managed to ride the storm and made some in-roads on City's goal with Tudgay, another who went through with his challenges and without caution, being denied by the magnificent Loovens as he was set to pull the trigger, a couple of corners causing some consternation and Tudgay's innocuous looking 20 yard shot being unconvincingly touched around the post by a nervy Oakes.

Over that spell, City showed their pedigree again. Roger Johnson doing brilliantly and so unlucky in reaching a corner at the far post which seemed well above him but heading onto the angle of post and bar with Grant nowhere but the keeper then made a superb stop to tip over Hasslebaink's flicked header deflecting a Whittingham cross with venom attached. Peter Whittingham then hit a stinger, with power that 70's thunderboots John Buchanan would have admired which Bullen parried.

Over the tannoy, Ali sent out a message for Nigel Way in A Block to leave for his wife in labour. I thought it was a wind up and Ali and "Pigeon" were in school together many moons ago, at Fitzalan like myself. Pigeon had a serious heart attack a couple of years ago and is older than me which should make him far too old to be a father but, apparently, it was true and he did leave. Good Luck Pigeon The Postie!!

Just as he walked, on 35 minutes, the visitors and Grant finally cracked and, after all they had kept out, it was to the simplest of goals. Gavin Rae. again playing well, sent a speculative through ball that caused panic in The Owls defence who paused fatally as they saw keeper Grant charging out, between them all nipped HASSELBAINK who stayed cool and showed experience to divert the ball past Grant and watch it roll the 18 yards into goal, the ball slowing all the way but with enough on it to get there.

Confidence boosted, Hasselbaink was at it again straight from the restart hitting the most vicious of goalbound shots that I pitied Whelan who got in the way of it and was surprised the game wasn't stopped so that he could get his head back.

Wednesday's Esajas was subbed before half-time after giving a more than passable impression of looking like someone who had never played the game before in his life! The chance to have finished it altogether was wasted by Joe Ledley who was brilliantly put one on one by Whittingham's classy switched pass, his right foot shot looked in all the way but incredibly went wide. Ledley, moments later, hit the top of the Canton Stand with another effort. Missing open goals and hitting roof stands may help keep him here!

In the third minute of added time, Tony Capaldi was stopped from taking a throw and asked to leave the pitch as had a nosebleed. His snout makes Barry Manilow's look normal but was it possibly caused by City being so high in the league table?

Half-time: CITY 1 SHEFF WEDS 0

The second half was rubbish but at least it was tense rubbish backed by resounding and fantastic support. Wednesday showed more adventure by swapping the defensive veteran that is Steve Watson for Wallwork and going to a more rigid 4-4-2.

It started promisingly enough, a good move saw a lofted Rae ball into the box, Loovens then become City's 2nd centre half to hit the bar with a header, Johnson scooped it back but Parry could only send a soft second header straight at Grant.

It was, however, at the other end that Loovens' and Johnson's heading heroics really counted as City lost their way, were pushed back without being in trouble but struggling to do much on the counter. Jimmy Hasselbaink looked burned out, after an outstanding opening half, before the hour and that didn't help as clearances were not behind held up and coming straight back. It was, however, not until 10 minutes from time that Jones finally made the switch for Thommo, far too long but we got away with it.

Ref Woolmer, who has previously infuriated City and Jones, wasn't doing himself any favours again as some strongarm tactics by Wednesday went unpunished by free kicks or even warnings, Johnson needing lengthy treatment after another reckless hit by Tudgay. Loovens also needed treatment but then found himself booked for a bodycheck. Fair enough too but there was as bad or worse challenges that never got a caution at all.

Loovens is now only 1 card away from a 2 match ban but the card count was evened as Wallwork went right through Joe Ledley. We speculated whether Whittingham or Jimmy would hit the free-kick but Parry sneaked between them, his swerving low hit was spilled by Grant with Johnson not quite able to snap up the rebound.

The longer the game progressed the more City dropped back and it was worrying but Johnson and Loovens were magnificent, getting up and heading away every corner and cross time after time. McNaughton got man of the match but I thought it could and should have gone to one of our magical centre half duo who really have built a fantastic uncompromising understanding.

Cardiff had late worries as Wallwork let set to score but Johnson pt his body in the way then Oakes got his first City clean sheet and City's 4th in 7 games by extending a hand to push Tudgay's header over.

Six minutes of added time produced gasps but it was right given the stoppages but City fans had been singing City home from every part of the ground all through the final quarter and they lifted it another notch in this spell where, to be fair, Cardiff played it well even if it was largely about going to corners and keeping it there but at least they had the game in Wednesday's half.

So now it's 6 league wins out of 8 Championship games, contrast that to only 4 victories in the first 19 and Ninian Park, labelled as a hellhole for the team by Dave Jones a few weeks ago, is now rested to fortress status. You can tell it's happier times as the pubs are fuller after games in Canton and everyone stays for longer. Oh happy daze! As someone used to remark, "it's a funny ol'game".

Report from FootyMad

A first-half strike by Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink gave the Bluebirds their fourth straight home victory as they moved closer to the play-off positions.

He seized on a pass from Gavin Rae in the 36th minute before sliding the ball past the on-rushing Lee Grant in the visitors' goal.

Wednesday took control of the match during the second period but City defended magnificently to continue their impressive run.

The Bluebirds showed one change with Hasselbaink restored to the starting line-up in place of Aaron Ramsey.

Amongst the substitutes was new loan signing Peter Enckelman.

City pinned Wednesday back on to the defence in the opening minutes and both Hasselbaink and Peter Whittingham had shots blocked as the Bluebirds piled on the pressure.

The Owls won their first corner in the 28th minute after Michael Oakes had pushed a Leon Clarke shot around the post.

Two more corners three minutes later spelt danger for City, but the defence held firm and they went back on to the attack only for Grant to tip Hasselbaink's header over the bar.

When the deep corner came over Roger Johnson rose highest but his header clipped the woodwork.

Hasselbaink finally hit the target for his fifth league goal of the season and Joe Ledley should have doubled the lead in the 42nd minute, but fired wide with only the visitors' keeper to beat.

The second half began with City back on the offensive and Glenn Loovens' header in the 51st minute rattled the Owls crossbar.

Second-half substitute Ronnie Wallwork had a close-range header tipped over by Oakes and Clarke went close before Brian Laws brought on Deon Burton to add more fire-power at the front.

The visitors had certainly raised the tempo in the second half and City were hanging on for long spells but Loovens and Johnson were superb for the Bluebirds who held out for a deserved victory.

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