This was a clash of 2nd (Wolves) vs 3rd (City) with supposed Premiership and Play-Off ambitions but the quality on show hardly looked Championship standard for the most part. In fact, the amount of aimless punts, misplaced passes, poor control, kicks straight out of play and lack of ideas of display from both sides, it was more suited to Pontcanna Fields than a national tv audience. The rather silly start of 5:20pm kick-off time meant Cardiff were down to 6th by kick-off and that's where they stay for now after this setback. I don't understand why Sky show Saturday evening games and have taken off the more preferable Friday night football. Is it really going to get many viewers when Setanta screen a Premiership game at the same time (Spurs v Liverpool tonight) while most households tune to X-Factor or Strictly Come Dancing. Come to think of it, QVC probably had better quality on show.
Still here we were, desperately trying to pace ourselves reasonably in the pubs as other scores came in on a chilly day which warmed slightly through the day with a swirling wind which caused City more problems than their opponents and drizzle by the end of the evening. The atmosphere, for me, just didn't feel the same as 17,734 punters headed towards the ground at a time we've usually walked away from it but maybe City's shocking start and an equally shocking travelling support of barely 300 (yep, it was coach only and live on tv but that's a poor following although it is believed they were making an understandable point about the restrictions - we can't condone teams coming here on bubble trips when we despise them so much ourselves) had something to do with that too.
City started with the line-up that finished against Blackpool as the continued absence meant the choice of Joe or Comminges at left back, DJ opted for the former. A couple of players had missed training with a flu-style bug, notably Parry and Bothroyd, but both started. Cardiff:, Heaton: McNaughton-Purse-Johnson-Ledley: Parry-Rae-McPhail-Whittingham: McCormack-Bothroyd. Subs were Enckleman-Blake-Comminges-Gypes-Johnson(Eddie).
Wolves were runaway leaders with 7 successive wins after an opening day draw before losing 3 of the following 4 but are now starting a new run, this was their 3rd successive win. If it's goals you want, follow the Wolves as their aggregate tally from 15 games is 58 - almost 10 more than any other Championship side and 26 more than Cardiff City games. Manager Mick McCarthy has shrewdly built an excellent squad without splashing the cash via purging the most promising talent from the lower divisions including Welsh internationals Wayne Hennessey and David Edwards were both had to watch from the subs bench. Wolves:, Ikeme: Foley-Stearman-Mancienne-Gray: Kightly-Henry-Jones-Ward: Ebanks-Blake - Iwelumo.
As usual, Ali asked us to 'make sum noize for the boize' (that's how Noddy Holder would call it!) but we were instead stunned into silence in a devastating opening 10 minute salvo as Wolves did the same to City as we did to them in last season's memorable F.A. Cup charge. However their 2 goal lead owed everything to Cardiff defensive horrors.
Inside 4 minutes, Heaton's kick up the park was headed back from halfway but Roger Johnson,completely missed heading a return header from a ball bouncing in front of him. Away went CHRIS IWELUMO but to compound the initial poor defence, the played managed to turn Joe Ledley inside the box, Ledders looking afraid to challenge, and fire a shot across Heaton.
If that was bad enough, much worse was to follow. A simple forward ball from the touchline,. Darren Purse was caught lying too deep and then stepping up for an offside that never was which left EBANKS-BLAKE bearing down on goal albeit at an angle but he kept his cool as Purse chased back to once more fire across Heaton into his far corner. The defending was atrocious both times but you have to also question why Heaton failed to close down the angle either time and was a touch slow getting down to shots within his grasp on both occasions.
It was effectively game over before things had even started but just to rub salt in the wound, Jay Bothroyd - playing against his former club - pulled up with hamstring pull or tear and there now seemed no way back at all. In a defining moment, Dave Jones didn't throw Premiership-waged Eddie Johnson into the action but introduced Comminges at left back, Joe shuffled up and Paul Parry was made a makeshift forward - by my reckoning, that decision relegated Eddie Johnson to 4th choice striker out of 3 which sums up he is, for many reasons, a woeful loan addition which is holding back City. You can dance around it and try to be more accommodating but that's your reality.
However, to their credit, City found a way back into the game when the belief and confidence had drained out of the crowd with a smart move and smart goal. Whittingham and McNaughton brought the ball out from deep, McPhail swept it to Comminges who sent a line ball to Paul Parry and his first time whipped cross was taken down in one touch by ROSS McCORMACK who swivelled and fired high past a static Ikeme from 10 yards for his 12th of the season and a quality strike underlining his talent.
The ground was bouncing and ecstatic, Cardiff responded having the better for the rest of the half but the quality of their football left much to be desired and Rae and McPhail once again performed their vanishing act (it happens far too often if we're to be genuine season long challengers) and resorted to hideous long and high ball tactics. I got vocally angry on a few occasions watching their directionless, lofted passes floating here, there and everywhere. If they've lost their way and resorted to balls pumped forward, at least put some bloody pace and direction on it!!! Wolves boss Mick McCarthy hailed his central defenders of Stearman and Mancienne, the latter on loan from Chelsea looked very good, but we completely played it into their hands. They won't get many easier afternoons on the road this season, that's for sure.
For all their general dominance for the rest of the half, all City had to show were variable McCormack efforts from distance and a corner where Johnson and Purse impeded each other at a set piece while Wolves were within a whisker of a third goal as Heaton missed a corner leaving McNaughton to clear off the line. After the worst start possible, most City followers were just grateful to reach midway and still be in the game.
H/T: CITY 0 WOLVES 1
Many fans thought City were unlucky not to get a 2nd half draw and they had good chances while Wolves had no decisive opportunity but I thought Wolves, even though they're far from the best defensive side and didn't impress, contained Cardiff with relative comfort.
The key moment came early in the half as McCormack was clipped on the heel by a trailing defender as he entered the box. Few realised it but Sky showed it was a likely penalty. The ref didn't consider that and, worse, McCormack pick up a hell/hamstring problem and had to limp out meaning that, this time, Dave Jones had no option other than to turn to the indescribable Eddie Johnson.
Johnson made an instant impression by flicking on a header towards the box. Paul Parry never anticipated him getting any touch so didn't react. Johnson didn't perform so badly but the jury isn't out anymore, he just isn't the answer. If Cardiff have to play him over the next couple of weeks with the key strikers injured, we have a serious problem.
Key action was at an absolute premium in the 2nd half but Cardiff sent in a number of crosses but just didn't get on the end of any, other chances came as a handball was denied, Roger Johnson's hapless afternoon continued as he fired wide from close range at a corner when the gap was there and in added time, the ball fell kindly in space form Eddie Johnson but he hit his angled effort too cleanly and at Ikeme who blocked well.
The half highlighted some of City's key deficiencies. Whatever the conflicting opinions on Tom Heaton's occasional erratic keeping, standing on his line and set piece positioning, there is no argument that his kicking is atrocious. It defies belief how, again, he sent a number of kicks straight into the crowd while others flew straight though to his opposite number. This from a Manchester United and England Under 21 keeper.
At the back, it was good to see Super Kev put in a strong display but our centre half duo, Roger Johnson especially, let us down today with Johnson putting in an uncharacteristically poor error-strewn display while, as well as Purse has played, his mistakes have now cost us a couple of recent goals under close examination.
There continues to be a key problem in midfield. Rae and McPhail was, once again, anonymous. It happens far too often and will always hold City back if there is to be a season long play-of and promotion drive. This matter is exacerbated by there being no serious competition to the duo. McPhail particularly annoyed by playing far too deep, often so far that he was taking the ball from Heaton including the final minute of added time. Poor play and decision making.
Then we have the strange case of Joe Ledley. There's a Joe Ledley on the pitch but it's not the one we know and love despite the incredulous tannoy announcement that he was City's man of the match but that merely continued a recent trend whereby City's less effective performer gets the nod - we had Gavin Rae last time. Joe is way below form and on current displays, you can argue whether he even deserves a starting berth. Many will declare that his head has been turned and he is affected by the denial of his £6M August deadline day move to Stoke and new rumours that Spurs will pay £8M for him in January. I honestly thought, tv cameras and big opposition, Joe would show us the style today - how wrong I was. I just hope he's not doing an Earnie (our former hero who stopped playing in his final months at City knowing he wanted out and was going). C'Mon Joe - you're way better than this.
However it's up front with the focus will now lie. Time without McCormack and Bothroyd doesn't bear thinking about but it'll now be the acid test of the ambition around the club to do something about it as City remain 6th but will very quickly fall away if we struggle for points this month and no/little action is taken. Over to you Messrs Ridders and Jones.
Report from FootyMad
Wolves moved four points clear at the top of the Championship table with a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Cardiff City.
The Bluebird made one change from the side that beat Blackpool in midweek, with Joe Ledley slotting in at full-back and Peter Whittingham starting on the left flank.
Wolves settled better with the advantage of a swirling wind and they opened the scoring in the fourth minute with a goal from Chris Iwelumo.
A long ball out of defence wasn't cut out by Roger Johnson and Iwelumo was able to run past him, bare down on goal and shoot beyond Tom Heaton.
It quickly became worse for the Bluebirds as Wolves doubled their lead in the eighth minute. With the City defence trying to play offside, Darren Purse was slow to move out and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake had a clear run before shooting across Heaton and into the far corner.
The Bluebirds battled away with Ross McCormack busy up front, but with Michael Mancienne and Richard Stearman outstanding in the centre of defence the home side found it difficult to carve out any openings.
City suffered a blow when Jay Bothroyd limped off to be replaced by Miguel Comminges, but it was the former Swindon player who set up a goal for the home side.
He slid a pass down the left flank to Paul Parry and his cross was met by McCormack who rifled in his 12th goal of the season.
Cardiff pounded away at the Wolves defence without making much headway and early in the second half they suffered a second blow when McCormack limped off with what looked like a hamstring problem.
The loss of City's two main strikers did not help their cause, but they still battled away in an effort to get on terms.
Both goalmouths were kept busy in the closing stages, but Cardiff were unable to get the equaliser their performance deserved.
Wales on Sunday