Cardiff City 2 Charlton Athletic 0. Match Report
City should have undoubtedly scored more but facing those 9 men, they dropped the pace and strolled about to ensure the win - negative tactics which made for frustrating viewing but Dave Jones muttering something about a previous experience of his at Southampton when 9 man opponents equalised against his side. The odds of a repeat were similar to mine of pulling Cameron Diaz. Some will call it being professional, others will acknowledge it was job done and well done but argue it highlights the one dimensional, dourness and sterile tactics of DJ's set up. That latter group certainly includes me.
A fortnight's break was a blessing for City. Varying injuries and non-selections meant only Comminges was away on senior international duty with Guadeloupe where he helped them qualify for the Caribbean Cup meaning he will also be absent most of December until the Xmas period. Youngsters Heaton, Blake and Brown were part of that thrilling England v Wales Under 21 play-off but the 'holiday' meant the likes of McNaughton, Rae, McPhail and Kennedy could complete recoveries while another boost came as Tony Capaldi and Riccy Scimeca returned to full-time training after lengthy absences. The only absentee was Joe Ledley whose hamstring problem means he's likely to miss more games post-Charlton.
City's side really selected itself. We know who Dave Jones favours and realise the squad is too small with few genuine options and challenges at present so it was Heaton, McNaughton-Purse-Johnson-Kennedy; Whittingham-Rae-McPhail-Parry; Bothroyd-McCormack. Subs were Enckleman-Blake-Comminges-Gypes-Eddie Johnson.
The Sarf Londoners of Charlton have made an unconvincing start to the season but hoped for repeat success against City having got a double last term (their 3-0 and 2-0 successes both ranked amongst City's worst displays of that season and put real pressure on Dave Jones). They visited having lost half their 10 games compared to 1 by Cardiff but just 2 points behind. However their poor away form extended, this latest defeat making it 4 out of 6 on the road. It must now put pressure on their under-performing side and boss, Alan Pardew, particularly with heightened talk of a Dubai consortium takeover.
They started with a 4-4-1-1 system which altered to 4-5-1 as City attacked featuring Weaver, Youga- Hudson-Primus-Cranie; Bailey-Holland-Ambrose-Bouazza; Gray; Varney.
And so to the game on a mild mid-October grey afternoon which started in light drizzle giving a greasy suface where the crowd looked below par but then filled as the game started to 17,310 with just 400 or so travelling in support of the Addicks. These who were present from London would have had genuine hopes as the game started very open with Charlton showing a touch more flair and having the better of it in the centre of the park where Bouazza was shading out Paul Parry as the liveliest performer early on and it wasn't just because of his garish green boots.
City had early openings and carried a threat but never turned them into efforts on goal while Charlton, playing in white and black instead of their traditional red, really should have gone ahead around 10 minutes as that man Bouazza 'skinned' Mark Kennedy and sent a ball to the far post where Luke Varney was left alone completely unmarked but our first piece of luck as he stumbled and that was enough to give Heaton that fraction of time to get out and smother the eventual shot. Before that, Holland and Bouazza went close while Roger Johnson had to be at his best to cut out Varney as he threatened to burst through. Bothroyd decided 10 minutes into the game that he was wearing the wrong boots so changed them and was off pitch for a while, isn't that what the warm up is supposed to decide?
However after Parry and McCormack were blocked as they tried to charge behind Charlton's defence in various attacks but I particularly enjoyed Bothroyd's effort which skied onto the Canton Stand roof, caught a kerb as it landed pitchside, bounced into the Canton Stand and then ricocheted off seating back onto the pitch. How's that's for a trick shot?
The break City needed came on 18 minutes as they moved forward where McPhail teed up Whittingham. His angled shot from 25 yards was straight at Weaver but skidded on the greasy top, the experienced keeper should have done far better than parry it straight back out but it was fantastic awareness by McCORMACK to be first onto it at an angle and his finish was sublime rolling the ball across the prostrate keeper into his far corner when he must have expected it to go the other side. A classy piece of skill and finishing by a very classy player who deserves a far better chant than the bog standard do-do-do-do Ross McCormack one that we also use for Roger Johnson. C'mon singers of the City, show some originality!
The goal settled Cardiff who proceeded to play some good pass and move football without getting close to adding a second although Whittingham's fierce volley which smashed Bailey full on the forehead and sent him sprawling backwards onto the deck as if he'd been caught by Joe Calzaghe was highly entertaining while McPhail and McCormack volleyed wide with spectacular efforts.
Half-time: Cardiff City 1 Charlton Athletic 0
Once the half-time show was out of the way (a first half video rewind, a kids game, more kids trying to score from corner-kicks, Olympic swimming medallists and City fans David Davies and David Roberts with their coach getting a standing ovation plus Cardiff City former stars Phil 'Joe' Dwyer (still my hero) and Richie Morgan saying a few indecipherable words over the p.a., we were back to the action. (Thanks to Ali by the way for the half-time birthday request for my nephews)
Charlton made a sub as Simedo replaced Cranie but within 5 minutes, he was back in the dressing room with a straight red card and the most controversial of incidents. Bothroyd flicked on well, McCormack chased through and went down for what looked like a clear penalty. However, ref Friend (who was nobody's Friend today) decided it was a couple of inches outside the box which looked completely wrong. Having wronged us however, he then decided to make two wrongs into a right as he showed a straight red to Simedo for his lunge but with another player close by, was he really the last defender?
If City felt aggrieved by free-kick instead of spot kick, it eventually didn't really matter as McCORMACK hit his shot low, Charlton's wall disintegrated and Weaver was static as the ball flew inside his near post instead of being blocked to effectively make it game over.
That was his 9th of the season, we look set to be eating our words that we didn't have a 20 goal striker as the wee man is getting better and better. He's exciting to watch and is, thankfully, spending more time in and around the box. Those who commented he wouldn't have been in position to net the rebound for his first goal a few weeks ago certainly have a point. The worry now is that, similar to when Chopra was here, there is nobody who is going to weigh in with another decent return to back it up. As well as Bothroyd played and worked hard, he doesn't get enough shots away and never seems to be on the end of anything in the box.
Linvoy Primus who looked a veteran defender today, vintage = slow and sluggish, could have hauled Charlton back into it but he fluffed a far post free header but if it wasn't already game over, it certainly was as his fellow centre back Mark Hudson got himself 2 yellow cards in 2 minutes for catching Parry then Bothroyd as they turned and got away from him but neither in dangerous positions making his challenges silly even if the overall red card was harsh.
Playing against 9 minutes for the final 23 minutes (plus 5 minutes of added time), it really should have set City up for a storming finish and a much needed goal difference boost even if it is debatable whether that should matter after 46 games but they infuriatingly dropped a gear and never really hurt their opponents. Inexplicably, they never kept 2 men hugging the wide touchlines to spread play as Parry and Whittingham continually came inside nor did Dave Jones take the opportunity to give someone like Darcy Blake a deserved run out in midfield. It also made sense to rest a couple really with 3 more key Championship games coming up in 10 days but what do we know eh? Instead, DJ waited until 5 minutes left to give Comminges a small run and added time for Eddie Johnson to come on. The fact he refused to use a Premiership striker being paid silly money by City any game time is a damning indictment on Johnson himself as well as Jones and the club for bringing him in.
City mustered a couple of shots only - Whittingham and McPhail blocked, Bothroyd hitting the side netting after doing the hard work and Rae rolling a shot wide clear on goal moments before matchday sponsors The Echo picked him out as City's man of the match to the collective groan of 17,000 people (The Echo have a habit of making a silly choice when they sponsor a game). They largely bored us into chatter amongst ourselves, watching in disbelieving silence or seeing enough and heading home early or to the pubs. In fact, it was Charlton who came closest of all to scoring as Gray danced around McNaughton in the box, ut back and it was a superb Whittingham intervention that denied Holland slotting into what was an open goal.
A poor effort indeed - as I say, some call that doing a professional job. Largely those, who feel it's negative and disloyal to point out that final quarter was complete tosh.
However good and acceptable win. We were doing the business 11 v 11 anyway and I always felt we would have won without the red cards as we were in the ascendency before that started. Everyone played their part but I thought Purse looked peerless at the back - the guy has taken enough criticism over the past year or two so let's give credit and praise where due - while McNaughton creates a buzz every time he has the ball (he must be miffed by our ending as a hat-trick was there for the taking). Bothroyd showed his class several times and for a player with a past reputation for laziness, you have to admire his work-rate and effort for City but he needs to get efforts on goal, this was another game where he didn't manage any. If it were not for SuperMac's goals and skills, then you'd have to give Whitts a shoe-in for what was probably his best 90 minutes all season for City. Not flitting in and out of the game, he was heavily involved and is such a class act when on song.
The league table looks very pleasing and, let's hope, this marks a period where City turn too many draws early season into a few wins instead. Those next 3 games (Watford and Forest away followed by Blackpool at home Tuesday week) certainly offer a great opportunity for City to cement their current lofty status - if you mean business, grab it lads.
Report from FootyMad
A Ross McCormack double gave Cardiff City victory over a Charlton side reduced to nine men midway through the second half.
There was only one change in the Bluebirds line-up from the side that drew at Blackpool with Paul Parry out wide in place of the injured Joe Ledley.
Charlton had two early strikes with Matt Holland firing across goal and Hameur Bouazza rippling the side-netting as the visitors impressed on the break.
Bouazza beat Kevin McNaughton down the left and Roger Johnson did well to head over his own bar with Andy Gray waiting at the far post.
Bouazza was opening up the home defence and in the 12th minute he slotted a superb pass into Luke Varney, but the former Crewe striker stumbled in front of an open goal and the chance was lost.
City took the lead against the run of play in the 18th minute when Peter Whittingham made space for a shot.
His low drive was pushed out by Nicky Weaver to McCormack, who hit a first-time shot into the back of the net.
The goal settled City but the visitors were still dangerous coming out of defence with Darren Ambrose and Bouazza both busy as Charlton controlled midfield.
The Addicks made one change for the second half with Jose Semedo replacing Martin Cranie at full-back.
But the substitute lasted only seven minutes before being red carded after bringing McCormack down well inside the penalty area.
To everyone's amazement, referee Kevin Friend gave the Bluebirds a free-kick just outside the box.
It made little difference, however, as McCormack struck the free-kick into the corner of the net for his ninth goal of the season.
A Bouzza cross in the 63rd minute gave Linvoy Primus a clear heading chance but he lofted the ball high and wide.
Charlton were down to nine men when skipper Mark Hudson received two yellow cards in the space of two minutes.
He brought down Parry after 66 minutes and then downed Jay Bothroyd in the 68th minute.
It was one-way traffic from then one but the Bluebirds were unable to make the extra men count despite being in complete control.
Wales On Sunday
South Wales Echo