Cardiff City 2 Ipswich Town 1. Match Report

Last updated : 29 November 2005 By NigelBlues

Jason Koumas grabbed a 90th minute winner clinching a 2-1 victory over Ipswich Town on a night when we, once more, saw the best and worst of this Cardiff City side who, if nothing else, showed on a night of high drama that they certainly know how to raise blood pressure, severely test heartbeats, wring emotions and fray nerves. You need to be relatively fit to watch them, let alone play for them.

Cardiff should have won so very comfortably and by a large margin. Ipswich conceded a penalty and were down to 10 men inside 15 minutes. Yet an appalling penalty miss give the visitors a lifeline until Michael Ricketts atoned with a goal before half-hour. That should have set City on their way but once more, they over-relaxed once ahead and looked second best against 10 men.

When they woke up in the 2nd half, they missed enough clear cut chances to have won three or four games - some of it due to the brilliance of Ipswich's Welsh keeper Lewis Price but much due to very poor finishing - before somewhat inevitably allowing Ipswich an 87th minute equaliser. City never win late do they? Yet in an amazing finale, they time they did. Mass depression turned to extreme elation and relief as Jason Koumas fell over, got up and smashed home a 90th minute winner.

This was a Championship game moved from Saturday to Sunday so it didn't clash with an egg chasing friendly at Millennium Stadium and then moved again from Sunday to Monday night to be shown live on Sky tv. City fans had the choice of paying between £15 and £26 to be at freezing Ninian Park on a work night with Christmas coming up or watch it on the cheap and in the warm at home or down the pub.

Twenty one games into the season and three times you could watch it all live on tv, two of them at Ninian Park. The options were plenty. For £2, you could watch it live on the internet. For nothing, you could listen to it on Radio Wales. For a small monthly fee, the official website offers full match commentary plus upto 15 minutes of video highlights next day. Am I alone in thinking it's made too easy for supporters to stay away?

Obviously not judging by the Grange End's chants of "Are you watching armchair fans?" and chants of where they could stick their sofas but with us freezing our 'nads off on wood, plastic or concrete at the ground for the cost we pay, who really had the last laugh?

The crowd of just 8,724 including 250 or so from Suffolk was Ninian's poorest league crowd since we played Bury in February 2002, that game at a lower level of football. I suppose I should make some comment or defence or criticism but no doubt others will have plenty to say so I'll leave it to you. I'll just salute those in attendance who made the effort for City.

The delayed game still came too early for Kevin Cooper, not fully recovered from keyhole knee surgery whilst captain and huge influence Darren Purse served a 1 game ban after 5 yellow cards, the veteran Neil Cox having to step in. Purse's partner Glenn Loovens, whilst not 100% fit. averted a major cental defensive crisis by making himself available and Michael Ricketts was available too as City’s sought the win to take them from 11th to 6th and a play-off spot.

Ipswich are well set on the journey to mid-table obscurity, the Horses at times playing like Donkeys, with some starting to think manager Joe Royle should be sent to graze. It's not good by their high standards but understandable given they have £36M of debt (quite possibly more than us!), lost four major players to the Premiership, have had bad luck with injuries and, like City, are having to get by with lesser quality players and some over-reliance on youngsters.

Poor results and no consistency tends to be what you get and that's how it's been with 4 wins and 4 draws at home in 10 games whilst 10 awaydays before tonight produced 2 wins, 4 draws and 4 defeats. Their last outing was a 3-0 home trouncing by Reading and they have won just 1 of their last 9. Their only joy is that they were one place above rivals Norwich in 15th but knew a win tonight would have taken them just a point behind us in a congested Championship table.
They started the night with problems and soon had more. Sam Parkin, their target man striker and big summer buy from Swindon, broke an ankle in training last week, key midfielder Ian Westlake is injured again after only just returning from a 10 week lay off and, similar to City, a couple of other players were used whilst not at 100% fitness due to small squad size giving limited options.

The side were Price, Wilnis-Sito-De Vos-McEveley, Magilton-Richards-Juan-Williams, Forster-Naylor. Experience came in the shape of Jason De Vos who chose Ipswich over City last season, 35 yr old Fabian Wilnis and 36 yr old Jim Magilton. The Canadian, Dutchman and Irishman were joined in the Foreign Legion by Spanish defender and grandly named Castro Sito and French midfielder Jimmy Juan. Juan is on loan (from Monaco) as was Jay McEveley (from Blackburn) with local boy and Bluebirds fan Gavin Williams (from West Ham).

Before the action, there was one minute applause in the memory of the genius of George Best who died over the weekend. It's far, far better and feels more fitting to pay tribute this way to a footballer than one minute silence whilst, at the same, time, it felt slightly corny. One minute's continuous clapping does feel strange on the hands. Let's be fair, we're just not used to giving so much applause down the City. Still, I'm sure Bestie, given his lifestyle, would have smiled at being given a send off with the clap.

Finally, we were underway and it was a quiet start with City not firing on all cylinders and looking a mix between nervous and being over-elaborate with live cameras whilst Ipswich are also a good passing and movement side, no matter who plays for them. But it did flow with Ipswich winning two corners in the opening moments, one of them causing danger, then City doing likewise inside the first 10 whilst Ricketts met a Weston cross but directed a weak straight at Lewis. Putting efforts on goal directly at the keeper was to become a theme.

On 12 minutes, the first real drama of the night unfolded. City attacked, Ipswich cleared but defender McEveley remained on the ground deep inside his area playing everyone onside. As City returned the ball, Jerome cleverly got behind the last standing defender so when Koumas played a ball over them, Wilnis could not quite intercept and Jerome was away on goal. As he closed down on goal, Wilnis tagged him, maybe not the strongest pull but one that ensures all strikers go to ground in that position, Jerome was no different. Penalty to City, red card to Wilnis and Ipswich lost a second defender as McEveley was unable to continue.

The moment that penalty was awarded, I swear I've never seen Michael Ricketts move so fast. He charged to the ball, claiming it and wanting to take the kick. I honestly never knew he had that sort of pace, amazing. Contrast that however to the Michael Ricketts who then took a truly dreadful penalty. As he started his run up, he stuttered, skipped from side to side and by the time he got to the ball, he was motionless. The kick was straight at Price at a perfect height and was beaten away. It was the second worst penalty miss I've seen in my life. Nothing matches Andy Campbell's miskick against Leeds last year and Earnie had an embarrassing miss or two when he did similar to Ricketts on this occasion. Had we gone one up when Ipswich in disarray so early, we could have registered a comfortable win but that's not our way.

Kevin Horlock replaced McEveley, Richard Naylor who had played defence most of the season but started in attack to help his club's problems returned to his natural role. Ipswich still looked decidedly dodgy at the back as they seemed to make mistakes at regular intervals and Lewis Price may be a great shot stopper but his kicking was as bad as the average half-time challenger but we struggled to take advantage.

Ricketts nearly made up for his horror miss by stroking a 20 yard shot inches wide and then cushioned another header straight at Price before they almost shocked City, Forster's drive was tipped over the bar and Horlock was not far wide.

Salvation finally arrived on the half-hour. Yet again Ipswich made a defensive calamity, Naylor playing the ball straight to Joe Ledley in a dangerous position and they were finally duly punished, Joe's curling ball behind their remaining defenders saw RICKETTS clear and he smashed the ball home inside the near post. Relief all around.

Then, oops, they did it again. In control of a game with an extra man, we just stopped playing and allowed Ipswich to run over and around us, you started to wonder who had the extra man. Paul Parry put tow headers wide in breaks but Ipswich had a couple of efforts at goal, one of them - a point blank effort from Sito - bringing out the very best in Neil Alexander who got down at his near post to push behind, a superb stop. Boy, did they need another half-time rollicking.

Half-time: CITY 1 IPSWICH 0

The interval saw City presented with £20,000 by Network Rail, I'm not sure why, it sounded like a crime initiative? With £60k, I believe, from Sky, it may have been a small crowd but it was decent income. The half-time challengers was the usual standard - none as good as me! - and that included Ipswich sub Darren Currie and a good touch by Ali to play New Order's Blue Monday. Had we lost, would he had played Boomtown Rats' I Don't Like Mondays?

What followed in the second half, even by City's frequent inconsistent and frustrating ways, will take some beating. They dominated the half but often looked second best on the ball. The chances came in abundant numbers, they were wasted. Guinness Book of Records are probably checking out whether the number of times Jerome's and Rickett's sloppiness left them offside is a new standard. Sometimes, the passing was good, sometimes pitiful, sometimes we looked fast and electric, sometimes we were plain lazy, sometimes we were committed, other times we watched players go by and then there were those missed chances.

Ipswich tried to push on us but regularly seemed to leave themselves vulnerable and exposed at the back, the fact they also had a makeshift defence meant they were there for the taking. City had more chances than when we walloped Crewe and had we shown the same standards in front of goal, they could have matched or beaten it.

Ricketts (twice at least), Parry (twice at least), Whitley, Jerome (three times) didn't just have good chances but were all one on one against Price but they missed the lot by either blasting over the bar or shooting and heading directly at the Welsh keeper who was exceptional but we made him look good too. There were at least half a dozen other efforts blocked or put wide from half chances too as they boys didn't seem to realise the objective was to shoot around or past the keeper. It was infuriating, Dave Jones looked on in agonies from the dugout looking very much like an undertaker in his thick overcoat and I reckon he probably wanted to bury one or two of them judging by his reactions.

There were moments when City lost the plot. Joe Ledley trying to beat 5 men on the edge of his area, Michael Ricketts demanding Rhys Weston played him a ball down the channel and then stopping as Rhys hit it, the crowd giving Weston stick when Ricketts let him down, the sideways and backwards passing and with both forwards looking out of sorts and tired, Ricketts in particular, it was crying out for fresh legs and momentum from Alan Lee but Jones resisted for reasons I suspect only he knows. I thought we'd moved on from that style of management, it was a mistake.

Ipswich surely couldn't believe they were still in the game but they could sense they could nick a result and so could most of the crowd watching City's faltering and wasteful display. With 25 to go, Joe Royle threw on 17 yr old prospect Billy Clarke for a debut and he gave City's defence some long overdue problems but it was still one way traffic even going into the final few minutes.

In the last 10 minutes, City wasted one opportunity too many and were finally punished but it was self-inflicted as usual. Clarke took the ball, twisted and turned away from City defenders but was now going wide and nowhere when Jeff Whitley, otherwise City's man of the match, hacked him down, that was stupid. He got booked for the 8th time this season but it set up Ipswich for a free shot on goal.

City got everyone back, put 6 or 7 in the wall and you knew that as long it the kick went over them, we were in trouble. Sure enough, JIMMY JUAN did exactly that, Alexander got across goal but couldn't reach the effort which flew in towards his nearside top corner.

Unbelievable, farce and complete agony, many of the crowd took that as their cue to leave. Moans turned to highly audible groans as Dave Jones now decided to take off Ricketts for Lee giving him 100 seconds plus added time to change the game. Royle took off Clarke for Currie, time wasting without doubt. City missed another outstanding opportunity as Parry was placed clear on goal but fired straight at Lewis again from just in the area when he had time and space to run in on goal. Those who hadn't pulled their hair out were now grey and ageing fast as what they were seeing.

It looked a hopeless cause but cometh the hour, cometh the man. Jason Koumas, in a match devoid with excitement but devoid of great quality, was the only one providing any and it finally told. So many great passes, brilliant ball control and through balls that we failed to capitalise on, he needed to do it by himself. It was Neil Cox, an unlikely hero, who launched the ball forward. KOUMAS, an inevitable hero, got into the area, made sure the ball was his, the rest was pure Koumas theatre and drama.

He side-stepped the final defender cutting in towards goal before, set to shoot, he stumbled and fell. It looked gone but he got back up, steadied himself, took a touch to send him a little wider and then smashed a rising drive past Price. Let's go effing mental. A superb finish but I do believe our two goals were the only occasions all night we put shots to either side of Price.

And it still wasn't over. Seconds before at 1-1, everyone was speculating that there would be 3 to 4 minutes of added time. Moments later, at 2-1, when 4 minutes were shown, there were howls of derision and looks of disbelief. You got to laugh at us sometimes.

We almost messed it up too. Another edge of area free-kick was conceded but thankfully, it was sent over the bar and a final shot was well taken on his line by Alexander as an attacker boot missed diverting it by inches.

So we're back in the play-offs but, as importantly, 12 points above relegation and only needing 19 more to survive. We won ugly but we won and you have to salute the spirit of our players if nothing else. Who'd have ever believed that would be the case just before halfway going into December? Congratulations to Dave Jones and the boys.

Next up is Hull away this weekend and a great opportunity for more points but, for me, that's it until after Christmas as a combination of competing priorities at this time of year means that I miss the next three matches home and away. I think I need a rest after watching that anyway!

Although it's early, a Merry Xmas to you and yours. It hasn't always been pretty or entertaining this season but we're only in the play-offs we have to enjoy and celebrate that. Let's hope next game at home, the stayaways show their appreciation and give the boys deserved support from the stands and terraces rather than their tv's and radios. It's time they did.

Ticket: £20
Programme: £ 3
Food/Drink: £ 4
Travel: £ 3
Total for game: £30

Total for season-to-date: £1,510

Report from FootyMad

An injury-time strike by Jason Koumas spared Bluebird blushes as they laboured to victory against 10-man Ipswich.

Michael Ricketts gave Cardiff the lead on the half-hour but he had already missed a 13th-minute penalty after the visitors' Fabian Wilnis was sent off.

City hung on to the narrow lead until the 86th minute when Jimmy Juan scored direct from a free-kick, but just as it looked as though yet more home points were being lost, up popped Koumas to fire the Bluebirds back into a play-off position.

Cardiff were boosted by the news that Glenn Loovens and Ricketts both passed late fitness tests, so the only change was Neil Cox in for the suspended Darren Purse.

Wilnis was dismissed for pulling back Cameron Jerome as the young striker chased a ball into the danger area.

Rickets took the spot-kick, but hit a weak shot straight at Ipswich keeper Lewis Price, turned the ball behind for an unproductive corner.

Nicky Forster almost made Cardiff pay for that miss when his cross from the right went within inches of creeping in at the far post.

A swift counter attack on the half hour, culminating a telling cross from Joe Ledley, gave the Bluebirds the break they needed. Ricketts raced onto the pass and from a wide angle slammed the ball home.

Ipswich started the second half in spirited fashion and it looked for several minutes as though it was Cardiff with 10 men.

Joe Royle brought on teenager Billy Clarke to partner Forster upfront as he sensed his side could still get something from the game.

With four minutes remaining Ipswich deservedly equalised after Jeff Whitley brought down Forster on the edge of the box. Juan hit the free-kick into the corner of the net. giving Neil Alexander no chance.

It was left to Koumas in the final minute to rescue all three points for Cardiff when he lashed the ball high into the net.

External reports
TWTD (Ipswich)
East Anglia Daily Times
The Independent
Western Mail