Cardiff City 2 Norwich City 2. Match Report

Last updated : 26 August 2008 By Michael Morris
That's good - Cardiff City remain unbeaten after a 2-2 home draw with Norwich City. At times, especially early on, they produced their best football so far and some promise.

That's bad - We under-performed again and hardly impressed against a side who, like Southampton and Doncaster previously, are expected to feature in the bottom half of the table. So what does that say about City? Thanks to more horrors than Freddie Kruger, City yet again failed to keep a clean sheet and why can they only produce one good spell every game so far for a few minutes and then turn bland and ordinary?.

That's horrible - City blew it big time after comfortably leading 2-0 with 12 minutes to go. Maybe it was payback time after City grabbed 3 of their 4 points from the earlier opening two games thanks to last gasp goals but it all served to produce angst and ask serious questions of our defence, midfield and forward departments plus some bizarre thinking in Dave Jones' substitutions.

X-Factor is back on telly. A bunch of assorted tossers, hopefuls, talented prospects and those with something to prove hoping a Svengali arrogant Manager can turn them into stars. I sometimes wonder if Cardiff City are running a football version of it.

With a couple of million netted from the 2008 F.A. Cup run, £10M banked in player sales over the past year, record season ticket sales with 6,000 newbies and the biggest wasters ... sorry wage earners ... taken off the books in Fowler, Hasselbaink and Sinclair, excuse me for being foolish enough to believe City would show serious intent to push on this time with some tried and tested quality additions. After all, Dave Jones told us they would need shooting if they didn't while Peter Ridsdale told us he would find the money to do that post Wembley and the £5M earned from the sales of Gunter, Loovens, MacLean is over and above Ridsdale's self-confessed budget requirement to selling one 'star' per season - that's Chopra and Ramsey. When will I ever learn eh?

I wish them all well and genuinely hope they help us finally push on from 5 seasons of Championship mid-table obscurity but 2 loans and just £600k spent to bring in 7 players with much to prove hardly inspires and in unlikely to get a breakthrough. However, Hull City found their way to the Premiership without significant spend or stars and we can only hope Dave Jones makes the proverbial silk purse out of a sow's arse but, while it's still early days, I'm already fearing we shaping up to see more of the same. I've just realised Jones keeps his arms folded the dugout to stop Ridsdale and the Board having them tied behind his back!

His problems were magnified today with Tony Capaldi and Gavin Rae still missing - the latter possibly out for 2 months - and a new major absentee in Kevin McNaughton. Darcy Blake, a midfielder, was tried at right back which seems to be the only chance he gets for City. Joe Ledley was passed fit, having been withdrawn from midweek international action, but his displays so far suggest he is far from that at present. Jay Bothroyd was given his first start, Whittingham made way as Paul Parry was pushed from attack into his wide midfield slot.

City went with a side featuring just 4 of the F.A. Cup Final team with Heaton, Blake-Purse-Johnson-Kennedy, Parry-Scimeca-McPhail-Ledley, Bothroyd-McCormack. Joining Enckleman-Thommo-Whittingham and Comminges on the bench was new midweek signing, Gabor Gypes, the Hungarian centre-half signing for £200k from Northampton waiting for Darren Purse to be found wanting, that won't be long. Introduced in the stand, and waving regally like the Queen at a Gala concert when announced, was new American loan striker Eddie Johnson from Fulham. Signed for the season but Fulham can recall him in January. That means, he goes if he does well but stays if he's crap or average. Fantastic.

Norwich arrived in South Wales dented and bruised from a torrid start and flak. A single point was Norwich's tally from an opening day defeat at Coventry and home draw with Blackpool while they lost to MK Dons, City's 2nd round opponents this Tuesday, in the Carling Cup. In their 4th season at this level since Premiership relegation, life has had few highs. They've finished bottom 9 in the last 2 seasons, just 3 points above the drop last term, helped by a 2-1 win at Ninian.

With Glen Roeder, looking like an undertaker, at the helm and assisted with City insider tips by Hasselbaink who spent the week training in East Anglia ahead of a possible short term deal, The Canaries were Marshall, Kennedy-Stefanovic-Bertrand-Omozusi, Clingan-Hoolahan-Fotheringham-Pattison, Cureton-Russell.

It's a 6 hour trip but the Credit Crunch is affecting the Carrot Crunchers as they brought about 350 fans, far fewer than usual. While Cardiff has big gigs (Madonna's in town today opening her World Tour), numerous national and international sports and a host of attractions, Norwich has Morris Dancing and Tractor Driving as the only opposition to its football team so little wonder they are well supported.

Those who came probably wondered why they bothered as City stormed ahead inside 3 minutes and threatened to run riot charging up the 18,032 crowd on an overcast but mild afternoon. The opener was a beauty as Blake fed Bothroyd, he turned and released ROSS McCORMACK and, as befits a man who scored his first City goal midweek followed by a Scottish Under 21 goal midweek, he showed supreme confidence to beat the final defender on the edge of the box and drive coolly past Marshall.

City were fluent, buzzing and threatening to rip Norwich apart so what a shock as they cut us open on the left and Pattinson - the best player on the pitch for my money - enticed Joe Ledley to lunge and take him down just inside the box. A soft but obvious penalty and the chance for Norwich to level inside 8 minutes but more City celebrations as Jamie Cureton rolled it wide although Heaton maybe had it covered even if he had hit the corner.

It was an electric opening but that turned out to be pretty much it as the next hour of football produced very little of note. Neither defence were convincing but somehow facing few troubles. Norwich energetic but lacking quality although Pattinson nearly grabbed a shock equaliser as his low shot was spilled by Heaton but gathered from behind rolling towards goal at the second attempt. For City, Joe Ledley had two golden chances but the first, a scuffed free-kick clearance rolling to him, saw his placed high effort gathered by Marshall while he wasn't instinctive or reactive enough as superb McCormack skills saw the ball unexpectedly drop at his feet in front of goal. In the added time, an angled edge of area free kick saw Bothroyd's red boots blast low for goal but hit the side netting.

Half-time: CITY 1 NORWICH 0

After seeing former heroes Don Murray and Bobby Woodruff introduced to the crowd at half-time, the second half football carried on in much the same vein as the final half hour of the first half, it felt as if City were grinding their way to a narrow victory but without much substance or style, their deficiencies quite apparent.

The defence, shorn of McNaughton and Capaldi and with Purse in the middle, were coping well but nowhere near the formidable unit we know and love. Blake battled hard but had a tough time against that man Pattinson who reminded us of his presence was a surprise effort from 25 yards near the touchline which rose over Heaton's bar. Johnson and Purse, both doing well, just don't click together for me but you realise how Super Kev covers the whole back line and distributes so well, it was badly missed. Another annoyance - why was Purse sent forward at set pieces with Johnson staying back? Maybe DJ feels Purse hasn't the pace to cover? Nobody can't argue that it disrupted City and weakened their threat.

Midfield were overrun and disorganised. McPhail was working hard but constantly out of position, Scimeca was tidying up well and passing perfectly but unable to get on those forward supporting runs he loves, Parry and Ledley suffered as City seemed to attack through the middle or with long or high balls rather than deploy them. Joe is out of sorts but Parry was in the mood but never given enough of the ball. While concentrating on getting forwards, inaction to replace Aaron Ramsey leaves Dave Jones lightweight in midfield which will be costly if he doesn't act quickly.

Opinions will differ about the forward line. McCormack was excellent but he loves to drift wide and could do with being more in and around the box. Bothroyd is still striving for fitness but I felt he should have been far more involved. He played too far away from McCormack, wasn't jumping for headers and spent far too much time going down looking for free-kicks. He possibly had an argument for a second half penalty but had fallen so many times that he wasn't going to get it against the terrible performance of ref Taylor who infuriated throughout the whole game by playing on when they were fouls while then giving free kicks where there was no or minimal contact. It was truly awful but although City seemed to suffer more, at least he was consistent - he was terrible for both teams!

City had a couple of chances, McCormack nearly stabbing home early while Johnson - who managed (was allowed) to get forward for once had a free header in the box but directed it wide but City looked to have sealed it (and really should have) when Parry sizzled on the left to get into the box and cut the ball to McCormack who jinked and was taken down for the game's second penalty. McCORMACK went for the same corner as Cureton in front of the Grange End but rolled it inside the post, Marshall sent the opposite way.

It wasn't pretty but effective then Dave Jones made a decision he must now surely regret even if he'll blame the players for the lapse and now own up to his mistake. Before the game could restart, McCormack was taken off - WHY? - and replaced not by another forward but Whittingham. Last season, City never had a bench so Dave Jones couldn't make changes. Now he's got the novelty of a surplus of forwards, it's almost as if he's a kid in a sweet shop and has to meddle and change. A couple of minutes later, on came Thommo for Bothroyd who had, unlike McCormack, faded out of the game but the decisive change came as Roeder brought on Arturo Lupoli, a talented player who has lost his way, but what an impact ... and what a shambles by City.

Norwich won a corner but Purse and Johnson both saw Mark Kennedy pull up and were distracted waving their arms to the bench for a change. The corner came in,.Whittingham scuffed a clearance and City were too slow coming out playing Lupoli and another forward onside. It looked way offside but tv showed otherwise, Heaton motionless as LUPOLI arced a tame effort wide of him.

That was with 12 to go, Comminges replaced Kennedy but went straight to left back where I saw him struggle pre-season at Carmarthen. It surprised me, I thought Joe may have dropped back. A quick warning came as Lupoli was afforded far too much time and sent an effort narrowly wide, City didn't learn. Four minutes later after their lifeline, Norwich attacked Comminges via Lee Croft who turned him inside out. His cross looped off Comminges but as it dropped flush in the centre of goal on 10 yards, there was Lupoli and nobody else, Purse looked stranded. LUPOLI dived low and sent an unconvincing header goalwards but Heaton went down with the speed and grace of a snail. I have no idea how he was too slow and failed to reach what looked every inch a scare but routine save but in it went. Unbelievable!

City woke from the restart, Parry's shot after a goalmouth scramble from a corner beat Marshall but was headed off the line by that man Pattinson while Whittingham's rebound effort into the ground cleared the defence but Marshall tipped it around the post. .At the other end, Lupoli, in search of an improbable hat-trick, tested Heaton with a low drive at him. This time, he got down and got there.

Final whistle and it was flat, it felt like defeat. The inquests started immediately although some were still in deep shock to take it all in. City can't feel sorry for themselves as MK Dons won't be easy in the Carling Cup while next Saturdays' visit to Sheffield United, with due respect to those played so far, is a big step up ... playing like this, it's a massive step.

Report from FootyMad

Two late goals from Norwich City sub Arturo Lupoli rescued a point for the visitors after Ross McCormack's double looked to have given Cardiff City victory.

Cardiff showed two changes from the side that drew at Doncaster, with the injured Kevin McNaughton replaced by Darcy Blake and Jay Bothroyd in for Peter Whittingham, who was on the bench.

City went ahead after just 129 seconds when Bothroyd sent McCormack through. He evaded a challenge before rifling home from 15 yards.

Norwich were thrown a lifeline in the eighth minute when Joe Ledley brought down Matty Pattison just inside the area, but Jamie Cureton struck the spot-kick wide.

A snapshot from the busy Pattison in the 28th minute appeared to go under Tom Heaton in the home goal and rebound off the post into his arms.

Cardiff were giving away too many free-kicks in dangerous areas, but fortunately the Canaries were unable to take advantage as the half drew to a close.

As the second period progressed, the Bluebirds were on top but just couldn't find the final ball to put the visitors away.

Pattison tried a snapshot in the 63rd minute that had Heaton scrambling across goal but the ball flew wide of the far post.

Three minutes later McCormack was brought down by John Kennedy after spinning in the area and he took the penalty himself to deservedly fire City further ahead.

The Canaries almost reduced the deficit immediately when Pattison's shot was on target, but Roger Johnson raced across to hack off the line.

Lupoli had only been on the field two minutes when he reduced the deficit from what looked like an offside position, after the home defence failed to clear and he was left unmarked.

Norwich began to up the tempo in the closing stages and now it was the Bluebirds hanging on and Lupoli added his second with a diving header in the 81st minute.

Pattison cleared off the line from Steve Thompson and then Whittingham's shot was tipped over by David Marshall as the Bluebirds tried in vain to recover from the double blow.