Promoted with 6 games remaining a fortnight previously (the earliest promotion to the top level in over 30 years) and made Champions the week before with a five goal blitz of Derby, Runaway Reading followed up their 5-1 pasting of City at Madejski with a runaway 5-2 hammering of us at Ninian Park in cruise control.
It back up the visitor chants of, "That's why we're Champions" and also showed how wonderfully well we've done this season to be 8th as it justified those who never believed City's play-off credentials. A stats quirk is that points-wise, we're now as close to Derby, two spots above relegation, as Preston and Preston occupying the last play-off spots with Cardiff now 11 points behind them with 4 games each to go.
Defensive problems undid us at Southampton, they humiliated us against Reading. Darren Purse successfully managed a hat-trick of inadvertent Reading assists. Partner Glenn Loovens scored a comedy own goal, Purse an earlier factor in that, and although not entirely to blame but often out of position, it was noted every goal came from Neil Ardley's right on a day when Joe Ledley started in a left defensive role for the first time relegating previous ever present Chris Barker to the bench.
Reading scored the two easiest goals visitor goals seen at Ninian Park all season, the easiest that is until we saw the ones we then gave them in the second half. Yet again, however, you have to give City credit for their fighting spirit. 3-0 down within 52 minutes at home to the Champions, they rallied to get back to 3-2 and make a fist of it until more calamities saw us concede two more late on.
The Royals showed what Dave Jones and City need to aspire to and exposed we've got a way to go but, let's be honest' they are exceptional and have swept away everyone put in front of them this season. Only 2 defeats in 42 games is magnificent, 92 goals means a ton is on the cards and 98 points leaves them looking a good bet to beat the record tally of 105 at this level.
One disappointment was our crowd. Reading brought 1,500+, it was a sunny day, the Champions were in town and, whilst I know the season is effectively over, you had to cringe at the spaces and a crowd announcement of 11,866 but that's how it is these days it would seem. Those who stayed away probably wouldn't have regretted it seeing the result. Indeed, many who were there left before the end, some at half-time to go and watch the Grand National instead.
As mentioned, Dave Jones unleashed one surprise with Joe Ledley playing at left back and Chris Barker dropped to the bench. Is it a warning sign? Last season's player of the year, Barker has been reasonable but a lot of goals have come from his side and he has not reproduced his form. Part of the problem, I'm sure, is that he had no competition whatsoever for his place. Young Jacobsen probably isn't ready as yet and it's one of the positions that must be addressed this summer.
Thompson, Loovens and Koumas all had fitness problems but all started and played the full 90, Thompson replacing Nsungu who was on the bench after Ferretti was injured in midweek action. Willie Boland was preferred ahead of Jeff Whitley to replace Joe in midfield and Paul Parry was in the 16 for the first time since January after recovering from injury, a bench that again featured no substitute goalkeeper as City went with Alexander, Ardley-Purse-Loovens-Ledley, Scimeca-Boland-Koumas-Cooper, Thompson-Jerome. Subs were Barker-Cox-Nsungu-Parry--Whitley.
Reading were relaxed with all key aims achieved and were given time off until Thursday ahead of this encounter. Their fans were in party mood, a quaint bunch, who judging by their repertoire of harmless party chants have nothing novel but love Captain Murty, love the Queen judging by their renditions of that anthem and just wanted to be happy. The first few minutes saw their blue and white balloons being stamped on the pitch, don't you hate being at a party when you know you're not part of it?
Their side were Hahnemann, Murty-Sonko-Ingimarsson-Shorey, Oster-Sidwell-Harper-Convey, Kitson-Doyle. Our defensive nightmares apart, midfield is the definitive factor between the sides. Jason Koumas put on a show and show his class and quality but Boland, Scimeca and Cooper weren't at the races. Scimeca, in particular, has been hugely disappointing in recent weeks and hardly showing his Premiership pedigree in City colours. The pace, passing, movement and attacking support of Messrs Oster, Sidwell, Harper and Convey is the standard Dave Jones will aim to build at this club.
It was a game of goals so let's confine the match report to that. The first set the tone for the afternoon.
With City, as usual given our limited squad, lacking width and showing no pattern, James Harper was noticeably directing his team-mates to send the ball down the right channel. When one of them did that, he was applauded by him as Ardley was stranded near halfway, Purse came across, skipped Kitson who got a slight touch. Purse fatally hesitated, watching the ball roll out when Kitson flicked a boot out from on the ground to send Convey away in acres of space with Purse now isolated too.
Reading''s midfield reacted in a way City's don't or can't so when Convey sent a first time ball across the box, two midfielders were there. The ball arrived to HARPER himself having made a 30 yard run, his effort was shinned but found the corner of the net perfectly giving Alexander no chance.
That was on 9 minutes, exactly half-hour later it was 2-0. City had the time to organise from a Reading throw but they crossed unchallenged from the right and there were KITSON and Doyle completely unmarked by Purse and Loovens in the centre of goal, Kitson banged home his 20th of the season under no pressure as if it were a training game.
All problems were on the right but Joe Ledley was taking time to adapt on the left. Three times, he tried to play balls down the channel but sent them out of play instead with DJ shaking his hand but encouraging him. Joe eventually found his feet.
City were not without their chances. Cameron Jerome missed the best one when sent behind Reading's defence by a Koumas through ball, he couldn't direct his shot back to goal and it went wide of the near post. Koumas was inches away with a swinging 25 yard free-kick with Hanneman beaten. Cooper and Ledley tried their luck but never worried the Reading keeper, Loovens saw an effort blocked, a Thompson flicked header went across the goal but, overall, The Royals were comfortable when Sonko in charge and could point to similar chances for themselves.
Half-time: CITY 0 READING 2
Having conceded just 26 all season before this one and watching Reading stroll about, Steve Coppell not even at the dugout, nobody was confident of City fightback. Any lingering hopes were gone on 52 minutes as a drilled midfield diagonal ball saw Purse miss his header on the edge of the box, Kitson chested behind him and flicked over the onrushing Alexander. LOOVENS was behind him and had the simple task of heading behind by the far post, Kitson not even challenging. Unbelievably, he headed in for an own goal, a perfectly placed header hitting the top stanchion. You beauty.
Reading fans laughed at that one, all except one who celebrated by taking on the police and stewards and was promptly ejected and nicked. City's fans laughed too, you had to or cry. Those that did neither, joined another mini exodus from the ground.
You have to give Cardiff credit for being battlers who never give up under Dave Jones. They had their chances and they could have completely caved on a hopeless cause but they gave it a go. Cameron Jerome missed a good chance, screwing wide with Hanneman to beat and then fired another over before he finally scored on 67 minutes, Jason Koumas intercepting a Shorey pass, stealing away and crossing from the by-line, the ball bouncing in front of Jerome two yards out at the far post and going in off his midriff.
It was his 20th of the season, joining Kitson on that landmark tally, the two players exchanging some greetings and banter before the game restarted. Congratulations Cameron. That is a truly outstanding feat at this level in someone's first full season and at just 19 years of age.
City now had their tails up, Reading manager Steve Coppell finally appeared on the touchline, his first decision was to replace Kitson with Long. City were now applying pressure, A Jerome header was narrowly wide, Reading survived a scramble and then Hanneman made a superb stop to deny Koumas who had dribbled around the outside of Reading's defence to make room before smashing a close range rising drive.
Purse, continuing an unhappy afternoon, got the game's only yellow card but then, 78 minutes, it was 3-2. A simple goal, Jason Koumas won a corner at the Grange End, PAUL PARRY came near post on the right and met the ball with a stooping downward header. Game on, City were now having the better of things and it made for a great closing. Good to see Parry score a rare goal on his return but he also showed good signs and added pace to City going forward, linking up well with Ledley who was now more comfortable at his new role.
No more chances had arrived either way until Cardiff City and Darren Purse committed defensive suicide yet again. A ball found its way to Purse on the edge of the area, he intended to play a wide ball to Ardley ahead of him on the touchline but the ball struck his studs, found a Reading shirt and a first time cross was nodded home with ease by KEVIN DOYLE, one of the finds of the season.
Purse looked gutted, there was a few giving out ironic applause but on a day he'll want to forget but maybe never will, he still hadn't finished his and City's calamities. After heading just over at the other end, the ball went downfield with Purse following it into a corner. He appeared to be leaving the ball but then changed his mind and played it to a Reading player in front of him, he jumped in and conceded a throw. Quickly taken, Purse and his defence all at sea, the ball was sent over, one effort was blocked and HARPER drilled home the rebound from 12 yards. 5-2, a home hammering.
Reading showed their qualities. Their play wasn't magical today, they played within themselves but they pressured Cardiff in a way we cannot do to other sides. The midfield and forward unit advanced as one, our defensive howlers were atrocious but admire how Reading pressured us from first to last. Koumas apart, we wouldn't know what a midfield runner is.
Reading went off to applause from both sets of fans, a distraught Darren Purse normally last off the pitch was first this time. City were applauded too, most fans realising how well we've done, we were playing an exceptional side and, ultimately, we're flat and have run out of juice. The toils of a long season on a small group of brave players is evident.
If there's any comfort to be taken, it's that it has made the job and summer requirements that much clearer to everyone. Had City finished well and been close to a play-off spot, it may have given a false impression. Recent results and the gap now magnified, it exposes we need new right and left sided defenders, midfield needs a drastic overhaul and forward power must be added. If we're to push on, there's a strong argument for replacing half or more of the team. Let's not forget Dave Jones had only time to assemble a team for a survival job this season, both he and his players have gone way beyond that, now it's time to consolidate and build on this tremendous work.
Oh and one final thing for Mr Ardley to consider. Purse, Loovens and Cox deserve as many plaudits for their efforts over the season as the team do for their league placing but Gabbs and Ginge conceded just 53 goals in City's badly struggling campaign last term. With 4 games to go, this season's high fliers have already conceded two more. Hindsight is indeed a wonderful thing.
The Cost of Being A City Fan:
Programme: £ 3
Transport: £ 4
Club shop goodies: £22
Total for game: £70
Total for Season to date: £3,121
Report from FootyMad
Cardiff were given a footballing lesson by champions Reading and despite a minor comeback in the second half the Royals finished in style with two late goals.
Reading showed their pedigree as early as the 10th minute when City skipper Darren Purse missed a tackle out on the right touchline.
The ball was swiftly knocked into the danger area and James Harper was on hand to sweep it into corner of the net for Reading's 100th league and cup goal of the season.
Joe Ledley tried a speculative lob from 30 yards following City's first corner of the match and it had Marcus Hahnemann worried as the ball drifted just over.
Six minutes before the break City fell further behind when their over-worked defence switched off to leave Dave Kitson in front of an open goal and the striker made no mistake.
Another Purse error gifted the Royals a third goal seven minutes after the restart. He missed the opportunity to clear allowing Kitson to run in on goal, but when Neil Alexander blocked his shot, the ball went up in the air and Glenn Loovens headed into his own net.
Dave Jones brought on Paul Parry for Kevin Cooper in the 64th minute and the change paid dividends when Jason Koumas charged down an attempted clearance by Nicky Shorey and crossed to Cameron Jerome who bundled it into the net.
City pulled another back in the 80th minute when Parry was left free at the near post to head into the corner of the net.
Purse completed a miserable afternoon when his mis-placed pass out of defence was crossed back into the area and Kevin Doyle headed home to restore Reading's two-goal advantage.
Harper crashed in his second and Reading's fifth of the match deep into injury time to end a torrid afternoon for the home defence.