It a game that will survive long in the memory as Cardiff laboured to victory. It was merited (just) but they struggled to click at the back, in the final third and putting their fluent passing game together. However they battled and kept going for their reward while Southampton spent virtually the entire second period with base camp set up just outside their penalty box determined to preserve the interval 1-1 score so there was some justice. The novelty of Cardiff's last gasp winner was especially pleasing after so many wins and draws lost at the very end last season and, as someone reminded me, we played infinitely better opening the season with a 2-1 result at NP Towers last term but that ended in defeat (to Stoke).
Winning was all that mattered and we're now only 47 points from survival(!) which thrilled the sell-out home crowd in an attendance of 19,749 including The Saints vocal following of 1,400 or so. There were a few empty seats in the City sections but this will be where some of the record 14,000 season ticket holders are still on holiday, stayed away ... or only bought their season ticket mainly to get a F.A. Cup Final ticket??
The weather was awful for the start of season and August, it was more like November with driving rain that lasted all afternoon. An E-Bay collector's item will be a mint condition City v Southampton programme as most bought were reduced to a soggy mess or with pages stuck together like a teenager's porn mag, apt in a way as the Bob Bank terrace resembled hundreds of blue condoms which rainsheets handed out. Funniest sight though were a couple of blokes in Sloper Road trying to sell umbrellas after the game when we were already saturated.
The new impressive fully covered stadium is a huge contrast but I reckon we will fondly recall the times we got drenched, stood on those terraces and engaged in our specialist sport -hopping over those huge puddles that always appear between Sloper Road and the ground's entrance. Mind you, after watching the awesome Olympics opening ceremony, I now can't wait for the new stadium to see the show that Ridsdale puts on for us to open that!
Back to football and City fielded the side their pre-season selection always suggested would be in place with Tom Heaton (on loan from Man United) in goals, the back four of McNaughton-Johnson-Loovens-Kennedy (Mark Kennedy deputising at left back while Tony Capaldi is absent for another fortnight after a minor op), the midfield reading Whittingham-Rae-McPhail-Ledley with new boy Ross McCormack and the forever transfer listed but back in favour Steve Thompson starting up front. Three new signings started and three more were on the bench with Enckleman (now permanently signed but a loss of confidence has knocked him back), Jay Bothroyd and Miguel Comminges joining Darren Purse and the unfortunate Paul Parry (unfortunate because he was City's leading scorer pre-season and been one of our best two or three players over the last year). The only new signing not in the 16 was young centre-half Darren Dennehy.
Southampton have been back in the Championship long enough to no longer receive 'parachute' payments, they just avoided relegation last season, have Rupert Lowe back in charge who is trying to sell the club so are financially crippled at present. With an unknown but highly vocal and animated boss on today's evidence in Dutchman Jan Poortvliet, it's a tough season ahead with five youngsters being given debuts, a centre-half pairing of 35 year old Chris Perry and 32 yr old Svennson playing his first match for 3 years after five knee operations and an obvious shortage of experience. Their side were Davis, James-Perry-Svennson-Thomson,
There was huge anticipation and noise in those final couple of minutes to kick-off and as the game started and a great atmosphere throughout, the type of noise we'll do extremely well to replicate in an all-seater new ground next year. However we witnessed a very uncertain start from City where we were causing ourselves more problems that Southampton were. They were so many soft and underhit passes at the back giving Heaton a baptism of fire, I had to check twice to make sure it was Johnson and Loovens and not Darren Purse out there.
It got Southampton early corners and gave Svennson an early chance of glory but he failed to take it. Worse came when Roger Johnson criminally misfired a back pass forcing Heaton to dive on the ball as a Soton player advanced for a Saints free-kick on the 6 yard box which was, thankfully, blocked. Another terrible pass saw Heaton smack his kick-out into Johnson which cannoned behind for another corner, it could have been worse. Defensively, we looked shaky. Loovens was off key and you do wonder if the transfer talk has unsettled him. Mark Kennedy didn't made any big gaffes but was the weak point, every Southampton attack came on his side. Like him or not, Tony Capaldi is now generally solid and was missed.
Finally Cardiff sorted themselves out and chances arrived. McCormack and Thommo making Davies save low shots arrowed to the near post, Thommo's header lacked the power to trouble Davies, McCormack - who worked hard but wasn't quite effective - warmed up the crowd with a rasping 25 yarder that flew narrowly wide and then Whittingham blazed into the Canton Stand after Thommo, looking on top of his game, set him up superbly before The Bluebirds forged ahead 4 minutes before the interval.
The goal was simple as McNaughton crossed, McCormack and Svennson contested the ball, the centre half managing to deflect the ball to THOMMO but his finish was excellent and clinical and he passed the ball into the opposite corner from 15 yards. I doubt if anyone, including Thommo himself, can offer any reason why he only seems to score against three clubs. He's now scored 3 in separate matches against Southampton, 5 in 4 separate matches against Plymouth and 3 in 2 separate games against Burnley, that's 11 goals against 3 clubs. In his 3 years with City, he's only managed 5 goals in all his league games against every other side in the Championship! Ninian erupted, City seemed on their way and like many, I headed for an early half-time pee and pint but, while I did that, Southampton equalised.
The goal was soft as Surman nutmegged Whittingham inside the box, got to the by-line and fired across the centre of goal where McGOLDRICK turned home for his first ever league goal as Cardiff immediately surrendered their lead. To make it worse, nobody has prepared the beers at the bar and when eventually served, City had bunged up prices by 11% to £3 a pint - someone remarked it was to help the staff who couldn't count and work out change when it was £2.70!
Half-time: CITY 1 SOUTHAMPTON 1
The first half may have been tough for City's players but the second period was tough watching for City's fans. Southampton decided it was best to declare at 1-1 and sat back, waited and hoped. They did throw on the Partners In Crime Dyer and Wright-Phillips - both to huge boos, chants of "thief, thief, thief" and "you dirty thieving b*stards" and they also found City fans waving their wallets at them when they strayed near touchlines. City, meantime, showed that while we may have hoped for a more spectacular forward signing, the squad has strengthened as Jones threw on forwards Paul Parry and Jay Bothroyd for the final 20 minutes - a luxury we never really had at all last season.
Before their introduction, City's one way bombardment saw Loovens somehow put a free header wide from a corner, Davis produced an outstanding save to deny Johnson from another and some pinball action in the Saints goalmouth but it was getting to the stage where you couldn't see a goal coming at all.
Bothroyd made an instant impression - not just because he looked like Superman with his long sleeved tight blue sweat vest under his City shirt and doing the Ayatollah immediately - but because of one direct surging run past 3 defenders before he was denied by Svennson as he was set to fire.
With the rain still lashing down and the game at stalemate, many in the crowd were sneaking away when City won a silly free-kick on the edge of the box level with the 6 yard area. Soton players weren't happy that a well under-par Joe Ledley took a foul throw before it that Mark Kennedy caught and took again. No matter, the ball was lofted in and that one man set piece attacking machine, ROGER JOHNSON, popped up, the ball was touched by Davis but squirmed over the line. There was an uneasy couple of seconds as some weren't sure whether it had gone in but it was party time as the goal was signalled.
Cardiff will play far better than this during the season and lose so we have to take it, we certainly enjoyed drying out it in the pubs afterwards, the cheers doubled when we learned that the Swansea Jack Basque Separatist Movement lost their Championship opener (there's so many Spaniards there, should we now called them Jack Basque-ards?). Happy days.
Photos from the game will be on www.nigelblues.blogspot.com
Report from FootyMad
A 90th minute header from Roger Johnson gave Cardiff City victory after a Steven Thompson strike had been cancelled out by David McGoldrick on the stroke of half-time.
The Bluebirds included three new signings with Tom Heaton, Mark Kennedy and Ross McCormack all starting, while Jay Bothroyd and Miguel Comminges were on the bench.
Southampton were well on top in the early stages and Johnson and Glen Loovens were the busiest players on the field.
It was not until the 27th minute that the Bluebirds threatened the away goal but after a neat build-up, McCormack scuffed his shot and Kelvin Davis in the visiting goal gathered comfortably.
The Bluebirds started to put their game together and the new strikeforce of McCormack and Thompson both went close around the half-hour.
A header by Thompson gave Peter Whittingham space but his shot on the turn flew over the bar.
Then the hard-working Thompson had a low drive turned round the post by the busy Davis.
The opening goal came in the 41st minute when Chris Perry could only partially clear a Thompson header and the former Rangers striker slotted the loose ball home.
In the last minute of the opening period, Andrew Surman beat Whittingham on the byline and crossed hard and low for McGoldrick to side-foot home from close range.
The Saints opened the second half well and Johnson had to throw himself in front of a Simon Gillett shot in the 55th minute as the visitors looked the more likely to add to the score.
Chances then started coming at the away end and Johnson and Loovens both went close with headers.
Bothroyd replaced Thompson in the 66th minute and immediately won a corner with a twisting run down the left flank.
The Saints used all three subs as they looked for victory, but it was the Bluebirds who took all three points when a Johnson header from a Stephen McPhail free-kick in the last minute just crept over the line.
Cardiff City Official website
Wales On Sunday
Southampton Fans Online