It was excellent goals by City’s man of the match Peter Thorne (his 9th in the last 8 league games), Kav (his 5th of the season) and Earnie’s winner (his 23rd of the season but his first in open play for 11 matches and more than two months) that turned the game but another sure headline catcher will be Paul Parry who turned in an excellent, exciting and promising debut just 24 hours after signing from Conference side Hereford. His direct, skilful attacking style seemed to be the catalyst that made Cardiff look a quality attacking unit for the time since John Robinson’s injury absence and Julian Gray’s return to Crystal Palace.
Parry’s league introduction was the only change made by Lennie to the side who slipped out of the F.A. Cup in pretty sad fashion last weekend to Sheffield United’s, Rotherham’s neighbours, and so lined up with Margetson, Weston-Prior-Gabbidon-Barker, Langley-Kavanagh-Boland-Parry, Earnie-Thorne. Gareth Whalley, who has struggled recently, predictably made way for Parry whilst Mark Bonner was dropped from the bench which had Alexander-Croft-Whalley-Lee and Campbell. James Collins, despite plenty of calls for him to be given a chance in our calamitous defence, still can’t even make the subs at present.
Rotherham would be most people’s contenders for a relegation berth and were in the bottom three for well into autumn but Ronnie Moore and his players do a magnificent job on a shoestring budget. So good in fact that they travelled to South Wales only two points behind us and having lost last weekend at home to Sunderland for the first time in 9 games and having collected 20 points in that run. All that achieved with a squad of just 22 players, only 17 of whom have been fit in recent weeks. The Millers are enjoying great cup moments too after losing out to a youthful but still excellent Arsenal at Highbury on penalties only in the Coca-Cola Cup whilst beating Northampton at home a replay this coming Tuesday will land them Manchester United at home in the 4th round of the F.A. Cup. In that context, maybe a visit to Ninian Park was a distraction.
Their line up was more 4-5-1 than 4-4-2 with Pollitt, Shaun Barker-Swailes-Branston-Hurst, Sedgewick-Talbot-Mullin-Byfield-Warne and big Richie Barker, brother of City’s Chris, as their target man. A collection of good local products, free transfers and higher division journeymen, their starting line-up cost just £375,000 in transfer fees. By contrast, seven of Cardiff’s starting players and three of our subs cost us more individually that that!
A major fault with City recently, recognised by fans, players and manager, are our exceptionally slow starts to games with the team being on the back-foot from kick-off. As City won a corner in the opening 40 seconds, you hoped it signalled a change in fortunes and attitude but 8 minutes later, we were two behind, victims once again of our own defending which wasn’t even good enough to call “schoolboy errors”.
Two minutes and Rotherham have a corner. Chris Sedgewick swings over the sort of ball you would have expected Margetson to take but he stood his line, not one defender moved or challenged either and it was left to Willie Boland to try and clear almost on the line covering the far post. He only succeeded in scuffing the ball to STUART TALBOT who probably couldn’t believe his luck turning the ball home unchallenged inside the 6-yard box.
Eight and a half minutes and it was two-nil, I felt sick. A long ball was hit out of Rotherham’s half which Richie Barker chased and collected near the Grandstand/Grange End touchline. He got past Danny Gabbidon with extreme ease and sent a cross over Spencer Prior standing in the middle of nowhere to find JOHN MULLIN on his own in the middle of goal who had no problems steering the ball past Margetson from six yards. I think I was closer to him than any City defender and I was at the back of the Grandstand!
Rotherham’s 100 fans were in ecstasy. Cardiff’s were hardly silenced, they were collectively booing! They were even a few starting chants of ‘Lennie Out’ although they were being shouted down but the atmosphere was turning sour and a little nasty. Now I don’t care what anyone says, had it carried on like that and City had lost in dismal fashion, the support would have lost faith in Lennie and turned against him. The following 80 minutes saved him and City from a mauling from supporters.
Maybe it needed adversity like this to sting our players into action and get them attacking. To their credit, they set about the job of chasing what could have been a lost cause. Earnie had a 25-yard shot between those goal but it was Paul Parry who was catching the eye.
Predominately left-footed but he can certainly use his right boot too, pacy, quick-footed, an ability to take on players, go inside and outside, cut in, trickery and always looking to take the ball towards goal, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before Lennie and City coach that out of him! Seriously, he looks a player and it was noticeable how other Cardiff players soon realised he was an outlet as Kav, Vidmar and Co were actively looking to give him the ball. Rotherham defenders meantime were doubling and even trebling up on him. I think it’s fair to say that it inspired the players and fans to attack and give it a right go.
Shortly after the second goal, Parry showed his abilities by cutting inside two players and going for goal but seeing his effort blocked by a defender. Seconds later, Richard Langley sprung into life on the other side taking on and beating a defender in a way he never once tried to do last week before finding Thorne with a cross that he sent over the bar. Parry was tormenting Swailes who was booked for bringing him down. It was high paced, high tempo stuff but City were not quite making the breakthrough in the final third.
Their best chance in the opening 20 minutes was totally wasted and it made you wonder if we ever could get back into the game. Another Parry run found Earnie who was cut down just outside the area in a prime position. It was Swailes who brought Earnie down with the sort of challenge that often gets a card. The ref considered it, saw his number, seemed to realise he had been booked already so would be off and gave him a stern warning instead. In fairness, good, common-sense refereeing but so many would have done otherwise, you expect the same to happen.
Kav and Langers both looked at it, Langley took it and floated it to the back of the Family Stand. Once again, you have to ask. Do Cardiff City ever do any work on set pieces in front of goal other than what we see game after game? Either Kav or Langley try to float and curl to the top corner. Invariably, it either sails behind the goal (like this one) or hit target but lacks power and gives the keeper a relatively simple save. It hardly ever comes off. Why not hit it just for once? Why not try something different?
On 24 minutes, City finally got themselves back into the game with a fantastic goal. Rotherham may question their defending and marking but its execution was admirable. Parry was deep in the left-hand corner but turned and set up Tony Vidmar who sent over a beautiful cross to the far side of corner. PETER THORNE was unmarked but delivered a trademark Thorney header, they type that nobody does better. He headed back across goal and right inside the top corner. It was purposely guided there and seemed to float so long that some thought it had gone over initially but it was perfection. Peter Thorne is the leading scorer of headers in the top tow divisions, nobody does it better.
City were back in it and now bossing things. The Millers had, Cardiff City like, dropped deeper and deeper inviting City onto them and, for once, it was an invitation that we gratefully accepted. You could visibly see the confidence coming back into players. Willie Boland was hounding everywhere giving Rotherham’s midfielders no time to play, the sort of thing we should routinely do but had stopped. Langley, although not brilliant, was running at players. Earnie was looking interested and sharp, the buzz was back in his play, a snap that has been missing in recent times. The passing had urgency to it and, of course, City were finally able to spread their play. It was a joy to see but it just made you wonder why Lennie waited so long to do something about it.
Weston found Thorney with a high ball over which Thorney nodded wide, Parry sent over a couple of dangerous crosses showing another element to his game, his whips them in with some pace before he produced a telling moment to help set up City‘s brilliant equaliser on 38 minutes.
Rotherham were attacking City down the left and looking a little dangerous but Parry chased back and got around Sedgewick sliding in to dispossess him. Great work, the ball ran to Gabbidon who strode forward, spread it right to Langley who carried the ball before pushing it to Weston. His far post ball seemed a little overhit but Peter Thorne did a magnificent job again to get to it and send the back across goal where GRAHAM KAVANAGH charged in and powered steered the ball wide of a helpless Pollitt from 6 yards. A great team-worked goal from start to finish which had City fans bouncing.
City were now rampant and the dilemma was whether to disappear early for the half-time pint or stay and watch. I just had that feeling City would do it again before half-time and so glad I put off a beer. Cardiff won three successive corners, the final one producing a scramble before Boland blasted wide from 30 yards, Rotherham had a rare break with Warne giving Margetson a simple save from his 30 yard effort before Earnie made Pollitt save after being brilliantly set up by Parry cutting inside and cutting the ball into the area to find him and Parry himself shot narrowly wide after coming inside and passing defenders again.
Within seconds remaining of the two minutes added time, Cardiff brought a magnificent climax to a stunning 45 minutes by taking the lead and with another brilliantly worked goal. Tony Vidmar won the ball almost level with City’s area and found Thorney in space near halfway, Peter Thorne sent a piercing through to EARNIE and the little fella was a glorious sight racing away. Tearing past defenders and getting to the ball before Pollitt charging out, Earnie nudged the ball on. Pollitt tapped him and Earnie could so easily have gone down and won a penalty but his adrenalin was racing. He carried on, recovered the ball, moved inside and stoked the ball wide of the last defender covering goal to roll the ball inside the far corner. It was brilliance and Earnie was back.
The celebrations were chaotic and emotional, it was the lift this club needed. Earnie charged to the touchline in front of the Grandstand near the Family Stand, somersaulted, threw off his shirt and then ran down the other end of the pitch to the Grandstand in front of the Grange before doing his “digging for gold” celebration with the rest of the team still trying to catch him. It meant everything to him and us. The game couldn’t restart however until Earnie got his shirt back which was down the other end of the pitch so he got yellow carded. All I can say is that this booking was worth it!
The worst thing for City but the best thing for Rotherham was that half-time had to happen. Rotherham were visibly shell-shocked whilst City were buzzing and were so ’up’ at that stage, you felt more goals would naturally come. But half-time it was, the whole ground gave the team a standing ovation little more than half-hour after booing them. Yep, it really is a funny ol’game.
Half-time: CITY 3 ROTHERHAM 2
This game was only ever going to go two ways with the game being stagnant and the total opposite of the opening period or City would hit an avalanche of goals. The former was more likely and that‘s how it proved.
Cardiff stayed comfortably in control and went onto record a deserved victory. Despite the closeness of the scoreline, those early chances were the only scares Rotherham had created and they didn‘t look good enough to worry us again. The game therefore became a stalemate. Cardiff only had two second-half shocks, one being four minutes added time, the thought of which brought more worry than all bar one moment in the half when Rotherham managed one break, hit a right sided cross which Margetson could only tip onto Barker but he was unable to direct a free header at goal and turned it well over.
As for City, Earnie and Thorne both had early chances but missed, both appearing a little surprised to get balls dropping over Rotherham defenders. Kavanagh produced a few oohs and aahs when he let fly with a 35 yard screamer as Rotherham cleared but it flew over the bar with dynamite venom in it. Thorne met a Kav free-kick and almost found Earnie with another excellent far post nod back. Overall however City were comfortable, in control but much quieter. Parry had drifted out of the game, part tiredness I’m sure but partly because he wasn’t seeing as much of the ball.
There was some comedy and drama as Andy Monkhouse came on a sub on the hour. Seemingly set to join City on loan later this month, he came onto chants of “Monkhouse, do the ayatollah” and “Monkhouse is a Bluebird”. He produced one good run and cross but nothing else otherwise other than an elbowing of Spencer Prior. He was booked, he could have been sent-off and it led to Prior leaving the field a few minutes later. It may make things interesting if he does come but as one City fan jokingly pointed out, “he must be a City fan to take out Prior for us”. Prior, in fairness, stuck to the basics, was rarely under pressure and did well. Croft replaced him moving to the left with Vidmar in the middle.
Parry came off with 10 minutes remaining to a deserved ovation. Having stepped up three levels, gone through the busiest and most life changing 48 hours of his life with signing, medical, a press bombardment and then playing, his performance was exceptional. It was no surprise he went quieter as the match went on but before he came off, he beat two Rotherham defenders and made Pollitt save a low shot then send another cross flying over, overhit though.
Kav, Thorne and Earnie and congratulated him as he departed, he ayatollahed to the crowd and there was a nice touch as the ref who know Parry having officiated in the Conference until last season and
also involved in his first ever First Division game went across and patted him. The ref himself, Marriner from Birmingham, was excellent too allowing the game to run and making common-sense decisions.
The final 15 minutes were uneventful. You could criticise Cardiff for steeping off the gas and falling back making things feel a little uncomfortable but the only chances at the end were ours anyway. All Earnie efforts, two wide, one bringing a save and Croft making Pollitt save low with a powerful angled drive. One chance showed Earnie is back to his instinctive ways and he let fly unexpectedly from 20 yards with a ball that came his way awkwardly catching out Pollitt but which flew wide. The four minutes added time was all in Rotherham’s half too so we closed it well.
There was a mixed feeling of relief and elation at the end of an afternoon when we had gone through the emotional roller coaster but how satisfying it was to see Sloper Road and the pubs afterwards full of happy, smiling faces once again.
Hopefully that should banish any fears of relegation. They were understandable with recent performances but we‘re too good for that and being 14 points clear of the drop zone with 19 games to go and comfortable, there really should be no reason to fear. More points at Bradford next week should banish that and make us look forward to and enjoy a run of games with Nottingham Forest, Derby, West Brom, Sunderland, West Ham and Coventry in quick succession, something to relish. The problem is that 5 points off the play-offs, some may even start thinking about them again. Indeed, Lennie even mentioned it after the game. I say it again, it really is a funny ol’game.
Report from FootyMad
Cardiff City came from behind to beat the Merry Millers and record their first victory in six starts.
Slack defending had gifted Rotherham goals from Stuart Talbot in the third minute and John Mullin just six minutes later to silence the home crowd.
Cardiff pulled one back in the 24th minute through Peter Thorne, Graham Kavanagh slid in a cross from Thorne to equalise seven minutes before the interval and then on the stroke of half time Robert Earnshaw gave his side the lead when he rounded the keeper before sidefooting home for his first goal in nine games.
The Bluebirds were further boosted by Paul Parry making a solid debut after joining for £75,000 from Hereford United.
Millers boss Ronnie Moore was highly critical of the way his side threw away their lead.
"We were cruising when two up, but then some poor defending let them in and we gave them three on a plate in ten minutes. After scoring those quick goals we had quietened the crowd and the game should have been over.
"If we keep defending in that way then we could go down, as playing like that we cannot expect to survive in this division. Cardiff were low on confidence and down on their knees at 2-0, but we gifted them the victory."Cardiff skipper Graham Kavanagh was delighted to at last be on the winning side.
"We are extremely relived to have won as we have struggled for a while and had a bad run. At 2-0 down we still believed we could battle through and our attacking play was much better.
"At half time the boss was still not happy especially with the sloppy defending, which we still have to sort out, but we came out in the second half in a positive frame of mind."City now travel to Bradford on Saturday looking for another victory to put them back in sight of the play-off positions.