A dream debut double in two minutes by Steven Thompson instantly followed by a Jason Koumas header blew away the Clarets from a previously awful, tedious but even game.
It was that strange a game. Take away that goal blitz which included Jerome almost adding a 4th and it offered nothing apart from a possible cure for insomniacs. The first half, despite quite a few contenders, was probably the worst 45 minutes of entertainment and quality seen at Ninian Park all season. What must have been a half-time rollicking worked again as City came back refreshed, began applying pressure and then smashed down Burnley's defensive door with those goals, the second and third were crackers, before normal service resumed as City dominated the rest of the game by closing it out comfortably.
However this was a good win, a big win and a very solid performance too which certainly sent everyone home smiling and happy. Neil Alexander, if allowed, would have been able to draw up his weekly shopping list, pay bills and call a few mates so he had something to do for the afternoon.
Cardiff and Burnley are totally different towns/cities but they seem close in other ways. Both from industrial regions, both are trying to regain former glories that are a long way in the past and there's currently little to choose between their current status.
Both clubs have excellent managers, both have to get by with very limited squads and a nucleus of just 18 players, crowd sizes are similar and whilst both sets of fans were fearful of a relegation battle last summer, they have instead been pleasantly surprised to see their sides near the play-offs instead. Both have a striker grabbing the headlines. For Jerome at City, read Akinbiyi at Burnley, both have 12 goals. They started the afternoon just one point apart and two places apart.
Extra WD40 was needed at Ninian Park this week as the entry/exit door had a through workout. Out went Tony Warner for £100k to Fulham after a lengthy loan spell there, Joe Royle sees something in Alan Lee than City fans haven't and paid upto £150k for him, Toni Koskela's off to Greece (maybe for the John Travolta role?) whilst Michael Ricketts sloped off back to Leeds since the last league game twelve days ago. If he drives like he moves on the pitch, he's probably still getting there. Three of those players were very well paid, good luck to them all, it's true to say none will be particularly missed.
In came two strikers with the wonderfully named Congolese, Guylain Ndumbu-Nsungu (call me Nsungu) coming on a Bosman from Darlington, initially until the end of the season, at the start of the week. On Thursday, in came Steven Thompson (nicknamed the Tomohawk by Ali on the tannoy) from Rangers for £200k and then on Friday afternoon, utility player Riccardo Scimeca arrived on emergency loan from "our feeder club" West Brom pending completion of a medical and permanently signing on a free next week. It effectively didn't cost us in fees, it may not cost extra in wages yet but Dave Jones appears to have greatly strengthened the squad and team. An excellent weeks work by DJ.
Only Thompson started and there was reshuffling too as Glenn Loovens and Paul Parry are currently injured whilst Jeff Whitley started a 2 match ban after 10 yellow cards giving call ups to Willie Boland (now recovered from injury himself) and Neil Cox. City went with Alexander, Weston-Cox-Purse-Barker, Koumas-Ledley-Boland-Ardley, Jerome-Thompson. Subs were Margetson-Cooper-Mulryne-Nsungu-Scimeca.
Burnley are having an excellent season. They started the day in 8th but, like City, have struggled just recently. They had collected just 1 point from the previous 9 and whilst City lost 2-1 in the F.A. Cup at Arsenal last weekend, The Clarets went out by the same score at Derby.
They were another side who came with the intent of frustrating Cardiff and hoping to pinch a goal along the way as they started 4-5-1, that one Ade Akinbiyi being as isolated as any lone frontman could be. Their side were the Big Dane Brian Jensen in goals, defence were Thomas-McGreal-Sinclair-Harley, a midfield five of James O'Connor-Hyde-McCann-Gareth O'Connor-Elliott and Akinbiyi. Wayne Thomas and James O'Connor are better known to City fans from their time at Stoke and battles of old, Frank Sinclair and Jon Harley at the back used to be regarded as Chelsea heroes by their fans .. then the money arrived! Akinbiyi seems to be Sheffield United's target since City declined their £2M offer for Cameron Jerome.
On a bright, mild day with spaces around the ground, a slightly better looking crowd than the 10,872 was announced. Even so, for those of us who really care about this club and want it to do well regardless of personalities and politics, it's so disappointing that we can find 7,000 "loyal diehard" fans to go to Highbury and could have sold it twice over at least but struggle to break 10,000 at home in a season when we're doing very well thank you.
Most opposing sides key tactic against City is to stop Koumas playing by fair or foul means. Burnley took it to a new dimension by hacking him down within two seconds of kick off. Good work! Add in a good Neil Alexander save from a low Jon Harley driven free-kick on the edge of the box and Steve Thompson showing signs of what was to turn with a clever chest down and shot after turning with his back to goal and those three moments describe the entire first half highlights.
It really was that dreadful, no fluent football by either side, passes that went astray, balls hoofed around, nobody able to impose themselves and influence the game. Koumas was never in it, Jerome was having a quiet day and Thompson was getting a hard introduction being muscled and barged at every given opportunity. Burnley, with Akinbiyi stranded on his own but commendably working hard, caused no trouble other than the free-kick. I entertained myself by either admiring the Burnley fans in fancy dress (Bertie Bassett looked good) and watching our saubs warm up with Scimica doing the ayatollah on request but having to teach a very confused Ndumbu-Nsungu. There was no shortage of effort but just nothing whatsoever to admire.
It was rank bad, nothing more to be said except the Grange End fence, the last one of the 92 clubs, was chopped down to a much smaller version anyone could hop over. City got a lot of publicity out of it but with 18 coppers (count them) now in the middle and the usual array of stewards, it's hardly cost effective.
Half-time: CITY 0 BURNLEY 0
Half-time entertainment was different, wasn't it? The Dirty Sanchez crew came on the pitch filming a piece for the next series. Pritchard, Pancho, Dainton and Dan all went to the Grange End in their club shirts. All you need to know is that Pritchard is a Bluebird and Pancho is a Jack, the latter getting almighty abuse but giving the ayatollah back to the Grange.
Once there, they recreated a skit form the first series where they undressed to jockstraps, stood on the goalline facing the crowd in a defensive wall and allowed others to take pot shots at them. Unfortunately, some of the piledrivers had real venom but lacked direction, more efforts hit the back of the net than the back of the boys. Fortunately, when they hit target, it was nearly always Pancho The Jack who got it, best one right in the flesh of the back above the hips by a Burnley sub. The boys however it as the Grange End sang, "turn round and face the ball".
It was as funny as anything to watch but best moment for many came as the boys left the field, now with their shirts on again, as Pritchard wrestled off Pancho's Swansea shirt and danced on it on the pitch and then two stewards charged on and slammed the Jack to the floor. A quality laugh all round, there's a lot to be said for stupidity.
The atmosphere, considering the dreadful opening 45 minutes, had been pretty good but as the teams came back out, it raised another notch and was excellent with all parts of the ground singing out.
The first chance fell to Burnley, Akinbiyi doing very well hooking a ball going behind him but arcing it over the bar but City were now starting to put moves together and had Burnley pushed right back. You felt something may came soon but nobody expected the avalanche.
58 minutes - a nice flowing move down the right, as Burnley scrambled away, City won second ball, Willie Boland sent a high hanging ball from the touchline to the penalty spot, Jensen charged out and made a pig's ear jumping over Jerome and then spilling the ball. It ran loose and STEVEN THOMPSON had a simple chance but still made it look easy as he turned the ball into the unguarded net between two defenders. The Tomohawk had struck, the crowd looked anxiously to see if the ref would allow it as goalkeepers often get away with their own recklessness but it was a goal. Thompson ran to the Grange, was jumped on by Jerome, riotous stuff.
No sooner had we settled down than, 60 minutes, City were putting together another flowing move down the right, Koumas being the orchestrator. Again, the ball broke loose but fell to a City shirt with Jerome wide this time who dinked a ball to THOMPSON on the edge of the area. His technique and finishing were both fantastic and lethal and he trapped the ball dead, spun and aimed a shot with superb power and precision high into the corner that the diving frame of Jensen could get nowhere near it. That was brilliance.
Then Cardiff-bus like, nothing for ages and then three at once. 63 minutes, Koumas striding from midfield looking dangerous like no other player can at this level. He glided by some Burnley players and found Ardley who took one step to control, another to side-step a marker and then hit a left-footed inswinger form the right which found JASON KOUMAS' head and his technique was outstanding too as he nodded downwards into the corner form 12 yards into the only spot where Jensen couldn't save for his 9th City goal. 3-0, unbelievable.
A minute after that it was almost 4-0 as Koumas took the ball from his own half, accelerated away from Burnley players and he looked set to go all the way but instead fed Jerome who stepped inside the last defender and hit a low lopping shot that beat Jensen comfortably but missed the far corner by a fraction.
And that was it. City were in total control for the final 25 minutes but without even looking like adding to their tally and they were given no concerns in Neil Alexander's quest for his 9th Championship clean sheet of the season.
The crowd sung them home though and cheered as the new subs came on and new heroes went off. Riccy Scimeca replaced Steve Thompson for the final 15, a player who'd scored three all season for Rangers netted two on his City debut. Kevin Cooper replaced Darren Purse for the final 6 minutes with Scimeca showing he's utility by changing from midfield to central defence after Purse comically run into Akinbiyi when not seeing him running back and knocking himself out. Nsungu was blooded in the final minute only with JK going off to a big reception.
No better way to recover from a four goal away defeat at Reading than with a three goal home win next league outing. League-wise, City are up and down too. Up the table one week, down it the next. Victory moved City in the forties, their haul of 41 points put them into 8th, three points off the play-offs and a two point gap over a clutch of clubs behind us. As a fellow start of season pessimist remarked in Sloper Road afterwards, we also only need 9 more points to stay up.
City's only other games this month are at Leicester next weekend and home to Millwall midweek on the 31st, both opponents in the bottom three. Wouldn't it be nice if we could finally get a run going again including back-to-back wins. This is a perfect chance, if City can take, we can be right back in the thick of the play-off action going into February.
Now that would be something else, it may even attract those who had no problem wanting to shell out £35 for Highbury but complain about Ninian prices and all manner of other excuses, you just never know.
THE COST OF BEING A CITY FAN:
Programme: Sold Out ... yet again!
Car to/from game: £4
Total for game: £36
Total for season-to-date: £2,018
*Total includes £17 spent midweek in the club shop on gifts
Report from FootyMad
Three goals in five scintillating second-half minutes brought Cardiff City a deserved victory against a resilient Burnley outfit.
New boy Steve Thompson struck in the 58th and 61st minutes, with Jason Koumas completing the scoring just two minutes later.
The Bluebirds included new signing Thompson up front, while Guylain Ndumbu-Nsungu and emergency loanee Riccardo Scimeca were on the bench.
Indecision by Neil Alexander gave the Clarets their first corner in the 10th minute but the flag kick was cleared by Neil Cox.
Thompson showed up well in the early stages but the packed Burnley defence kept him in check.
Cox brought down Ade Akinbiyi on the edge of the area in the 20th minute but Alexander sprang to his left to clutch Jon Harley's crisp shot.
Thompson had his first real strike on goal when he collected a Rhys Weston pass, swivelled and struck a low shot just wide of the visitors' goal.
Neither side made changes at the interval though once again the Bluebirds were finding it difficult to break down a packed defence.
A misplaced header from Chris Barker gave Akinbiyi a sight on goal but his first-time effort flew over the bar.
City broke the deadlock with Thompson getting the final touch. Willie Boland lobbed the ball into the danger area and, after Burnley keeper Brian Jensen fell down under a challenge from Cameron Jerome, Thompson was on hand to guide into the empty net.
Two minutes later he struck again with a superb turn and right-foot shot that flew past Jensen.
Still City weren't finished and when Neal Ardley sent over a pinpoint cross from the right, Koumas was there to head into the right hand corner.
With Cardiff now well on top Scimeca entered the fray for Thompson who left the field to a great ovation from the home fans, but the Bluebirds were dealt a blow when skipper Darren Purse was forced off after colliding with Akinbiyi.
If City had laboured in the first half they certainly made up for it after the break to fully deserve the victory that keeps their play-off challenge alive.