Cardiff City 3 Nottingham Forest 0. Match Report
New Year's Day brought relief, a welcome buzz, smiles and some confidence back to the club as City triumphed 1-0 at Derby County. That was the launch pad as today, 48 hours later, The Bluebirds battered (you're not famous anymore) Nottingham Forest into a 3-0 submission. Forest were certainly cut down to size. Peter Thorne netted on 55 and 85, Kav rounded off the afternoon with a cracker on 90 but in the 5 minutes in between the second and third goals, Paul Parry possibly fractured an ankle (Forest's Louis Jean somehow wasn't sent off for a bad challenge) then Hjelde was sent off for a challenge that probably deserved no more than a yellow.
City were dominant and in full control from first to final whistle but it was tense, and getting more tense due to league placings, until the opener finally arrived on 55 minutes. After that, there was no way back for Feeble Forest as City got even stronger and finished them off in some style. Rarely can relegation battles "6 pointer" games have been as one-sided and decisive as this one. All of a sudden, safety looks entirely realistic for Cardiff, relegation looks ominously certain for Forest who can't see the wood for the trees about how to get out of their mess on this sorry showing.
No wonder there were big, beaming smiles in Sloper Road, what a fantastic feeling it was. This was Cardiff's first back to back league wins in 10 months, Lennie Lawrence who many thought would be sacked if City lost over Christmas can rightly reflect well on a 100% win record in 2005 (making him the leading contender for Manager of the Year - yeah right!!). He will also be proud that his defence who had kept only four league clean sheets all season before Christmas managed three more in four games over the Christmas/New Year holiday programme.
Best of all, City were unbeaten and collected eight points in those four encounters - some achievement for a team averaging less than one point per game all season until Christmas. Cardiff remain in 21st place but with 30 points from 28 games, they have opened a 4 point gap over Gillingham, 6 over Forest with substantially better goal differences over both. Instead of being well behind the rest, Cardiff are now just three points or less of Watford, Plymouth, Brighton, Wolves and Coventry. The 50 point safety target looks achievable and life is rosy. Just the lift everyone needed.
I can't say feeling were so confident pre-match. Many supporters had concerns, most in the pub I was in thought it may be a draw as we weren't a team who follow up a win with another win, particularly in high pressure high stake matches. Forest turned up in numbers, 1,200 or so in a crowd declared at 13,564. It was a mild day with heavy rain before the game which gave way to bright sun and wind just before kick-off.
It was no surprise to see Lennie name an unchanged side. Cardiff went 4-4-2 with Warner, Weston-Gabbidon-Collins-Barker, McAnuff-Kavanagh-Inamoto-Langley, Thorne-Jerome. Subs were Alexander-Bullock-Lee-Parry-Vidmar.
Cardiff went have gone into the game after a decent win on New Year's Day but so were Forest who beat Stoke 1-0 at home. They've had a terrible season. They seem to have good enough players but they do not make a team and their results have been unacceptably poor.
Manager Joe Kinnear recently acrimoniously resigned after many months of arguments with media and fans alike leaving a war horse in Mick Harford in charge aided by Des Walker, still registered as a player in his 40th year. Anyone who watched the bench action would still be in shock after witnessing a passionate, animated Lennie Lawrence directing and leading operations loudly and visibly whilst Harford and Walker both stood helplessly arms folded for the entire 90 minutes. Did they swap personalities for the afternoon?
Forest's home form is ok but on the road, the Tricky Trees are dismal. No away win all season, just four draws and nine defeats away before this latest calamity. Unless they can sort that rapid, they have little hope of survival. Harford's team were Gerrard - Thompson-Hjelde-Morgan-Doig, Bopp-Derry-Reid-Rogers, Taylor-Harris.
The star name is Andy Reid, widely predicted to be Premiership-bound but he certainly needs to sort his fitness, he looks a good few pounds overweight and City's fans let him know it. The stand out player was Shaun Derry but only because of his retro '70's style mullet and sideboards (if he fails with Forest, he may get a gig with Kings of Leon).
The player to be abused was Neil Harris who told the South Wales public how much he loved it here and wanted to stay with City exactly two weeks ago only to sign for Forest "as they're a big club and I haven't even agreed personal terms" just 24 hours later. Forest unwisely offered him a 30 month contract, City offered 18 months, but Harris should be back in South Wales next season - playing at Swansea's new ground in League One on this showing!
Cardiff seized the initiative from kick-off, probably the highest tempo and best they have started any match this season. Twice, Forest were almost pierced in the opening couple of minutes. Some fast, clever Langley play exposed Forest but Inamoto was blocked before he could shoot and then Weston, Inamoto, Thorne, McAnuff and Jerome almost bulldozed their way through, a desperate Forest booted away.
Two quick corners from each side were both taken by Captain Kav. The first one fizzed and swung across goal, Forest defence just managing to put behind. The second was more like Kav, badly scuffed along the floor. In fact, just about every corner he took on the left was excellent but every one he took on the right was terrible.
Peter Thorne was winning every header and Forest had no answer to the pace and power of Cameron Jerome. Defender Thompson had a 5 yard start on him for one run and still lost out. Forest packed their defence in numbers and seemed to stand off a fired up Cardiff allowing us the ball and time with it.
Cardiff were powerful, confident and were in no mood to be denied but it was bad defending, so reminiscent of many Cardiff displays, and had to be punished eventually, the visitors spent the entire first half in retreat or panic, so many desperate clearances. They didn't seem to have any noticeable game plan other than hold us to nil-nil and hope something positive happens to them.
City had, but missed, two golden chances. Both fell to Jobi McAnuff - good to see his Dad enjoying his first Welsh beers in The Westgate and Napier. After getting in the first real shot of the match, which was blocked, he had two outstanding openings.
The first after Cameron Jerome at his promising dazzling best latched onto a diagonal ball saw him burn off Thompson for pace and he then beat tow players in the area and getting to the by-line, his cut back to Langley was perfect too but McAnuff scuffed his first attempt and get no power on the next with the ball still at his feet, it rolled to a grateful Gerrard. The second saw a brilliant Weston run and deep cross beat Forest's defence, Gerrard flapped and present the ball to McAnuff but his lifted his left foot effort high and wide. The ref so disbelieving that one was missed that he assumed there must have been a save or deflection and gave us a corner that never was.
Graham Kavanagh was back in the side and showing a hunger that has been missing most of the season. The question to Graham has to be - why has it taken two red cards, doubts over your continued captaincy and a barrage of criticism to get you playing like we know you can?
He lead by example today, got the team into huddles before kick-off, the second half and even at final whistle. He shouted and encouraged and he was playing as we all know Kav can. His commitment and intensity never more apparent as he chased down one ball running out of play and ended up disappearing over the Bob Bank wall. It looked nasty but he popped back over, straight back onto the pitch and ready for more of the battle. Great stuff Kav, we expect to see more of this most weeks of the season until May, you set your standard.
Forest had one shot at goal all match and it came from Andy Reid who did his best to take on Cardiff - even though the second half had the Grandstand Block F singing "who ate all the pies?" whenever he got near. Warner saved well from the only shot he faced all game whilst Reid had tow more shots in the 90, one won a corner, the other in the 2nd half saw a blistering strike fortunately fly over. And that was it for the entire match from the visitors, Collins was in total control at the back again, Gareth Taylor had next to nil service but when he did, Ginge snuffed him anyway. Gabbs was the starting point of most Cardiff moves.
So woeful were Forest going forward that Neil Harris didn't get his first run on the ball until over half-hour had gone. When he did, he get some mighty stick and abuse and messed up as he did for every other touch he had after that. He never came out for the second-half but still got stick as chants of "Harris, Harris, what's the score?" rang out after every goal. Fore the second time in a fortnight, he was glad to get away from Cardiff!
It was an excellent first half from City, the half finished with Thorney heading at Gerrard and Langers having an effort blocked, but it was a worry we had nothing to show for it when we should have been perhaps a couple of goals clear. There were natural worries that it was shaping up to be a game where nothing went for us and the fact it was still 0-0 brought a mix of applause and anxiety as the teams walked off.
Half-time: CITY 0 FOREST 0
For the second successive home game, the visitors were on the pitch a good couple of minutes before City. Are the away teams sent out early or have we a new ploy to keep them waiting? Forest returned minus Neil Harris but with a pretty handy replacement in the short, fiery David Johnson, not the free scoring forward he has been but still always dangerous.
Forest did enjoy a little, but only a little, more presence going forward but the pace, passion, control and tempo of the game all remained with Cardiff. In the opening action, Kav had 4 corners, two from each side and yes, two from the left were very good and two from the right were very bad. Thorney headed the final one wide and then Inamoto fired a shot wide too, doing the ayatollah as he headed back to halfway watched once more, by mini Japanese fan club in the Grandstand.
I was getting to the stage with the clock running down that I hadn't felt so nervous watching City play for ages, it was a must win game and despite its one-sidedness, we weren't winning. Salvation and justice finally arrived on 55 minutes and, even then, City frayed my nerves to the hilt before getting their thoroughly deserved lead.
Paul Gerrard was playing in front of the Grange End and must be used to nerves and banter but he seemed unhinged and starting making several errors, he was doing more Tony Warners than Tony Warner. Talking of Warner, he was very good today. Only one save to make and a few crosses and some low balls to take but he did it all in exemplary fashion. If we wanted to be critical, a couple of his kicks went straight to touch but so were most of Gerrard's.
The penalty arose from Gerrard hitting a poor kick from a back pass only 40 yards out and to the left, Langley kept it in and gave it to Jerome who ran straight at Forest's defence and Thompson. He burst into the area, tried to skip Thompson wide and was needlessly taken down, penalty. Yes, yess, yesssss!!!
Then came a moment which shows some of City's shortcomings. Peter Thorne took the ball and placed it on the spot and having scored City's last penalty, it seemed obvious to me that he would. However Langley and Kav then walked in and Langley stood there, Thorney turned and walked away. A furious Lennie on the touchline was going mental shouting to the players and holding up Thorney's number, the message got through and Thorney was taking it again. Call me a nutter but shouldn't a professional club have all this sorted out before they go on the pitch??
Thorney's last penalty was smacked away and un-saveable. This time, I winced as he strode up Earnie-like shuffling from side to side in slow motion (I shouted out a loud "oh no"! as I imagined disaster) but he hit it along the floor and only slightly to the left, Gerrard went the opposite way and it was 1-0 so who cares now? Yesss, yesssssss, yessssssssssss! Although had Gerrard not moved or gone the other way, he would have had the easiest save of all time. I'm sure all the messing about before the kick had a role to play in Thorney's indecisiveness when he took it.
Still it was 1-0 and, fortunately, there was no way back for Forest. It was very apparent that they just had no Plan B and didn't know what to do, they were a truly awful team. Most of us always believed they would pull away and get out of trouble. On the evidence of their sorry efforts, it's easy to see why they're stranded in the bottom three with games now starting to run out. They still have quality in the squad though but let's hope their dismal performances continue until May.
Shots and attacks were now pouring in on Forest's goal. Kav blocked, Jerome saved (after another brilliant run which would have been 2-0 if he had passed across goal to the unmarked Thorne instead), Kav blocked and then a fantastic left footed 25 yard volley on the bounce blazed inches over with Gerrard easily beaten. Jerome's flying header well saved by Gerrard, Gabbidon got forward and fired one over. Forest defenders engaged in mistake after mistake or scrambled clearances, Harford now getting close to breaking Lennie's world record for keeping arms folded whilst watching a game.
Forest did win a couple of corners that came to nothing and had one more chance thanks to some bizarre officialdom. First City won a free-kick near the edge of their own penalty area, a Forest player was booked for throwing the ball away and the ref made James Collins bring it forward 10 yards so he was now only 80 yards form Forest's goal, it made all the difference. Moments later, Langley brought down a Forest player and was booked. He never appeared to protest but the ref, seeming to want to even things, brought their kick forward 10 yards to the edge of Cardiff's box. Andy Reid thankfully scuffed it straight into the wall, it summed up their day.
Forest used all three subs and so did City, the first two when Parry replaced Inamoto for the final 15 minutes. Ini showed quick feet and some nice touches but was probably the quietest Cardiff player on the pitch.
Within 5 minutes, Parry was stretchered away. On a typical burst down the left, Forest sub Louis Jean flew into him from behind and then fell on top of him. Parry was banging his arm on the floor in agony, Kav called the physios on and then the stretcher for what looked suspiciously like a broken ankle. Let's hope it's not too serious, we need all our players, especially those like Parry. Good luck and best wishes for a speedy recovery Pazza. Louis Jean was the subject of chants of "you dirty English b*stard" from the kids in the Grange but the FRENCHMAN got a yellow when it could as easily have been red. Vidmar replaced Parry as City re-adjusted again.
Still Cardiff were blasting Forest, Jerome made Gerrard save again, Gerrard fumbled again. Forest now to be hacking down Cardiff players in every attack, their frustrations very evident until on 85 minutes, it was 2-0 and game over, I thank you.
Another Cardiff corner, it was on the left so it ensured Kav's delivery was perfect. It's been a while since a City central defender made their presence known but Collins The Ginger Monster did exactly that as he powered and muscled his way through the crowd to head and force the ball towards goal, his downward touch was going in anyway it seemed but there was PETER THORNE to turn it in almost on the line.
City's fans were now delirious, Forest's trying to get out and go home, they'd seen enough. The ref had also seen enough of Forest's petulance and when Hjelde booted Jerome in the head on halfway with a high kick, he was awarded an instant red card. It was, as far as I'm concerned, the wrong decision. Definite yellow but not red, the player seemed to be paying the price for what had gone before and maybe the ref not sending off Louis-Jean. Kav and Jerome sportingly appealed for the Forest but the ref was never going to change his mind on the pitch. I'm sure they will appeal it but that didn't stop us enjoying the moment and waving cheerio to the player.
Another getting huge cheers and waves was Jerome who was taken off for Alan Lee just before the 4 minutes added time and in that period, a perfect day was rounded off in fine style by Captain Kav. Getting the ball wide left, he advanced a couple of paces and unleashed a venomous left footer that beat Gerrard with ease and lashed into the roof and top corner of goal. Not only were we now 6 points clear of Forest, our goal difference had improved from 6 to 12 goals better than theirs as a result, that's effectively worth an extra point.
Final whistle saw only Andy Reid acknowledge the Forest fans, consoled by Kav his Irish mate. Kav also demanded all the playing subs returned to the pitch. He got them all in a huddle and then lead them in taking deserved plaudits. Kav then engaged in some nauseous badge and shirt kissing before more convincingly, pointing to his captain's armband and gesturing to the Grandstand and press area as he triumphantly marched off.
Fantastic stuff Kav, now go and do the same thing for the other 18 games we have left. Kav, whether he likes it or not, deserved criticism from fans and media. If he plays like he did today and show the commitment he did, nobody would have a probelm with him, Perhaps it's a reflection on Kav himself that he needed criticism to be fired up to play the way that we know he can. You have to question why he didn't play like this, and lead the team this way, in so many games over the first ahlf of the season.
It was a good day to be a City fan, it's been a fantastic year so far to be one! A break from league action won't be that bad a thing whilst we're on this high and we can look forward with great anticipation to locking horns with Premiership Blackburn in the FA Cup this weekend. If they're in this mood and replicate this form, then anything is possible.
Report from FootyMad
A Peter Thorne double helped fire the Bluebirds through to an unbeaten holiday programme.
He struck a 54th minute penalty after Cameron Jerome had been brought down and then netted his second five minutes from time when he knocked in from close range after the visitors had failed to clear a Graham Kavanagh corner.
There was still time for late drama as Forest were reduced to ten men when Jon Olav Hjelde was dismissed for elbowing the impressive Jerome and with almost the last kick of the match City skipper Kavanagh beat Paul Gerrard with a superb shot to complete an outstanding victory.
The Bluebirds kept the side victorious at Derby on New Year's Day while Forest had Hjelde in place of the suspended Michael Dawson.
Cardiff should have opened the scoring midway through the opening period when Jerome beat two men in a run down the left, but his low cross into the danger zone was completely missed by Jobi McAnuff and the chance was lost.
Forest almost made the Bluebirds pay in the 34th minute when Andy Reid's goalbound shot was blocked by Richard Langley.
Forest's caretaker boss Mick Harford brought David Johnson in to lead the visitors' frontline for the second half in place of one-time Bluebirds loanee Neil Harris.
It failed to lift the relegation threatened visitors and it was Cardiff who took the lead when Thorne despatched the spot-kick after John Thompson had floored Jerome.
Forest used all their substitutes to get back on level terms, but it was City who came closest to scoring when Jerome burst past Wes Morgan and crashed in a low shot that Gerrard grabbed at the second attempt.
Paul Parry replaced Junichi Inamoto in the 76th minute, but four minutes later he left the field on a stretcher after been chopped down by Mathieu Louis-Jean.
City wrapped it up five minutes from time when the Forest defence failed to clear a corner and Thorne was on hand to prod home from close range.
In the final minute Hjelde was dismissed and Kavanagh capped a superb performance with City's third goal on the final whistle.