Chesterfield 0 Cardiff 3. Match Report.

Last updated : 14 April 2003 By NigelBlues

The stark contrast between City achieving Division One status and remaining in Division Two could hardly be greater than a visit to this Derbyshire market town situated just a few miles south of Sheffield.

The fact they are nothing more than a lower division football town was underlined by the fact that the home club and police forces finding it necessary to change the scheduled 3pm kick-off time not once, but twice, before settling for a Sunday 2pm start. As if not enough, the town was virtually "dry" with all bar a couple of pubs closed, even the town centre hot dog stalls and burger stands shut up early!!

One advantage of a Sunday game was that the motorways, other than occasional roadworks, were clear. Our only competition for the roads were Watford and Southampton fans travelling to a Villa Park FA Cup Semi-Final showdown. We made a village near Chesterfield (much better for pre-match lunch/drink) in 2 and a half hours and just in time for midday opening - excellent.

Chesterfield, in my entirely biased opinion, is not a nice place. Its market features and crooked church spire maybe attractive to the non-football public but the place adopts a siege mentality towards visiting football fans with Cardiff's viewed as its greatest challenge/enemy. With half of Derbyshire's police seemingly patrolling the streets or around/inside the ground, there were thankfully no major incidents. Getting followed down the road by some young Spireites chanting "Scum" was as bad as it got this time but it gave them a good day out and was probably the highlight of their month, bless.

Football wise, Sunderland's weekend Premiership relegation means Bluebirds everywhere can currently dream of visiting The Stadium of Light next season but knowing that the price of failure is perhaps another visit to Chesterfield's Stadium of Total Sh*te.

Saltergate (or The Recreation Ground) is a relic from a bygone era that shows its age everywhere you look. The dark and dank looking main stand looks more ancient than the combined contents of a Saga holiday coach. Outside it, the view is entirely one of rusting corrugated iron and peeling grey paint that probably hasn't been touched for 20 years or more. The cowshed opposite, derelict last season, is now a small seated stand where few home fans seem to go. The terrace behind their goal is their main end, well populated.

City's 1,300 or so fans in the 4,398 crowd were either in the corner of the main stand or in the open away end thankfully basking in the sun (especially those of us who remember our visit 2 seasons ago being just about the wettest we've ever got at a City game or anywhere else really). They've laid new concrete and barriers but closed the rear half of the terrace letting it go derelict with a great variety of weeds growing there for nature lovers. David Attenborough could be filming there soon.

Cardiff, unsurprisingly, named an unchanged starting line-up after the
4-0 midweek thrashing of Wycombe at Adams Park. Neil Alexander was fit again but had to settle for a berth on the bench with Margetson doing everything right in goals. The main talking point had been whether Danny Gabbidon would start after his 30 minute show at Wycombe. Lennie was apparently "staggered" that fans were clamouring for it, fans apparently "staggered" that Spencer Prior keeps getting full starts. Realistically, Lennie was right. Best save Danny for the tougher tests and get him fully fit first, the eleven on duty more than capable of winning this game regardless.

Of the promotion chasing pack, only Oldham slipped up 24 hours earlier leaving 2nd place looking like a three way chase between Crewe, Cardiff and Bristol City (in that order). Cardiff kicked off 4 points and a much inferior goal difference behind Crewe so knew it was win or bust.

Every year, one side always seem to fall into the relegation mire from nowhere, Chesterfield are that team this season. Comfortably in mid-table at mid-season, they now have serious worries after 11 points and 11 defeats in 16 league games before today leaving them just 1 place and 3 points above the relegation zone with a vastly inferior goal difference to those immediately hoping to catch them.

Many football purists believe relegation would be just anyway as after "Cheater"field's substantial financial regularities were covered giving them a distinct advantage over other clubs when they were promoted with City 2 seasons ago, the Nationwide League's ineffective late season points deduction served only to stop them becoming Champions at the time.

Managed by ex-Jack defender Dave Rushbury whose son was one of their subs, they had a few familiar names including ex-City loan keeper Carl Muggleton noticeably heavier (ok, fatter) than when with City 2 seasons ago with missing teeth and very ill fitting shorts but a huge smile whenever taunted by us. He entertained us too with his peculiar goal-kick habit of pointing to, and banging, his brain as he ran up to kick the ball. Others included ex-Reading defender Martyn Booty and the big bald centre-back Blatherwick.

Scoring is their biggest with their 40 goals in 41 league games comfortably making them lowest scorers in Division Two, their leading scorer with only 8 this term was veteran 482 year old striker David Reeves (so old, he could get a role in Lord of the Rings).

There was a sour taste at kick-off as Chesterfield celebrated its first piece of ground improvement since Harold lost an eye at Hastings with the grand opening of a new retractable players tunnel. Out came the balloons and former Spireite legends kicking autographed balls to the crowd. One landed directly in front of the City end. When a fan, consented by a steward, jumped over the wall to get it, an over-zealous senior steward came in and marched him away. It started an afternoon of needless animosity between City fans and home stewards, both showing their good and bad sides.

As for the game, City nearly opened in stunning style as a Peter Thorne dipping 25 yard volley whistled inches past Muggleton's far post with the home keeper beaten. Margetson took 6 minutes to have his first touch, a goal kick.

City had to withstand an awkward spell as The Spirites took to game to them, Cardiff's defenders working hard to stay firm. The biggest problems were midfielder Hudson and the pacy, diminutive Glynn Hurst who earned Spencer Prior a 7th minute booking by taking him on. Moments later, the excellent Dermot Gallagher waved aside strong home penalty claims as Barker excellently tackled Reeves shaping to shoot.

Gallagher, with his 2nd refereeing display in a City match this season, was once again excellent. Unfussy, calm, assuring, you didn't really notice he was there, easily a class above anything else we've seen in a season when we've been "privileged" to have most of the Premiership refs officiating City matches.

The pressure was worrying, Hudson skipped past Prior but blazed high and wide. City's defence were then sliced open presenting a clear shooting chance to Hurst which, fortunately, was hit straight at Margetson who still did well to save. Margetson, looking steady and composed, also saved a close range Blatherwick header and was grateful to watch one of two other efforts harmlessly fly high and wide.

City still gave the impression they could score anytime they chose to raise their game and when they did on 24 minutes, it was 1-0. Building on the right, Alan Mahon cut inside heading towards the area and was brought down centrally outside the box.

GRAHAM KAVANAGH's free-kicks have been less than inspiring for some time and a few of us behind the goal were joking who was most likely to be hit by his shot but we had to swallow our words and jump and shout in sheer delight as he hit the perfect ball over the wall into the top right corner with wrong-footed Muggleton motionless. Superb technique for Kav's first league goal in 22 games, quite likely the longest non-scoring run of his career. Kav has been indifferent this season, undoubtedly very poor at times, but has played very well in recent weeks, coming good when it really matters. He was probably City's man of the match today.

Chesterfield had another go at Cardiff, a simple save for Margetson who also did well to take a high, hanging ball under pressure and another shot which went out of the ground. Their end product was poor, it was easy to see why they are lowest scorers and they were fully punished on 35 minutes when City made it 2-0 and game over, thank you very much.

An excellent move as Rhys Weston found Gareth Ainsworth, entertaining and inspiring in equal measures, who ghosted past a defender and hit a perfect ball across the face of goal. Earnie met it on the full at the near post, headed downwards and was denied what would have been a City record-breaking 31st league goal of the season by superb Muggleton reactions but to little avail as PETER THORNE swept in and knocked the rebound into the unguarded net from 6 yards. Oooooh, Peter Thorne is magic ....

The game was held up for a couple of minutes as Earnie was treated after impacting with Muggleton but the little fella was back up and testing the keeper shortly afterwards as City visibly demonstrated the huge gulf that existed between the teams, Chesterfield were a shadow of the team that gave City such a hard contest at Ninian Park last Autumn.

When Gareth Ainsworth cut between 2 defenders, he knew how to win a free-kick. Winking and smiling at City fans, he then got a huge cheer as he did some break dancing to flip himself off his back by raising his shoulders and springboarding. It was also quite funny to see Willie Boland waste a clear shooting opportunity from the free-kick by smashing the ball hopelessly high and out of the ground by putting his hands over his eyes and following it like you would if you used a 9 iron at golf.

Half-time: Chesterfield 0 City 0

The second-half was pretty ordinary fayre with City fans mostly taking the opportunity to bask in the sun and have a good singalong. The only notable move of the half from the home team was a group of 25 or so fans who walked the full length of a stand to sit next to the City end in the "Community Stand" which, I guess, should be renamed "The Care in the Community Stand" for them. They tried to taunt us with a chant of sheep-shaggers and when we laughed and sang it back 100 times as loud, they gave up and went home 20 minutes early ... a quicker surrender than the Iraquis!

Cardiff were content to coast through the second period and do nothing silly, Chesterfield were nowhere good enough despite long bouts of possession and territory to make any indent whatsoever. It actually felt and looked like we were watching a pre-season friendly for much of the half but it was up to the home side to change things.

Chesterfield's only chance of note saw the veteran 482 year old David Reeves sky a ball into the City end when he should have done better. They introduced all subs and switched from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3 but it made no difference.

With the game safely in the bag, Lennie brought on Gordon for Earnie who couldn't quite get in the game today then Gabbidon for Ainsworth. The removal of Ainsworth, a fan favourite who shows passion in everything he does, was booed again mainly by those City fans in the stand, we really need to show more patience sometimes. Anyway, it gave Ainsworth a personal ovation and he was able to wave and ayatollah from the touchline and save himself for midweek.

City created a couple of second half chances, Ainsworth bulleting a header over the bar and Barker made Muggleton save well from a corner but any lingering doubts over this pretty easy victory were removed when PETER THORNE netted his 15th of the season on 82 minutes after an excellent move.

A superb Kav through ball on halfway dissected two defenders and sent Willie Boland racing clear on the left touchline, he took one touch then hit a great low ball across goal for THORNEY to superbly steer wide of Muggleton from 8 yards inside his far post.

City fans were rejoicing, Chesterfield's were disappearing, the ones that stayed were mainly to sing "Rushbury Out". The "larging it" chants were in much vocal evidence again, "it's just like watching Wales", "cheer up, Swansea's worse than you" and the optimists were at it to with "The Blues are going up"!

Prior went off carrying a knock to be replaced by Bonner and the game almost finished with a party piece of a goal as Alan Mahon smashed a 25 yard free-kick from wide across goal and so unluckily saw it smash off the angle of bar and post to deny what would have been one of the goals of the season.

And that was it, a comfortbale, highly satisfying game, result and week for Cardiff City. Two away matches, seven scored and nil conceded. Beyond anyone's wildest dreams last going into thsoe games, I'm sure.

Attention now switches to the massive Crewe v Bristol City clash on Tuesday where a draw would suit City best or a Bristol win if one side has to get three points. Whatever that result, City's task remains very simple and clear - we must collect three points at Peterborough on Wednesday and at home to Colchester next Saturday, anything less is not enough.

For now, let's just enjoy another comprehensive victory with confidence and morale vastly and visibly lifted amongst players and fans. It all seems to be peaking at exactly the right time, let's hope it lasts.

Report from FootyMad
Promotion-chasing Cardiff City kept the heat on rivals Crewe with a comfortable 3-0 win at Chesterfield - and pushed the Spireites further into the relegation dogfight.

Two goals form Peter Thorne and one from skipper Graham Kavanagh were more than enough to earn the three points for Cardiff without breaking sweat.

The gulf between the two sides' League positions was evident from the first whistle, with Cardiff dominating and Thorne was the first to threaten with a dipping volley that went narrowly wide.

The escape served as a wake-up call for the home side who responded with a good spell of their own.

Jonathon Douglas saw his shot from the edge of the box well held by Martyn Margetson and only a last-ditch tackle by Cardiff defender Gary Croft, in atonement for his own error, prevented Mark Hudson from opening the scoring.

Chesterfield forward Glynn Hurst then spurned a great chance by shooting straight at Margetson when the ball broke to him inside the penalty area.

It was in the middle of this spell of Chesterfield pressure that Cardiff snatched the lead.

Hudson was adjudged to have tripped Alan Mahon 25 yards from goal and Kavanagh curled a delightful free-kick over the home wall and past a flat-footed Carl Muggleton to make it 1-0.

But the setback did not alter the pattern of play and Chesterfield again went close moments later when Margetson needed two attempts to smother a long-range effort from Hudson.

Despite the pressure, Chesterfield could not force a breakthrough and Cardiff doubled their lead in the 35th minute.

Hurst lost possession wide on the left and Gareth Ainsworth's pinpoint cross was met by a diving header from Welsh international Robert Earnshaw.

Muggleton reacted superbly to block on the goalline but Thorne was first to the loose ball to make it 2-0.

Much of the second period was again spent with Cardiff pinned in their own half.

But for all their endeavour, Chesterfield rarely looked like snatching a goal to get themselves back into the game. Cardiff, happy to defend their first-half lead, kept a tight grip on danger man Hurst and when Chesterfield did force an opening for David Reeves the striker smashed it high over the bar.

With their minds no doubt on trickier fixtures ahead, Cardiff finished the match on cruise control but still had time for Thorne to snatch a late second, turning home Mahon's cross from six yards out.

Not many of the home fans saw it though - they had begun streaming for the exits long before.

External Reports
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