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Cardiff enjoyed a relatively comfortable and fully merited 2-1 F.A. Cup success at Edgar Street to progress to Round Five of the F.A. Cup. Last time they made it this far, in 1994, D Ream's 'Things Can Only Get Better' was # 1 (quite ironic in City's case as things got worse with Nathan Blake sold 24 hours before the game and City losing at home to Luton in controversial circumstances. Let's hope history doesn't repeat.
Back to the present, Kevin McNaughton's cracking 1st ever City goal just on half-time and a Thommo penalty in the second half and few problems at the back had The Bluebirds in cruise control until a late mistake let in Theo Robinson, the one opponent who caused problems, to make it a slightly worrying closing 15 minutes but it turned out to be a consolation The Bulls perhaps deserved for trying to play good football but they were the first to accept that they were beaten by a better side.
Hereford's a quick one hour 58 mile trip from Cardiff but a 12:30pm Sunday kick-off meant there was no big welcome in the town for the 1,498 travelling Bluebirds (not sure what happened to the other 2) is the 6,855 crowd (which, naturally, included a few Bluebirds in the home parts of the ground) plus a handful watching from the top deck of a nearby car park who could only see one penalty area.
We stopped at Monmouth en route for "refreshments" and Sunday brekky in a large and very decent Wetherspoon's. Hereford itself was straightforward as well, we parked 150 yards from the away end, car parking was free on Sunday so it wasn't all bad news.
The only thing that's changed in all the years I've been to Edgar Street are (i) its increasing rust (ii) its quaintness compared to modern identikit stadia (iii) The Bull no longer being marched around the pitch for health and safety reason) (iv) the addition of an electronic scoreboard which, in truth, was no more than the signblazers you see in some shop windows (v) its name - now the Floors-2-Go stadium, not Edgar Street and (vi) the pitch - they actually now have a relatively decent surface. It was bumpy and it still has a fair slope but was a major improvement on the past when it often looked more suitable for mud wrestling than football.
The game of "count the bulbs" in the floodlights passed a minute, 9 seemed to be the most. However being there early enough, we did get to see City warm up in full and were particularly interested to see Oakes and Enckleman being put through their paces. Worryingly, unsure as some of us may be about Oakes, he looked the far better of the two by comparison. Enckleman was beaten time and again by warm up shots from outside the box, anything hit low beat him. He was slower getting down than Ross Turnbull and the average Granny.
City fans were in a terrace pen to the corner behind one goal - the Hereford equivalent of the away end at City - and also in what may qualify at the smallest league stand with a mighty 5 rows of seats plus the terracing underneath on one side of the pitch. I was in the stand and have to say it provided fantastic views, looking over play, the touchline almost level with us. A far better view and experience than our Grandstand.
With City also home to QPR on Tuesday night and away at Stoke next Saturday lunchtime, you felt Dave Jones might have shuffled his limited pack to get through 3 big games within 6 days but he made just one change - Thommo starting ahead of Hasslebaink - in the now familiar line-up of Oakes, McNaughton-Johnson-Loovens-Capaldi, Whittingham-Rae-McPhail-Ledley, Parry-Thompson. Subs were Enckleman, Blake, Hasslebaink, Purse, Ramsey. Paul Parry's children were mascots, a touching gesture as he returned to the club where it all started for him and he enjoyed a good ovation, his young son was one of the funny moments of the day as he ignored dad's calls and kept running away kicking the ball then posed in the centre circle for the official photo with the ball completely obscuring his face. Love to see that picture!
Hereford United are synonymous with F.A. Cup giantkilling and history. There may be 44 places gap between City and United but Cardiff knew they faced a challenge but they were methodical and professional about it. Hereford have taken three more scalps already with League One Leeds United, Hartlepool and Tranmere Rovers beaten for them to get to this stage.
The Bulls are 4th in League Two, only goal difference separates them from the automatic promotion places and had lost just 2 of their last 19 but one of those came in a 4-0 Sky tv drubbing last Monday night at Chesterfield. Hereford's best results are away from home. At Edgar Street, sorry Floors-2-Go, more teams have left with a result than lost there which would have encouraged City.
Managed by Graham Turner (who must be about 208 by now), if you think City have a small squad then marvel at Hereford's 18 players only with 4 loans boosting the numbers. Critically perhaps, three of their key men were unavailable due to injury as Turner lined up with Brown, McLenahan-Colllins-Beckwith-Rose, Johnson-Smith-Diagourago-Taylor, Benjamin-Robinson. The only stand-out name was Trevor Benjamin, still a lump and still only 28, he seems to have been around forever.
In bright sunshine and a mild day, City kicked off defending the downhill run but Michael Oakes was to see little of the ball that end as City fairly dominated the opening period, largely playing in third gear too but their possession converted to few efforts at goal. The principal danger was Paul Parry who nearly scored in the second minute, Brown's smart reactions denying his snapshot. He was blocked a couple more times, looked set to explode as he cut inside for one of his trademark efforts across goal but it dipped a few feet wide and, later, when clear and pulling the trigger, only a brilliant block denied him. Parry also got booked early for a lunge on McLenahan in the corner which seemed to be 'afters' from an earlier battle. Another who could, maybe should, have scored was Kevin McNaughton who get behind The Bulls' defence, got deep into the box, Thommo was in position across goal but with Brown committing early, he shot at an open top corner of goal from an angle but hit the side netting.
Hereford were a decent side and tried playing football and keeping the ball down but struggled to make headway. The few occasions when they did largely came about through City errors but Benjamin and Robinson up front were handful, the latter making Roger Johnson feel his studs which caused most of the 4 minutes added time. Johnson carried on where lesser players may well have limped out. Their shots from angles or distances never troubled Oakes whose only save came when he dived for a Robinson effort going at least three foot wide and tipped it for a corner although Smith produced a flutter as he met a ball over the top with Oakes charging out. His decision to try and round the keeper proved a wrong one and he was dispossessed, the outcome may well have been different had he toe-poked towards goal. Luckily for us, when HUFC won their few corners, I don't think they cleared the first defender once.
The atmosphere was decent but subdued compared to how it would have been on a Saturday afternoon. City taunted Hereford with a chorus of, "you're Welsh and you know you are", they came back with "sheepsh*ggers" (this from a club whose ground is next door to a cattle market!) and two lads proudly showing off their England flag at us ... only problem was they held it upside down and back to front. Illiterate twonks!
Hicksie and myself were bemoaning City not having enough efforts at goal and not trying any distance shots as the half went into added time. As we did, Capaldi took a long throw deep into the box, it was headed out, Whittingham looked set to fire but left it for McNAUGHTON and thwack, a thunderous 25 yarder over the crowd, past a static Brown and right into the corner. YEW BEWTY!!!!! McNaughton's first goal for City ... at the right end. Well worth the wait. Naughts spent a lot of the half underneath us, I'd like to think he heard us!
Half-time: HEREFORD 0 CITY 1
Hereford had their most dangerous moment so far shortly after the restart as a free-kick was glided to Smith whose header was glanced to goal but directly into Oakes' grateful arms too. It woke City who almost scored twice themselves immediately afterwards as Joe Ledley's deflected shot clipped the outside of a post and Roger Johnson headed narrowly wide at a corner that looked in all the way from our angle. Thommo put side and Ledley was blocked when set to shoot.
It looked game over on 65 minutes, a flowing, Paul Parry dissecting U's defence with a delightful threaded ball and McNaughton was behind them again, tugged back a Hereford man who had just come on as sub. THOMMO was to take it and was calmness itself as he rolled it in one corner, Brown going the other way. What an FA Cup run McNaughton is having, an own goal at Chasetown followed by his first City goal and winning a penalty at Hereford, can't imagine what he'll produce in Round 5.
There looked no way back for Hereford with Ledley going just wide with an unintentional "header" from a clearance smacked into his face and then denied what looked a clear penalty. TV later showed he was just outside but how did Premier ref Andy D'Urso miss him altogether being hacked down?
it was a literal uphill struggle for the home side who threw on subs and changed to a more fluid 3-5-2 formation but the only fight seemed to come from Theo Robinson who was allowed to get away with two or very poor challenges where his only intent seemed to be having a dig at City men.
Then, for the second time, we uttered some fatal words but these counted against us. "Don't know about you but I'm really disappointed in Hereford, good football side but I really thought they would have hit us with more passion and spirit than they have". Moments later, a ball spread wide which Capaldi should have blocked but he stuck out a lazy trailing leg and missed it, ROBINSON was in behind him and the Watford loan man did produce an excellent low across Oakes from 15 yards, tucked inside the far post. The home terrace went nuts, small boys charging up and down as their elders did 35 years ago, disappointingly, none of them were wearing parkas.
All of a sudden, there was no panic but it was a difficult closing 15 minutes as the Bulls charged on. They were confined to largely distance shots but brought three saves from Oakes, one of them excellent to block a close distance point blank effort. In between however, City can rightly point to Parry somehow failing to bury a free header in front of goal and sublime Joe Ledley excellence clipping the ball over Brown only to see his cross come shot bounce off his crossbar.
City were fully deserved winners but only they could end up making hard work at the end of what was an experience more comfortable than most of us imagined it would be. I was little surprised Dave Jones didn't use subs, Jimmy for Thommo very late on being his only move, so I hope they're all fit and not tired for Tuesday. It was a strange game where you couldn't really name a City man of the match, it was efficiency over individuality, a team effort with nobody poor and everyone playing well.
The journey home was easy and we had a wee celebration in Monmouth again. So who would you like in the Round 5 draw? I'll be praying for a home tie as my better half has a major op just before the next round so there's no way I could go away - I'll be gutted if we get a big trip on the road - so Brizzle Roverzzz and Lennie at home will do me nicely, a game that offered progress to the quarter-finals and shouldn't be a distraction from the Championship either.
Report from FootyMad
Hereford United's brave fightback proved too little too late as Cardiff City moved into the fifth round of the FA Cup.
Star man for the Bluebirds was full-back Kevin McNaughton, who scored the first and earned a penalty for Steven Thompson to extend the lead before Theo Robinson gave Hereford hope.
There was almost a dramatic start to the tie with former Bulls winger Paul Parry at the heart of the action.
The Wales international fired in a shot which was brilliantly turned around the post by goalkeeper Wayne Brown.
Parry continued to pose a threat with a couple of other early shots.
McNaughton had a great chance in the 20th minute when he got around the back of the Hereford defence only to shoot into the side-netting when a cross would have served him better.
But Hereford grew in confidence as the half went on and also had their moments.
Robinson had a shot well saved by Michael Oakes and Ben Smith had the ball taken off his toe as he rounded the Cardiff keeper.
But in the second minute of first-half injury time, a long throw by former Bulls loanee Tony Capaldi was half cleared to the edge of the area and McNaughton scored with dipping shot which Brown did not appear to see.
McNaughton had a big part to play when the Bluebirds extended their lead in the 67th minute.
He surged into the area but was pulled down by substitute Clint Easton, allowing Thompson to crack his penalty into the corner of the net.
Hereford showed plenty of battle and commitment and gave themselves a lifeline when Robinson raced onto a Smith pass to crack home his 13th goal of the season.
It took good saves by Oakes from Toumani Diagouraga and Simon Johnson to see his side into the last 16 as Hereford threw caution to the wind late on.
Hereford Utd FC