Peterborough 2 Cardiff 0. Match Report.

Last updated : 17 April 2003 By nIGELbLUES

On a soul and morale destroying evening, The Bluebirds slipped to a miserable defeat at a highly committed, organised Peterborough team who clearly had done their homework. Their gameplan was unbelievably basic and simple but Cardiff had no answers to it. Peterborough played like the away team to try and frustrate City - sitting deep with a 5 man defence - and then aim to hit us on the break - via Andy Clarke and the ever dangerous Leon McKenzie. It probably worked better than even Barry Fry dreamed that it would. Posh fans hailed it as their best home display of the season but it re-opens all sorts of questions about City's ability.

Nobody can deny that every player gave 100% but Cardiff huffed, puffed but never looked like blowing Peterborough away with a performance of staggering limitations, totally devoid of creativity. City dominated, had possession and territory throughout, second half especially, but all they had to show for it were a couple of half chances. Posh must take credit for that but Cardiff really need to take a long look at their approach, or lack of it, going forward.

This on a night when, having seen Crewe drop points at home the previous evening, it was all there for Cardiff City players to claim clear 2nd spot with 4 games to go and stamp out a clear message to Crewe to mount pressure on them, instead we did it to ourselves.

Cardiff's lack of ideas in the final third was mind-numbing as yellow shirted players seemed quite content to put 8, 9, 10 passes together but go nowhere at all or smash the ball forward Route One playing right into the hands of Peterborough's burly and slow central defenders. Gareth Ainsworth, the only player prepared to run at defenders, was removed early and, as for the rest, why were they all too scared to take on players or shoot?

The trip to Peterborough was excellent on the hottest day on the year as temperatures hit the 80's in early April. Our coach felt inspired and fired up having watched the City v Leeds FA Cup game en route (maybe it was a bad choice though as we lost at home to Peterborough straight afterwards last season). Clear blue sunny skies were identical to when we last visited London Road in February so there were several jokes about the game being off again with an iced up pitch but even in early April evening weather, it was still balmy with many fans watching in shorts and t-shirts.

City went into the game as the unofficial Kings of Floodlit Football – they were previously 15 league games unbeaten at 7.45pm kick-offs this season collecting almost half their entire league points this season - 37 - in night time action including 7 away wins.

There was an enforced change. Spencer Prior weekend injury likely to keep him out for a few more days but it meant the return of Danny Gabbidon making a full start for the first time since November 9th following his back problems.

Posh went into this fixture, also a game in hand for them, 4 points above the relegation zone with a vastly superior goal difference to teams below, this victory surely sealed their safety as they rocketed to 14th spot.

The word “inconsistency” must have been invented for them – in the past month alone they won 5-1 at Mansfield but lost 6-1 at Plymouth. The warning signs were there that they acquit themselves well against top sides in 2003 as they had drawn at Oldham, won at Crewe, drew at home with Wigan and narrowly lost at Bristol. Home form however has been decidely ropey – only 1 win and 8 points from their previous 9 home league games since mid-December but they, and Barry Fry, have generally got the better of City in recent years.

Fry, the roly poly figure of fun manager remains a love/hate figure – loved by many football fans but hated by his own Posh fans. The team have generally performed below expectations for a long time, the club has been for sale for well over a year, debts have rocketed but the venom is towards Fry particularly after local media revealed his contract of a basic £104k salary rolls up to nearer quarter of a million with Fry earning bonuses for transfer dealings and getting a percentage of the gate receipts.

How he must therefore have rubbed his hands looking at an excellent turnout of 1,100 Bluebird fans making the 400 mile round trip in a 4,984 crowd. The attendance was average for Posh crowd so presumably they had a few home fans missing.

London Road is reasonable enough for this level. An old stand to one side, City fans housed in a corner section, a newer double decker style stand opposite and terraces behind each goal offering reasonable views. Nothing special but there's plenty worse and £10 to get in was cheap. Those who bought advance tickets (kids were allowed in free for those who did) were staggered to get a piece of card with a simple rubber stamp on it. The kind of thing you would get as an invite to a jumble sale, it could so easily have been copied.

The opening period was quiet. There were half chances for both teams with Posh's Tyler saving from Mahon and Margetson saving from Hendon early on. Other chances were blocked, Mahon and McKenzie were close were 20 yard efforts that blazed over the bar and Thorne had half chances meeting a Kav corner and Mahon cross but not hitting the target.

The worrying signs were already in place. City were seeing plenty of the ball but doing very little of note with it. Ainsworth was yet again very quiet in the first half, as he has been every game for City, Mahon causing a few more problems but the Bluebirds play was far too predictable and when we started playing long balls forward for Thorne and Earnie against five defenders with Earnie looking out of sorts, no wonder it was already a struggle. You yearned for a City player to do something different but nobody did.

Still, City looked comfortable enough but disaster struck on 38 minutes with the first of two goals again borne from deficiencies at the back.

Leon McKenzie scampered for 25 to 30 yards down the left side of the pitch, Willie Boland tracked him but never challenged. As McKenzie got level with the area, he whipped a low ball across goal which caught all City's defenders out as Clarke missed but as the ball ran to the far side, MATTHEW GILL ran in to hammer the ball back across goal and inside Margetson's far post. It was a great, clean strike fro Gill's first of the season but where were out defenders? The cross should have been cut out, the scorer had nobody near him.

Cardiff spent the rest of the half camped in the home side's half but got bogged down and went nowhere - sadly, a sign of what was to come.


The second half will rank amongst the most frustrating period of football City fans have suffered this season but there are several other contenders.

City's domination was total, the only occasion it got into City's half was when a Posh player smashed it there but we showed no idea at all how to break down Peterborough now fighting to hold onto what they had.

The passing was like watching a smoochy dance, one step forward, one step back, moving sideways and backwards but not going anywhere - the only kissing was City kissing goodbye to a glorious opportunity. You always hoped they would eventually open up Posh and grab an equaliser but, in truth, we rarely threatened to do it.

Mahon hit a couple of cracking shots but sent them straight at Tyler, a very competent keeper, who held them well. Tyler also denied Peter Thorne twice meeting headers from Weston and Mahon crosses, the latter looking goalbound for a moment. Ainsworth was getting more into the game and wasted one opening but was showing the relish for taking on players, the only one on the pitch who was.

Our Earnie never got in the game at all and probably for the first time in his career, failed to get a single shot on or off target. Brick outhouse Rea marked him and won the home team's man of the match award. He dished out stick to Earnie and could have conceded a penalty when he seemed to bring down the little fella but it was made far too easy for him by City's style of play floating balls toward Earnie with his back to goal against a man almost a foot taller than him. Yet again I find myself asking why Thorne and Earnie never switched sides at any time during the entire 90 minutes?

On 66 minutes, boos rang out from City fans as Gareth Ainsworth was removed for Gavin Gordon and fan frustration became vocal. It consigned City to more Route One style tactics for salvation and saw Ainsworth, the one player now threatening to supply crosses, taken out of the affray. Fans love is blind sometimes, Ainsworth has become a cult hero but had made little impression. However he was definitely getting more involved and threatening to make a real impression.

Within 3 minutes of the change, any grand plan of Lennie's probably went out of the window anyway as Posh made it 2-0 and we knew there was no way back and it was another terrible goal to concede.

A ball went over the top of City's defence towards a touchline, Chris Barker won the chase ahead of Leon McKenzie but decided to pass back to Margetson instead of clearing. McKENZIE took the ball off him with some ease, raced away and finished excellently by smashing the ball home past Margetson blasting the roof of the net to make it the first time all season that City lost both halves of a game.

I think most of us watched the final 20 minutes in total despair secretly wishing we were already on the coaches and cars back home feeling totally flat and dejected.

Gavin Gordon got himself involved in an incident with Hendon in what I initially thought was a valid challenge but it got ugly as players pushed and jostled as tempers and frustrations broke out, Hendon limped off injured and Gordon had a yellow card when some feared red.

City had more chances, Kav heading and shooting over, Thorne doing likewise but Posh could have added to their tally too as Margetson did well to tip a rising shot over the bar and another blazed over too. When Alan Mahon shot straight at Tyler, the ref blew final whistle to start a home side frenzy as they believed it made them safe from relegation - yet again, we seemed to be beaten by a hungrier and more determined team and that hurts more than anything.

City players came to applaud us but were booed by a sizeable section. That was out of order, some fans really need to look at themselves, I hate it when that happens but it was undoubtedly caused by frustration and the reality of our current position. I didn't boo, I never have, but I couldn't applaud them either as I felt let down by the performance, I can't help wondering sometimes if the players wnat promotion as badly as the fans do. It does seem that every time this season when it really mattered and expectations have risen, Lennie and his players have let us down.

The game is gone and we now have to look ahead. Automatic promotion is still possible and entirely in our hands but the odds are definitely against us. Quite simply, we have to get 3 points more than Crewe in our final 4 games. Realistically, that probably means staying in touch with them in the next 3 matches and winning there on final day of the season.

I hope they do it and will be behind them all the way but given their record of under-performing and under-achieveing in these situations many times this season, I certainly won't be betting on it. Still, it could all look different as early as Saturday evening. Until it's impossible, keep the faith no matter how shaken it is.

Report from FootyMad.
Cardiff's bid for automatic promotion was seriously dented by struggling Peterborough who wiped away their relegation fears with a famous win.

Goals in either half from Matthew Gill - his first of the season - and Leon McKenzie left Bluebirds boss Lennie Lawrence admitting their fate will be decided by a last-day showdown at promotion rivals Crewe.

Cardiff would have jumped above Dario Gradi's side into second place if they had managed to pocket a third away win in just a week, but their failure to triumph at London Road leaves them facing a tough run-in.

Lawrence said: "I'm resigned to the fact we are going to have to go to Crewe to win to have any chance of going up automatically - you don't have to be Einstein to work that out.

"But we have three tough games against Colchester, Bristol City and Wigan before then and the lads need to raise themselves to make sure we are no more than three points behind Crewe by the time we go there.

"Tonight we started slowly and paid the price. We allowed Peterborough to get into the game and then they hurt us."Cardiff had dominated the opening half until McKenzie left two defenders trailing on a surging left-wing run before delivering a cross that was finished immaculately by Gill from the edge of the box.

And Cardiff were again controlling the second half without making a breakthrough until McKenzie pounced on some dithering by Chris Barker, burst into the box and fired an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net.

Bluebirds substitute Gavin Gordon was lucky to avoid a red card after ending Ian Hendon's match with an awful late tackle, but he and prolific strike partners Robert Earnshaw and Peter Thorne could make no impact in front of goal.

And Cardiff's night was summed up when skipper Graham Kavanagh steered a free header wide in the dying moments.

Posh chief Barry Fry said: "My players were truly magnificent and they deserve all the praise they will get. Everyone ran their hearts out and their socks off and all the fans were brilliant."

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