Cardiff City enjoyed their first win in 10 Championship games and first away win for 9 months with an excellent victory against QPR side in West London to redeem themselves from last week's opening defeat at home to Stoke, putting the first points of the season on the board and certainly livening the mood of the club and fans alike. With the £30k a week 'Help The Aged' strikeforce of Hasslebaink and Fowler striving for fitness (Jimmy Floyd watching on), it was the more modestly paid Steve MacLean and Paul Parry, our front pair, who bagged the goals. Both had a touch of quality about them, underlining a strong all-round team performance.
They, and Cardiff, also missed other good chances to prevent City returning home with a more emphatic result that it was anyway. No win is easy, especially away from home, but this is as comfortable as it gets at this level of football. The home side were dismal, distinctly second best in all departments all afternoon, and succeeding in giving credence to those who regard them as relegation-type material but City's win came at a cost with both full-backs - Tony Capaldi and Kevin McNaughton departing injured - the latter tore a hamstring that should keep him out for several weeks.
There's always an appeal about City visit's to London. I decided to make it an overnighter, many City fans did the same, and start the weekend by blagging a bargain price for a top 4 Star Kensington hotel (I love the internet!) and a good night out in the West End and Soho bars - pricey drinks but great fun - and a meal in Chinatown. Whilst the bulk travelled up Saturday morning early and heading for Paddington or Shepherds Bush Green, I had a leisurely stroll around Kensington - such a yuppie! - and then met other City fans at a discrete pub near Hammersmith - an excellent country-style pub in the middle of the urban sprawl. Mind you, I was with the missus and it helps earn those vital brownie points for a weekender with the boys in Blackpool when City visit there!
For City, and the fans, it was a welcome break to return to football after off park diversions with Langston/Sam Hammam appearing from nowhere wanting both a legal battle and to make the news. Their claims are vigorously refuted by the club apparently with solid documentary evidence but nothing with Hammam and politics at this level is easy. Hammam, disturbingly described as disheveled, tired and ill-looking in various quarters, seems to have lost the battle for hearts and minds before it started. Even his closet City-supporting allies over the years spoke out against him after he arrived in South Wales for a midweek meeting with them following on some from some bizarre phone calls. There was something classy about the way City and Ridsdale by signing Jimmy-Floyd Hasslebaink next day too.
As far as the team went for this game, one change only as Warren Feeney - a 100% trier but without the necessary qualities and attributes that City need - was dropped to the bench in favour of Paul Parry, the wideman playing as a striker - a role he has tried a handful of times previously with moderate success. The centre-half battle was won by Roger Johnson, the midweek Carling Cup match winner, favoured over club captain who finally showed signs of returning to form in that game against Brighton. So it was Turnbull, McNaughton-Loovens-Johnson-Capaldi, Sinclair-Rae-McPhail-Ledley, MacLean-Parry. Subs were Oakes-Purse-Gunter-Whittingham-Feeney.
QPR grabbed a 90th minute point in last week's opening game in Wurzle-land but were dumped out of the Carling Cup midweek by Leyton Orient who now visit City in Round Two. Rangers, like Cardiff, only rested a couple of first-teamers. Hopes are very high that the club - a Ford Capri of a side it's best days were long ago and gone - are about to be bought by Renault F1 boss Flavio Briatore and F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone. Investment is badly needed in the club. .
Manager John Gregory went with Camp, Rehman-Curtis-Stewart-Mancienne, Moore-Bolder-Ephraim- Rowlands, Nardiello-Blackstock. Nobody to fear in particular, Dexter Blackstock is one of 101 strikers linked to us over the summer but showed little in this game. Their leading player Jimmy Cook was recently sold to Fulham, Marc Bircham (the player we love to hate) has fallen down the football ladder to Yeovil and none of the Bluebird connections at QPR were on show as Chris Barker is suspended having been red carded in the final game of last season, Simon Walton broke his leg in a pre-season friendly within 48 hours of signing for the R's (for £200,000 - can you believe that after what we saw of him last season?) and Gareth Ainsworth presumably injured or overlooked.
The average City fan has probably visited Loftus Road many times but for those who haven't, like Ninian Park, it's not particularly in the best area of town surrounded by housing estates but with the BBC a goal kick or two away and of the strangest retail streets you will see anywhere in Shepherds Bush Road. With a market to start, the buildings are like Bessemer Road with doors and windows selling tat and a myriad of fast food shops but it must be one of the most global and cosmopolitan areas you could visit anywhere. Loftus Road is a traditional ground. Four rectangle stands right up to the pitch meeting in each corner so it is fully enclosed. The City end is now called the Sellotape Stand and it looked in part as if that what was holding it together. 1,500 travelled, we were all housed upstairs in the double decker stand. Luxury it ain't, but it does offer excellent views, its front almost hanging over the goal defended by City in the opening period, and atmosphere too with a low roof and Rangers fans close by for a singing contest.
They lost that as well with City fans wasting no time reminding them of our play-off win with gestures to go with "we saw you cry on the telly", and even the haunting "there's only one Andy Campbell"!!! We even went old skool with "tiptoe through the Grange End" and the conversation that Bertie Mee and Bill Shankly once had about the Cardiff a-g-r-o!
It was probably the highlight of a rather dull opening 20 minutes as both sides battled for supremacy, Cardiff with methodical football and good possession, Rangers trying the Stoke method of being physical and wanting to muscle us. There were some poor challenges and early treatment for the likes of Parry, Ledley, McPhail and McNaughton but City were gradually finding their stride and no better than when Joe Ledley burst through three challenges getting into the area but his pass across goal was cut out. Not long afterwards, a great run by the always impressive Trevor Sinclair - what a great signing he is proving to be already - was met by Paul Parry and went wide with Camp scrambling. Rangers responded with their only meaningful attack I can recall in the opening half but a close range shot hit the arm of Roger Johnson - a clear case of ball to hand which the ref acknowledged but it was enough to excite than anger the home support.
Cardiff stepped on the gas, entertained us, and blew away QPR. The goal arrived on 29 minutes after a spell when the home side were being battered. A couple of corners, one from a McNaughton free-kick that evaded everyone that Camp scrambled behind at the last moment. Another shot blocked for a corner and then another escape for the hoop shirts as a corner was nodded across goal, Sinclair's shot bringing a fine save from Camp for another corner but, from that, Parry crossed, Johnson turned towards goal and MacLEAN swept home from 8 yards, Rangers defenders nowhere to be seen. The City end went wild, MacLean himself cartwheel somersaulting.
By half-time, City really should have had the game completely sewn up but MacLean headed wide after brilliantly being set up by McPhail and Parry and McPhail himself headed over but MacLean's miss was an open goal and really should have been buried. In between those chances, City's only problem when Kevin McNaughton pulling up ushering a move away from danger. Obviously in discomfort and clutching the back of hid leg, he had to be stretchered away to a huge ovation as he was carted in front of us getting back to the dressing rooms bringing Chris Gunter into the action..
City were completely bossing the game in a style very easy on the eye from Johnson and Loovens dominating in a non nonsense style at the back, McPhail's passing and Rae's sheer hard work controlling the middle of the park and strikers finding Rangers defence as easy to penetrate as ... well, you can insert your own punchline here. Little wonder they went off to s standing ovation.
Half-time: QPR 0 CITY 1
The interval was entertaining as Rangers had several of their fans spinning themselves 10 times on a sweeping brush then trying to shoot past their mascot. They either fell over, miskicked or missed the ball completely ... not much less effective than their team's first half efforts.
The Bluebirds almost paid the price for not finishing the game off before the interval as they returned a little lethargic whilst QPR undoubtedly had a kick up the R's off Gregory. First chance went to City however as Gavin Rae surged forward through the middle, only a last fraction challenge stopped him as he was ready to pull the pin but, moments later, they nearly paid a dear price as QPR went straight up field, cut across Cardiff's rearguard arguably for the only time all game and Marcus Stewart's drilled low shot cannoned off the far post before Gunter cleared, same feeling Turnbull helped deflect it there. If he did, great save.
Turnbull was having a better afternoon after his uncertain City start, his confidence was better as he came for more balls in the box, his kicking was a vast improvement and he was communicating more effectively with his defence. He still looked nervous at times though staying on his line for balls that were his all the way whilst failing to come out as Loovens marshaled the ball back his way nearly proved fatal as a Rangers player nipped between them, his shot luckily hitting Turnbull's body who then got a shouting from Loovens. A blow in the early phases of the half was losing Capaldi after a clattering late challenge with what initially looked another hamstring but hopefully is not as severe. Joe Ledley dropped back and Peter Whittingham came on in his position but the game restarted in controversial style as Turnbull has kicked the ball out to allow Capaldi treatment but Rangers threw the ball wide of the area making Turnbull come for it with City players moving upfield but the throw-in taker closed him down, it was cleared but very unsporting.
Those nervous times were over before the hour as City sealed the game with a marvelous second goal. A long ball fed down the line by Joe Ledley which Parry reached although his cross was overhit, Sinclair stopped the ball from going out of play far side and worked it back to Rae who passed a player and found McPhail through a gap, the skipper turned it back over and there was PAUL PARRY with a powerful header top corner past a helpless Camp right in front of us and didn't we love it! Great goal and nice to mock Camp who less than 4 months ago in the same ground played an active role in getting Michael Chopra sent off in what turned out to be his final league show for City after Camp goaded City fans at final whistle.
Attention was soon turned to QPR fans with shouts of "you might as well go home", "cheerio", "time to go" and "we can see you sneaking out", a repertoire none of us had been able to sing for almost 10 months on the road since winning at Sunderland last Halloween night - City's only other away victory afterwards was at Wolves when we were banned. It also was a welcome change of fortunes at Loftus Road with City playing quite inept on their previous 3 visits since that play-off and losing 1-0 each time to poor goals conceded and barely a shot mustered in any game.
The final half-hour was played out comfortably. City could have had more and should have had more especially when Rae went on another lung-bursting charge through the middle before feeding MacLean on the edge of the box but he skied over and great Sinclair work saw him beat his man on the by-line and tee up the ball but Parry headed wide when the target should have been hit and McPhail had got into the box behind him and was probably better placed.
It was now time to time attentions to the directors box where Jimmy Floyd-Hasslebaink was noticed and he did the ayatollah so "Jimmy is a Bluebird" whilst Ridsdale had some chants too which he appreciated. Rangers had a couple of late chances for a consolation but Turnbull made one good save whilst another effort was fluffed but that was it.
Final whistle, non-stop singing and an away celebration at long last. It felt great. City players had a standing ovation and responded in kind. In truth, goals apart, there was probably little difference in performance between QPR today and the Stoke home loss last week except the differing standard of opposition but it has to be a great confidence boost and relief.
Defensively we were strong, non-nonsense and never in trouble although we'll come up against many tougher tests than today. Chris Gunter looks set for an extended run in the side but, as we already know, he's more than capable. Midfield did very well with Rae excellent and McPhail quality as well as industrious with Trevor Sinclair shining. Peter Whittingham had a quiet half though. Up front, Parry and MacLean enjoyed themselves and caused problems all afternoon and although Parry often drifted away from the middle of the park, it proved effective today as he took defenders with him that opened space.
It does however seem Cardiff games will often depend on the first goal. Go behind and I'm still not sure we're sufficiently equipped to hit back - it's now 2 years since Dave Jones and City managed that - take the lead and we look well equipped to see it through. That has been the story of last week and this week.
The train trip back was rightly celebratory but I'm not sure it's the wisest thing to tell Cardiff fans the train is not selling alcohol due to a minor egg chasing international in Cardiff. It mattered little, we'd mostly stocked up before getting on board!
We can only wait and see what the next week brings us in terms of off-field politics, progress with the big name strikers and, possibly, another signing. Life's never dull following City, that's the only thing that never changes..
Report from FootyMad
Goals from Steven MacLean and the outstanding Paul Parry gave Cardiff a comfortable victory at Loftus Road.
QPR were booed off by their fans at full-time after another dismal home display - four days after their Carling Cup defeat to Leyton Orient.
Cardiff opened the scoring on 29 minutes. The home defence failed to clear former R's star Trevor Sinclair's corner and MacLean turned the ball home from close range.
The breakthrough came just seconds after Rangers goalkeeper Lee Camp had denied MacLean by sprinting from his line and blocking his shot after the striker was put through by Stephen McPhail's pass.
Up until then, both sides struggled to create clear-cut chances.
QPR striker Danny Nardiello and Parry both fired wide, before Rangers unsuccessfully appealed for a penalty when Nardiello's drive struck defender Kevin McNaughton's arm.
MacLean's goal came just as Cardiff were beginning to dominate and he would have put them further ahead had he not headed Parry's cross wide of the target when it seemed easier to score.
Less than a minute into the second half, Cardiff were very nearly punished for that miss.
Martin Rowlands picked out Stefan Moore, whose shot from the edge of the area beat keeper Ross Turnbull but bounced back off the post.
Cardiff were given another scare when Turnbull had to rush from his line to block Nardiello's effort after the striker managed to get in front of Roger Johnson.
Rangers were on top but just before the hour-mark McPhail crossed from the right and Parry headed in Cardiff's second goal.
John Gregory's men never looked like recovering and substitute Nick Ward missed a golden chance by shooting tamely at Turnbull from eight yards out.
Parry might have grabbed his second goal near the end but saw his header from MacLean's cross drift wide.