Our loss against lowly was magnified by Preston winning away at high placed Coventry. City remain 8th but eight points behind 6th Preston with 5 games each remaining means the only ones left talking of play-off hopes are eternal optimists, mathematicians and Dave Jones who
will rightly talk about the possibility until it is absolutely impossible. With newly crowned Champions Reading and the near Premiership certainties Sheffield United up next, that fat lady may as well start singing.
All the goals came in the second half. Both teams survived first-half scares, Cardiff had more let offs but fell behind immediately the restart thanks to sloppy set piece defending but once again showed their fighting spirit by hitting back through Jerome. It was not enough as The Saints found an extra gear in man of the match Ricardo Fuller who grabbed a double that Cardiff half-gifted him. An injury-time Darren Purse header was mere consolation. Yet again, the Bluebirds failed to provide an unbeaten run or follow a win with a win, a season long habit that has finally cost us.
The train journey down. If you thought trains were jam-packed coming down Saturday morning, you should have been on a Friday. Two carriages, all full and a heating system that was jammed at 90 degrees. Had to drink to stay cool and we only had ale - pity! The posh girl who feel asleep reading a novel won't forget reawakening to find she'd been holding onto the centrespread of Daily Sport in a hurry, she never went back off to zzzz's again.
Checked into our High Street hotel, only a huge Wetherspoon's next door which delayed our check-in and inspired us to get back out quickly. Over 30 of us were out for the night and what a good night. In attendance were Mike Morris, over a dozen of the Lansdowne coach regulars and another 10 or so attached to the London & South East 1927 Club.
First port of call was The Square, very similar to the one in Cardiff's St Mary Street, and just like that one, no longer popular with the locals. In fact, had we not been there, nobody would have been. Still, we were suckers for those two cocktails for a fiver, it would have been rude not to. Saturday, it was bursting with Bluebirds, possibly their only trade of the weekend.
Next visit was Yates' and that was fun. Bumped into another group of early City arrivals, some boys from Neath and two or three hen nights, the St. Trinian's Girls proving very popular with the boys. Half a dozen of them jumped on me and promptly gave my beer belly a "happy slapping" - it was strangely erotic, I enjoyed that.
The evening became soured when we next tried Flare's. My missus and one of the boys were first to the door and promptly asked if they were Welsh. When she said yes, they said, "we're not admitting Welsh people" and all of us were "banned". When others were admitted no questions asked, it rightly angered some to protest. I'm sure their reasons were to do with the game but what a disgusting, offensive policy and attitude. We're were a mixed age and mixed sex group.
Anyway, enough of that, it actually helped the evening as next venue was Margarita's at the quayside and what a place. Formal restaurant start of night that then becomes a party venue. This was a posh Kiwi's, loads of women and the place to go if you're a single-ton or 'on tour'. A couple of the boys had a result and big night.
However none endured the night of Mike Morris. Having a big night out, he headed home to a perfectly good hotel room and bed about 4am and entered what he though was the courtyard entrance. It was Lloyds TSB car park two doors away and, once inside it, he couldn't work out how to get back out so spent the night under the stars and extractor fans. What an inglorious end to the week for "The Cat" - our new goalkeeping legend!
And so matchday, cracking breakfast in our hotel, Mike had finally got in to join us and, top marks to the leg-end, he finished it and went straight into Wetherspoon's ... mind you, 50+ Cardiff fans were already there ahead of him. I went for a stroll first - lightweight, I know - and bumped into plenty of City fans, a big day beckoned.
By lunchtime, the town centre was packed with Bluebirds in full flow and full voice. A number of us decided a leisurely pre-game bevvy at The Marina may be preferable and it was enjoyable drinking Premium Beer ... at Premium Prices! ... overlooking millions of pounds of classy boats. The money I spend watching City, I could have one myself if I didn't do it.
Match tickets included free busses to St. Mary's Ground from anywhere in Southampton but with it being a one mile walk from city centre or marina and the weather being pretty decent, most opted for the short walk. Hardly a scenic stroll, St. Mary's is located at the arse end of an industrial estate meaning you pass factory after goods yard after depot after warehouse and scrap yard to get there. A wry smile crossed our faces spotting one factory called Valley Reinforcements Ltd ... the number and type of City faces around, they had truly arrived. To cap it all, St Mary's had an impressive main frontage but facing it was an aggregate yard full of sand mounds. It's like having Ninian Park down Rover Way.
There are mixed views on new stadiums. They're necessary in this day and age, they certainly lack character. I liked St. Mary's for a first visit, an enclosed bowl shaped stadium with a single deep tier all around. Facilities were good, views were excellent and 2,500 City fans arced all around one goal from one side to the other was a mighty impressive sight.
Whether I'll continue liking it is another matter but another impressive aspect was also a concern. West Midlands Police tool up for 1,500 City fans and ban us form all pubs, Hampshire police went to the other extreme allowing us free roaming around the town and minimal presence. Inside the ground, there was no barrier or no thin blue separating rival fans but half a dozen stewards, perhaps 10 yards apart. Some City and Soton fans were closer to each other than a steward. It seemed too relaxed and naive especially given our support attracted plenty of non-regulars who were willing to abuse this trust.
Anyway, football. Dave Jones returned to the club where he has, so far, enjoyed his greatest success with one enforced change to the side who fought a miserable 0-0 draw with QPR last outing. Steven Thompson apparently failed a late fitness on a hamstring injury so in came Nsungu-Ndumbu. On the bench, Lee Worgan made way as, for the first time under DJ, City gambled with 5 outfield substitutes. It was therefore Alexander, Ardley-Purse-Loovens-Barker, Koumas-Ledley-Scimeca-Cooper, Jerome-Nsungu. Subs were Boland-Cox,Ferretti-Weston-Whitley.
Southampton expected an immediate return to the Premiership or, at the very least, a promotion/play-off challenge. Instead, they are horrified to be involved in a relegation battle as turmoil off the pitch inevitably affected what happens on the field. Rupert Lowe a hate figure, Clive Woodward a joke figure, Harry Redknapp walked out, Dennis Wise a casualty, Dave Bassett left, a coach with novel methods was pushed, teenager Theo Walcott sold to Arsenal for £12M and not seen since. The club sometimes seem to be more occupied with legal action than football action.
George Burley, now in charge, has had quite a year himself after being sacked by Derby midst rumours of inappropriate behaviour, then by Hearts when he had them well clear in the Scottish Premier. Fans were handing out petitions urging others to boycott buying a season ticket, a rumoured fly past parading a "Lowe Out" banner didn't materialise.
For this vital game, Burley went with Miller, Baird-Lundekvam-Kenton-Higgingbotham, Madsen-Wright-Chaplow-Brennan, Rasiak-Fuller. Kenny Miller, you fat b*stard, had come out of retirement at 37 having been discarded by Bristol Rovers last summer. Captain Klaus Lundekvam was the only starting survivor from Dave Jones' time with The Saints. In midfield, the young and perfectly bald Richard Chaplow was on loan from West Brom but City fans will remember him from his Burnley days. Up front, Polish international was on loan from Spurs and was partnered by Ricardo Fuller making his first start in almost 5 months.
Southampton were attacking towards us and that mean,t for the first 15 minutes, we saw plenty of the ball. They were out of the traps and at us, we were fortunate to survive that period. Four times they got behind us, nearly always on Chris Barker's side to send over crosses and shots. When they didn't, Glenn Loovens was having to come across to cover as Barker was lost, the Dutchman giving Barks some sound advice at one point.
By half-time, Loovens was off injured, perhaps no surprise as he seemed to be doing two jobs out on the field. Another major struggler was Nsungu who must have ended chances of a City career beyond this season on this showing. Lethargic, slow of pace but even worse with speed of thought in failing to react to passes and through balls, he looked what he was - a gamble on a lower division striker. They sometimes work, this one hasn't, we need better.
In spite of that, City gradually clawed their way back and were closest to scoring in a poor first half but another one which showed our lack of balance, width, passing and movement. The fans started City going by taunting the quiet home fans with "One Rupert Lowe" and "One Harry Redknapp", plenty of Pompey jibes and more than few in homage to City. It was Loovens who nearly got us advantage, meeting a Koumas corner and desperately unlucky to see his nod headed off the line with Miller well beaten. Miller was also beaten by a Koumas free-kick which missed by a fraction but, on the other hand, we were also indebted to a couple more superb Alexander saves to keep parity. The game was opening up, it would normally help City but we looked the more vulnerable of the two.
Half-time: SOUTHAMPTON 0 CITY 0
Most City fans went underneath for a chat - hello Melvin of Barry/Rhoose infamy - good to see us still with City after all these years eh? You had to chat as the beer wait was ridiculous, the bar staff weren't bright enough to pour drinks ready for the interval. By the time, most of us got served, City were one down.
Neil Cox relaced Loovens but within two minutes of the restart, a corner from the left and CLAUS LUNDEKVAM criminally rose unchallenged to flick home inside the 6 yard box at the near post with City's defence and keeper now awake to have an inquest and argument with each other. Lundekvam never scored for Dave Jones and this was his first in over 10 years at home with Dave Jones the opposing manager. His only other Saints goal was at Wolves, yep against Dave Jones, that one virtually sealed Wolves' relegation.
The home fans and team were buoyant, few were confident we'd turn this around. My "lucky hat" bought that morning which had me described as a Fat Pete Doherty, Uncle Paulie from the Rocky films, Suggs from Madness and a Swiss yodeller had to be removed and on came the hotel shower cap! It worked too. City are fighters and never give up, a value DJ has instilled into his team. It shone through on 57 minutes, when from nothing, City were level in a "mental minute".
It all came from a corner, Koumas sent the ball over which hailed the most incredible melee. CAMERON JEROME was first to react, his header from 6 yards clearly crossed the line as far as I'm concerned but was headed out from behind, Darren Purse followed up and headed against the bar, Nsungu did likewise which went in too but again came back before Jerome bundled over for a third time, this also cleared but, finally, it was a City goal. If only they could award us all three!
The City end went ballistic but we were let down by a number of our fans. I threw my lucky shower cap away in the excitement rush, that's why we lost but it was mild compared to twenty or more jumped onto the perimeter or pitch, celebrating players were joined by fans. One lunatic hurled a full coke bottle with cap on into the Southampton fans. Luckily, they saw and caught it, then someone did a copycat. At the front left, City fans were in heated argument with stewards, police and Southampton fans and then, at the rear, there was a surge towards the home fans with supporters goading each other. Order was just about restored, police were eventually drafted to fill the side and the front. Sometimes, we really don't help our cause.
City were now buoyant and partying hard, the signing immense, the belief was there. Dave Jones finally put us out of some misery by removing the pitiful Nsungu (he could have done it at half-time and nobody would have argued) to finally give Ferretti a chance on 67 but before he had any chance, it was game over.
Enter Ricardo Fuller to kill the dream. His direct fast, hard running and skills had caused problems all afternoon and Chris Barker had struggled big time against him but you can only criticise the defending for his first goal. With 20 minutes remaining, the ball went into a corner, FULLER chased and got it then beat Chris Barker all too easily and cut across City's defence either beating weak challenges or watching others stand off him. When he got level with goal, he completely miskicked but it rolled past two defenders and beat Neil Alexander. It was a choker.
Southampton fans were now up and 5 minutes later they were in heave, yet again, where was our defending? A corner came over, FULLER headed towards goal unchallenged, a defensive header was looped right back at him and he sent a none too powerful shot into the ground which beat Alexander when it didn't look as though it should have.
DJ's last sub was to replace Kevin Cooper, having one of his anonymous games, for Willie Boland but the game was going nowhere until, out of nothing, a City corner, DARREN PURSE - who turned down a summer move to Southampton in preference to City - sent a header flying high into the net.
It seemed a consolation, and it turned out that way, but deep into added time. Jason Koumas won himself a free-kick in a good position, a bit further out than he would have liked. He effort beat the wall but was too close to Miller but, even so, it was a moment of panic as he needed two attempts to gather.
The fans applauded the players, the players applauded the fans, both knew that the play-off chase had, realistically, ended. The football has rarely been quality but that team have done us proud. In the end, we just have little left to give and just not strength and quality to make the difference between play-offs and the also-rans. There is no shame in that.
After the misbehaviour of some, routes back to town were changed for home and away fans but, even then, there were pockets of incidents. What seemed a good idea of waiting back for an hour or two to get a less-packed train home tuned out to be anything but, we all had the same idea! Wetherspoon's was made to close but every other pub was open to us.
Fortunately, the 6:40pm train home would normally be two carriages but many more were added. Mike Morris and myself had a few drinks together and it had been a very long weekend, that's my excuse for not remembering much of the journey home anyway.
The Cost of Being A City Fan:
(Costs are for two - again - and I've not counted Friday night)
Programme: £ 3
Taxis: £ 7
Total for game: £173
Total for Season to date: £3,051
Report from FootyMad
Ricardo Fuller scored his first goals in six months for Southampton to weaken Cardiff's chances of reaching the Championship play-offs.
Fuller, who last started a match in November, arrived back only this week from a spell on loan at Ipswich.
Cardiff had no answer to his pace in the second half and only a Darren Purse tackle stopped him scoring a hat-trick.
There was no happy return to the south coast for Cardiff boss Dave Jones who was in charge of Saints until his controversial departure five years ago.
His team will now need an exceptional late run to stand any chance of forcing their way into the top six.
Southampton took the lead in the 47th minute from a rare goal by Claus Lundekvam - ironically the only survivor from the Jones era.
It was his first goal at home in 10 years of trying and only his second for the club.
Cardiff levelled on 54 minutes when Cameron Jerome forced the ball over the line for his 17th of the season after a goalmouth scramble in which the ball had twice been cleared.
Southampton regained the lead on 70 minutes when Fuller cut in from the right and beat Neil Alexander on his near post with a left-foot shot.
Fuller's second came five minutes later with a fierce left-foot shot from a Jermaine Wright corner on the left.
Cardiff didn't give up and in stoppage time Purse headed home a corner by Neal Ardley but Southampton held out for only their ninth win of the season.
Cardiff had a chance to level even further into injury-time with a 25-yard free-kick but Jason Koumas smashed his effort straight at Kevin Miller who held at the second attempt.