Cardiff City 1 Bristol City 0

It seems like ages since my last football blog post, but tonight has provided me with another opportunity. My local team, Cardiff City, was drawn against Bristol City in the 3rd round of the FA Cup. This promised to be quite a tasty fixture because Bristol City are the nearest English club to Cardiff and there’s consequently something of a local rivalry between the two. A couple of weekends ago I settled down to watch the match (away at Bristol) on the television, as it was shown live on welsh channel S4C. Unfortunately, the snow descended, the pitch froze and the game was postponed. When eventually played the result was 1-1 which meant, under FA Cup rules, a replay at the team initially drawn as the away side. Hence tonight’s fixture.

Cup ties like this often generate their own special kind of atmosphere, but it would be an exaggeration to say that this happened this evening. The attendance was pathetically small (only 6,731), partly because it was a very cold night and partly because the game was again being shown live on S4C. I left in good time from my house in P0ntcanna and found that it took me only 15 minutes from my front door until I was taking my seat in the stadium at Ninian Park. I’m certainly well placed for sporting venues where I live: football, rugby and cricket all within a quarter of an hour’s walk from my house!

The game started unimpressively. Both teams seemed lethargic, they were reluctant to press the ball in midfield, the quality of passing was poor and there were no clear-cut chances at either end. Then, after about 30 minutes, Cardiff’s teenage midfielder Aaron Wildig (who has just broken into the first team) picked up an injury and was replaced by Michael Chopra. This made a big difference to Cardiff’s attacking play and from then on they looked the more likely to score. Nevertheless it was an undistinguished first half which ended predictably at 0-0.

I warmed myself with a pint of ice-cold beer during the interval, and the game started again with Cardiff playing at a better tempo than in the first half. Although it was still a rather scrappy game, it started to get a bit stretched and both teams managed to string a few passes together and find a bit of space. Cardiff probed and made half-chances, but still didn’t look particularly likely to score primarily because they don’t have a particularly clinical finisher in the team, Chopra’s sporadic contributions notwithstanding. Thir best chances came when the Bristol City goalkeeper tried one of his speciality fumbles or botched clearance kicks. His name, by the way, was Gerken which sounded like gherkin on the public address; on a cold and frustrating evening this provided much-needed amusement.

Because the 4th round ties are being played this coming weekend, this game had to reach a conclusion tonight. I was beginning to worry we would have to sit through extra time and penalties, but at least I knew the ball would have to hit the back of the net at some point. I girded my teeth and gritted my loins for the long haul, wishing I had worn my thermal underwear too.

However, my fears turned out to be ill-founded. About 75 minutes into the game, Whittingham’s excellent pass found Chopra in space wide on Bristol City’s left inside the penalty area. The angle looked very tight, but he did brilliantly well to fire in a low shot that sped across the face of the goal. The danger seemed to have passed when it cannoned off the far post but, fortunately for Cardiff, the ball bounced off the woodwork into the path of the Bristol City defender Bradley Orr. I don’t know whether he was trying to put the ball out of danger wide of the post for a corner or just trying to get out of its way, but the result was that he smashed it with considerable force into the back of his own net. It was quite a comical moment, but they all count.

From then on, it was all Cardiff. They had made a good decision to keep going forward rather than try to sit on their lead. They don’t look the best defensive team I’ve seen, by a long way. There were two chances after that for Cardiff to score again, including one really good one for Chopra which he missed when it looked easier to score. Chopra is an enigmatic player, sometimes brilliant, sometimes ordinary.

Bristol tried to get back into it, but didn’t really threaten and betrayed their feelings a bit with a string of wild tackles, many of which went unpunished by an extremely indulgent referee. After a very long 4 minutes of extra time, the referee finally decided to blow his whistle and send Cardiff City into the next round. They will play Leicester City in the 4th Round on saturday. I might go, if I get back from my travels in time…

OK, so it wasn’t the greatest game I’ve ever seen but I still think it’s a shame there were so few supporters there. Along with many football clubs, Cardiff City has quite a few financial problems at the moment but I think if they showed a bit of imagination they could get the fans a bit more on their side. These cup games are not covered by season tickets, so why not cut the price to get more people in? Surely it’s better for the team to have a bigger crowd paying smaller prices, than one that’s depressingly empty?

You can read the BBC report on the match here.

2 Responses to “Cardiff City 1 Bristol City 0”

  1. As a city fan, I’d say we were robbed….

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