Monday, September 14, 2009

Fab five

Cardiff City 0 - 1 Newcastle Utd

A Fabricio Coloccini header, his first Newcastle goal in his 47th appearance, proved to be enough to secure a new club record - five successive league wins without conceding a goal - and return our merry band of international jetsetters (well, Wales is another country, after all) to the top of the Championship table.

Given that our hosts - and our old boy Michael Chopra in particular - had got off to a flyer, we could have been forgiven for fearing that the wheels of our excellent early season run might start to come loose at Cardiff's spanking new stadium. But the Bluebirds' surprise defeat at Doncaster before the international break had given us hope, and in the event claiming all three points wasn't much of a challenge.

With Lads Big and Bigger still out injured, and Peter Lovenkrands not sufficiently match-fit to start, Nile Ranger once again led the line on his own, with a supporting cast of Danny Guthrie, Kevin Nolan and ASBO charged with breaking forwards from midfield.

The breakthrough came in the 18th minute. Perhaps inspired by the fact that Nolan and Ryan Taylor decided to break their scoring ducks in our last game on the road, Coloccini popped up to give us the advantage with a well-directed header from Taylor's perfectly flighted cross. It was, from memory, pretty much our only effort all afternoon. Costing more than £10m, you could say it was a fairly expensive goal - but then it'll be worth more than that if the three points prove crucial come the end of the season, and well they might given Cardiff's similar promotion ambitions.

In recent years we've regularly taken the lead in games only to sit back and try to defend it with depressing ineptitude - but on this occasion adopting the backs-against-the-wall approach, as we did for the rest of the game, didn't result in death by firing squad. That that was the case was as much down to some superb blocks, which time and again prevented shots and crosses from causing any danger, as it was to the fact that Agent Chopra worked hard but largely ineffectually (mindful of his allegiances, perhaps?) while his lumbering partner Jay Bothroyd made Big Lad look fleet of foot and mind.

So the humdinger of an encounter that the Sky cameras were on hand to capture never unfolded - just a dour slog in which an unconvincing home attack came crashing up against the immoveable object of our defence. Gavin Rae had probably Cardiff's best chance of the game, blazing over when set up by Chopra, while lively winger Chris Burke was largely contained by Jose Enrique, as was substitute Kelvin Etuhu, on loan from Man City, by Danny Simpson on the other flank.

The home fans, while appreciative of a Geordie chorus of "There's only one Bobby Robson", were looking for something to get worked up about at least, and regularly vented their passions at ASBO and Alan Smith - so the sending-off of our skipper for a second yellow in stoppage time greeted with much pleasure. No doubt there would have been an identical amount of vitriol directed from the away end had they had no-necked runt Craig Bellamy sat just behind them, as I did...

For Smith, it was just one challenge too many, and now he'll miss out on the trip to Blackpool on Wednesday. A shame, really, as once again he was hugely effective in protecting the back four and can claim as much credit as any of the defenders for the clean sheet. The only person in Newcastle who may have been secretly pleased by the red card is second half substitute Nicky Butt, who was probably wondering how on earth else he was going to win his place back. Smith aside, our other star performer was probably Ranger, who worked tirelessly and dominated central defenders Mark Hudson and Anthony Gerrard in the air without ever actually posing a direct goal threat - but then he didn't need to.

So a hearty "Diolch" to our Welsh chums for giving us an easier ride to victory than expected - may Blackpool and Plymouth be similarly charitable. What is it they say about teams not playing well but winning again?

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


Post a Comment

<< Home