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West Ham 3 Cardiff City 0 (West Ham win 5-0 on aggregate)

Well that’s not the end of the season that any of us would have wanted, but even the most optimistic of Cardiff fans would have accepted that two legs versus West Ham would be very difficult.

Having said that, I for one certainly didn’t expect us to finish anywhere near the dizzy heights of the playoffs this season following the vast amounts of changes that took place in the summer. So all in all I actually would call this season of ‘transition’ a huge success.

The Bluebirds made a good start and should have had a penalty when Winston Reid clumsily fouled Kenny Miller in the box. However, after this rare opportunity it was all one way traffic and West Ham extended their advantage from the first leg 15 minutes in. Carlton Cole’s initial header from a corner was blocked only for the ball to fall for Kevin Nolan to nod in.

Gary O’Neil came close to extending the home sides lead when his side-foot volley struck the top of the bar, but Ricardo Vaz Te did find the back of the net shortly after. His fiercely-struck shot flew across the helpless David Marshall and into the top corner of the goal.

The second half was something of a practice match for the Hammers who were extremely comfortable with their four-goal lead. So much is their strength in depth that they were able to bring on the quality of Nicky Maynard and true to form the substitute smashed the ball past Marshall to finish the route.

The Hammers deserved their 5-0 aggregate lead over the two legs and in all honesty it could have easily been more. City looked tired and outclassed and I thoroughly expect West Ham to win the final now. In fact I hope they do so we don’t have to play them again next season!

Cardiff lost out to Reading at the semi-final stage last year, were beaten 3-2 by Blackpool in the 2010 final and narrowly missed the playoffs in 2009 by a single goal scored. We may have missed out yet again but this season’s defeat doesn’t feel as bitter.

The team have finished higher than expected in the league, reached the Carling Cup final only to miss out on penalties, and showed a lot more grit and passion than previous teams. I think Malky Mackay has done a fantastic job since joining the club in the summer and hopefully he can guide us a step further next season.

West Ham United

  • 01 Green
  • 02 Reid Booked
  • 05 Tomkins
  • 20 Demel
  • 04 Nolan (McCartney – 69′ )
  • 10 Collison (Lansbury – 48′ )
  • 14 Taylor
  • 16 Noble
  • 32 O’Neil
  • 09 Cole (Maynard – 86′ )
  • 12 Vaz Te

Substitutes

  • 13 Henderson
  • 03 McCartney
  • 18 Faubert
  • 22 Lansbury
  • 08 Maynard

Cardiff City

  • 01 Marshall
  • 02 McNaughton (Blake – 81′ )
  • 03 Taylor
  • 05 Hudson Booked
  • 25 Turner
  • 07 Whittingham Booked
  • 13 Lawrence
  • 17 Gunnarsson
  • 37 McPhail (Cowie – 76′ )
  • 09 Miller Booked (Kiss – 76′ )
  • 20 Mason

Substitutes

  • 22 Heaton
  • 04 Kiss
  • 08 Cowie
  • 23 Blake
  • 10 Earnshaw
Ref: Dean
Att: 34,682
All photos are my own

Cardiff City 0 West Ham 2

Well that’s that then. Another season all but over and what will now surely be another defeat in the playoffs for City.

Yes I know there is another leg yet to play but West Ham’s Premiership squad will not let a two goal lead slip, especially at Upton Park. Having said that, I’ll still be there on Monday and if Cardiff can perform a miracle then I will gladly eat my words.

Sam Allardyce’s side were expected to claim one of the automatic promotion places and return to the Premier League at the first time of asking, only to be pipped by Reading and Southampton. So it’s no surprise they beat us really and in fact it should have been more.

Cardiff were unfortunate to be drawn against a strong West Ham side in the playoffs

Cardiff started the game brightly and nearly drew first blood when Peter Whittingham’s shot was deflected just over the bar, then Kenny Miller forced a save from Rob Green in the West Ham goal.

But it was the Hammers who took the lead when Ricardo Vaz Te beat the offside trap on the left before pulling the ball back for Jack Collison. The Welshman’s initial effort was parried by David Marshall but was able to nod the rebound into the net.

Jack Collison celebrates his first goal

That setback in the ninth minute seemed to rattle the Bluebirds, who were lucky not to concede a second soon after. First Liam Lawrence dawdled in the area, allowing Vaz Te to dispossess him in a dangerous position, and then James Tomkins was allowed a free header at the back post that went just wide.

David Marshall punches a ball clear as the Hammers press for a second

Miller went close with one of Cardiff’s few chances; we only had three attempts on target the whole game, before Ben Turner denied Carlton Cole a shot on goal.

However from the resulting corner, Vaz Te flicked the ball on at the near post and, although Turner cleared the initial danger, the ball fell perfectly for Collison to fire in for West Ham’s second, although his shot took a wicked deflection off Lawrence.

Ben Turner tries to head home from one of Cardiff’s few chances

The Bluebirds had chances to reduce the deficit in the second half but Miller’s efforts continued to miss the target, and Turner saw his looping header cleared off the line by Cole. The visitors were still creating the better opportunities though and Kevin Nolan should have really put the tie beyond City but he headed wide from 10 yards out.

Cardiff will need a miracle to overturn the deficit in the second leg at Upton Park

I’ve always said that on our day we can beat anyone in this division, it’s just West Ham are such a well organised team with bags of talent that I cannot see us scoring the goals we need. I really hope I’m wrong…

Cardiff City

  • 01 Marshall
  • 03 Taylor
  • 05 Hudson
  • 25 Turner
  • 07 Whittingham
  • 08 Cowie (McPhail – 74′ )
  • 13 Lawrence
  • 17 Gunnarsson
  • 23 Blake
  • 09 Miller (Earnshaw – 74′ )
  • 20 Mason

Substitutes

  • 22 Heaton
  • 06 Gerrard
  • 04 Kiss
  • 37 McPhail
  • 10 Earnshaw

West Ham United

  • 01 Green
  • 02 Reid
  • 05 Tomkins Booked
  • 20 Demel (Faubert – 75′ Booked )
  • 04 Nolan Booked
  • 10 Collison (Maynard – 86′ )
  • 14 Taylor
  • 16 Noble Booked
  • 32 O’Neil
  • 09 Cole
  • 12 Vaz Te (McCartney – 60′ )

Substitutes

  • 13 Henderson
  • 03 McCartney
  • 15 Faye
  • 18 Faubert
  • 08 Maynard
Ref: Swarbrick
Att: 23,029
Permission for pictures given by Jon Candy

Crystal Palace 1 Cardiff City 2 Phew…

At the start of this season I, like many others, expected a season of mid-table mediocrity for Cardiff. Yet yesterdays win at Selhurst Park meant a third consecutive finish in the playoff places in a season that we also reached our first ever Carling Cup final. This is a massive achievement and credit to Malky Mackay and his players who have been superb this season.

City fans travelled to Palace in numbers knowing that a win or draw would guarantee us a top six finish and the Bluebirds started the game brightly with Joe Mason having the first good chance. Liam Lawrence’s 20-yard drive was spilled by Palace keeper Lewis Price but he was up quickly to deny Mason’s follow up.

My view of the Selhurst Park pitch prior to kick-off

But it was the home side that took the lead against the run of play. Wilfred Zaha played the ball to Darren Ambrose before racing onto the midfielder’s defence-splitting through pass to finish under the advancing David Marshall. This made things a lot nervier for City as a Middlesbrough win with us losing would have meant dropping out of the playoff places.

The Cardiff faithful remained in fine voice and Price kept out headers from Mason and Mark Hudson before half-time. Kenny Miller went close in the second period when his drive went just wide of the far post but the Bluebirds took the lead shortly after. Peter Whittingham curled in a free-kick from the tightest of angles on 53 minutes. This was the midfielder’s 13th goal of the season and there was a massive sigh of relief from the away end. I ended up celebrating with two lads in the row in front who came dressed as Mr Blobby and a chicken which was different to say the least.

Cardiff were much the better side and should have won by more really

The pressure was somewhat lifted nine minutes later when the Bluebirds took a deserved lead. Hudson flicked on Aron Gunnarsson’s long throw to Don Cowie who volleyed into the bottom corner of the Palace net. This is the first time this season that Cardiff have come from 1-0 to win a game and the players and manager looked jubilant on the pitch at full-time.

Cardiff players came over to celebrate with fans after the final whistle

So playoffs it is then. We are the only one of the four sides who weren’t in the Premiership last season and it’s going to be a difficult task. However, we are unbeaten in 10 and have won four of our last six matches so we’re going into the games in fine form. Cardiff have now finished in the playoffs for the last three seasons and although we’ve failed in the last two, this time we are going in as the underdogs which is a status we always seem to thrive off. Hopefully this is the case and we can reach a Wembley final for the second time this year.

Crystal Palace

  • 34 Price
  • 05 McCarthy
  • 21 Moxey
  • 26 Parsons Booked
  • 04 Parr
  • 07 Ambrose (De Silva – 73′ )
  • 10 Garvan Booked
  • 28 O’Keefe
  • 11 Scannell (Pedroza – 54′ )
  • 16 Zaha
  • 17 Murray

Substitutes

  • 40 Fitzsimons
  • 22 Wynter
  • 36 De Silva
  • 25 Pedroza
  • 27 Sekajja

Cardiff City

  • 01 Marshall
  • 02 McNaughton (Blake – 72′ )
  • 03 Taylor
  • 05 Hudson
  • 25 Turner
  • 07 Whittingham
  • 08 Cowie
  • 13 Lawrence
  • 17 Gunnarsson Booked
  • 09 Miller Booked (Gestede – 79′ )
  • 20 Mason (Earnshaw – 90′ )

Substitutes

  • 22 Heaton
  • 23 Blake
  • 37 McPhail
  • 10 Earnshaw
  • 15 Gestede
Ref: Mason
Att: 15,510
All photos taken by myself

It’s Crunch Time…

A win or a draw on Saturday will guarantee us a playoff place but will we “do a Cardiff” and bottle it again? Either way we’ve far exceeded my expectations this season and then some.

At the start of this season I expected Cardiff to finish mid-table. Following last season’s collapse in the playoffs we lost quality players such as Bellamy, Chopra and Bothroyd whilst other departures were more welcomed such as Bywater and Emmanuel-Thomas. All in all, 12 players departed in the summer, along with the manager and the majority of his backroom staff. Malky Mackay was named as the new gaffer and had to bring in pretty much a full squad of players.

Cardiff now have to finish in the playoff places in my opinion

Because of this I expected a season of transition, with the team and backroom staff needing time to get used to the club and playing together. However Malky and his men were quick to prove me wrong, and thankfully so. The team have not only been challenging for promotion all season but also reached the Carling Cup final, and against all the odds nearly came out victorious against Liverpool only to lose on penalties.

We now need one point on the final day of the season to claim a playoff spot and despite my pre-season expectations… we now HAVE to finish in the top six. Anything else has suddenly become unacceptable as the strong performances this season have raised the bar. I don’t expect us to win the playoffs, but to at least finish there is an amazing achievement in Mackay’s first season in charge. Having said that, the playoffs are only three games and if we can play at our best for those games then there’s an outside chance that we could gain promotion.

“Doing a Cardiff” is falling at that last hurdle as we have done in the last two seasons. If we lose against Crystal Palace and don’t make the playoffs then we have well and truly done it again. However, if we lose out in the playoffs then for me personally that is not “doing a Cardiff” and the season will ultimately be a success.

Permission for pictures given by Jon Candy

Cardiff City 1 Leeds 1

Played on: Saturday 21st April 2012

Today I won the least satisfying £10.50 ever. If Cardiff had beaten Leeds in the early kick-off then we would have been guaranteed playoffs. Sadly we drew one-all after again surrendering a goal lead in a match. We’re the club that has dropped the most points from leading positions this season which is very annoying.

Anyway, despite drawing we could still have been confirmed a playoff spot if Middlesbrough failed to beat second placed Southampton. With this is mind I thought I’d stick a fiver on Boro to win. Happy if they lose or draw as we would be guaranteed playoffs, happy if they won as I’d be over a tener up. It turned out that Middlesbrough did win to keep us on edge going into the final game next week and to be honest, I’d have much preferred to have lost my fiver in that sense but hey ho.

Applause for former Cardiff manager Eddie May who sadly passed away last week

Before kick-off there was a minute’s applause in memory of former Cardiff manager Eddie May who sadly passed away last week. Liam Lawrence had the first effort for the Bluebirds but his shot was easily saved by the impressive Andy Lonergan in the Leeds goal. Ex-City forward Ross McCormack then missed a great chance to give the Yorkshire side the lead with his header going just wide of the post.

But the Bluebirds were dominant in the first-half and took the lead on 41 minutes through Joe Mason. The youngster, who signed a new four-year deal this week, raced onto Peter Whittingham’s long pass and lobbed the ball over the advancing Lonergan from inside the box. Miller then had an 18-yard strike saved by the Leeds keeper in first-half stoppage time.

For some reason Cardiff seemed lethargic after the break and couldn’t get a foothold in the game. Leeds, with renewed purpose, went close through Thompson, Becchio and Pugh before Cardiff finally had a second-half chance of their own 70 minutes in. Andrew Taylor’s goal-bound volley was well saved by Lonergan who was to thank for his side leaving with a point. The away side dealt City’s playoffs hopes a blow when Becchio headed in from a corner 15 minutes from time.

The draw denied City from confirming a place in the playoffs

Leeds deserved their point and Cardiff are now unbeaten in nine games; however six of those have been draws. It’s a shame that we couldn’t secure a playoff spot today as it would have taken the pressure off us going into the final game against Crystal Palace on Saturday. Fingers crossed we can get the job done there.

The manager and owners thanked fans after the final home game of the season. TG still remembers that Liverpool score then!

The manager and owners thanked fans after the final home game of the season. TG still remembers that Liverpool score then!

Cardiff City

  • 01 Marshall
  • 02 McNaughton (Blake – 90′ )
  • 03 Taylor
  • 05 Hudson
  • 25 Turner
  • 07 Whittingham
  • 13 Lawrence
  • 17 Gunnarsson Booked
  • 37 McPhail (Kiss – 64′ )
  • 09 Miller (Earnshaw – 90′ )
  • 20 Mason

Substitutes

  • 22 Heaton
  • 04 Kiss
  • 23 Blake
  • 52 Ralls
  • 10 Earnshaw

Leeds United

  • 01 Lonergan
  • 04 Bruce
  • 22 Lees
  • 26 Bromby (Connolly – 32′ )
  • 33 Robinson
  • 15 Clayton Booked (Nunez – 60′ )
  • 16 Pugh
  • 29 Thompson
  • 10 Becchio
  • 23 Snodgrass
  • 44 McCormack (Webber – 59′ )

Substitutes

  • 02 Connolly
  • 31 Taylor
  • 20 Nunez
  • 18 Forssell
  • 25 Webber
Ref: Halsey
Att: 25,109
Permission for pictures given by Jon Candy

Cardiff City v Leeds Match Preview

Cardiff host Leeds tomorrow and a win in the early kick off will guarantee us a playoff place. The Bluebirds are currently on an eight game unbeaten run and although we’ve not been scoring too many of late, we have made ourselves very difficult to beat this season.

Three points against the Yorkshire club will give us a playoff spot for the third consecutive year. However if Middlesbrough fail to beat Southampton we will also be ensured of a top six finish.

Leeds are the visitors at the Cardiff City Stadium tomorrow (12.30pm)

The Bluebirds go into the game unbeaten in their last eight matches, although five of those have been draws. Fingers crossed we can get the job done tomorrow to take the pressure off ourselves for the final week, but Leeds are going to be difficult to beat.

The previous meeting between the two sides this season ended in a one-all draw with Joe Mason scoring for the Bluebirds. Let’s hope we can go one better tomorrow and take all three points and secure ourselves a place in the playoffs.

Permission for pictures given by Jon Candy

That Hudson Goal!

I’ve mentioned Mark Hudson’s 68-yard goal in my Derby match report but it’s such an amazing goal that I felt it was worth its own post. Cardiff’s captain fantastic, I take my hat off to you.

The commentator says it’s reminiscent of Beckham’s famous goal but Hudson’s is much better, and he’s a centre half!

It’s also brilliant hearing BBC Radio Wales’ Rob Phillips’ commentary on the goal. I think to say he enjoyed it too is an understatement…

Click here to listen to Rob Phillips’ commentary

Media from YouTube user xXSneakySn4keXx