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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
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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

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

Barnsley 0 Cardiff City 1

Played on: Saturday 14th April 2012

It wasn’t the prettiest of games, but Cardiff’s 1-0 win at Oakwell yesterday kept us in the playoff places. Annoyingly, Middlesbrough scored a late goal to win at Derby which leaves them hot on our heels. They are the only side that I feel can now knock us out of the top six after Brighton put themselves out of contention, losing 6-0 to West Ham.

The first half was a scrappy affair with few chances. Barnsley keeper David Button easily gathered Kenny Miller’s scuffed shot before Michael Tonge dragged his shot wide at the other end.

The Bluebirds knew a win at Barnsley would consolidate their place in the playoffs

The first good chance of the game came just before halftime when Peter Whittingham curled a free-kick just wide of the goal that many City fans thought had gone in. Whitts has scored so many goals just like that these last few seasons that we almost expect them to go in at times.

The second half saw a much improved Cardiff performance who created their first chance just 30 seconds after the restart. Don Cowie exchanged passes with Miller, but his left-footed effort was saved by Button.

But the Bluebirds eventually broke the deadlock on 69 minutes with on-loan Liam Lawrence scoring his first goal for the club. Andrew Taylor advanced down the left flank and swung in a peach of a cross to the back post for Lawrence to head into the bottom corner.

Taylor's cross put Lawrence's goal on a plate for him

Ben Turner somehow shot over from close range late on but Barnsley, despite bossing possession, never looked like equalising. The victory now means that Cardiff are unbeaten in seven. We are two points ahead of Middlesbrough with three games to go so hopefully we can finish in those playoff places.

Barnsley

  • 25 Button
  • 06 Foster
  • 14 Wiseman
  • 15 McNulty
  • 23 Collins
  • 05 Doyle
  • 08 O’Brien
  • 11 Perkins
  • 28 Tonge (Gray – 75′ )
  • 21 Nouble (Davies – 75′ )
  • 24 Noble-Lazarus (Cotterill – 59′ )

Substitutes

  • 07 Dawson
  • 17 Cotterill
  • 09 Davies
  • 18 Higginbotham
  • 27 Gray

Cardiff City

  • 01 Marshall
  • 02 McNaughton Booked
  • 03 Taylor
  • 05 Hudson
  • 25 Turner
  • 07 Whittingham
  • 08 Cowie (McPhail – 55′ )
  • 13 Lawrence Booked
  • 17 Gunnarsson (Blake – 82′ )
  • 09 Miller
  • 20 Mason (Earnshaw – 86′ )

Substitutes

  • 22 Heaton
  • 23 Blake
  • 27 Harris
  • 37 McPhail
  • 10 Earnshaw
Ref: Geoff Eltrigham
Att: 9,122

Permission for pictures given by Jon Candy

Cardiff City 1 Watford 1

Played on: Monday 9th April 2012

It definitely feels like a case of two points dropped following Cardiff’s one all draw with Watford yesterday. It was a rubbish game and a horrid rainy day, but thankfully I was in the press box. Free ticket, programme, Clarks Pie, hot drinks and a very good view far enough back to avoid the rain made the game far more enjoyable for me than the majority of Cardiff fans in the stadium.

I was also sitting next to City legend Nathan Blake which was a good laugh to say the least. I asked Blakey how he didn’t have some kind of free season ticket from the club but his response was: “Complimentary season ticket? I’m lucky if I get a complimentary cup of tea around here anymore!” Good to know we look after our greats…

The teams come out on a rainy Cardiff afternoon. Thankfully I was under cover

The teams come out on a rainy Cardiff afternoon

There were a few surprises when I was handed the team sheet with recent bench warmer Craig Conway starting along with Kenny Miller, the Scottish international passing a fitness test prior to the game after going off injured against Middlesbrough last time out.

The home side started strongly with McPhail ticking things over and Watford barely touched the ball in the first 15 minutes. Ben Turner headed just wide of the goal from a Peter Whittingham corner and Conway’s low drive from 20 yards just went wide of the post.

Craig Conway was a surprise inclusion but started brightly against the Hornets

Craig Conway was a surprise inclusion but started brightly against the Hornets

Jonathan Hogg was fortunate to stay on the pitch following a foul on Conway just after the half hour mark. The winger was forced off and Mackay revealed in the post match press conference that Conway will have an x-ray to see if his ankle is broken.

However, Conway was forced off injured after a poor challenge from Watford's Jonathan Hogg

Apart from the opening 15 minutes, this was a poor game of football and the game was in desperate need of a goal. Thankfully this came in first half stoppage time and put the Bluebirds in front. A long ball up the right wing by Kevin McNaughton found Don Cowie. The former Watford man wriggled free of his defenders to cross for an unmarked Miller to score a great headed goal. Yes Kenny Miller. This was the strikers first goal in 16 appearances and hopefully now he’s ended his barren spell he can go on to score a few more.

Cardiff just about deserved their lead at halftime and Miller nearly doubled his tally soon after the break. Liam Lawrence, Conway’s replacement, whipped in an inviting cross that Miller headed goalwards but on-loan Manchester United keeper Thomasz Kuszczak tipped his effort onto the post.

The team celebrate with Miller after breaking his scoring drought

The team celebrate with Miller after breaking his scoring drought

This appeared to be the turning point in the game as Watford suddenly sprung to life. First Martin Taylor’s powerful header was pushed over his bar by David Marshall in the Cardiff goal. Sean Murray then had a shot blocked before John Eustace fired over during a strong spell for the visitors. The pressure eventually told when poor marking from a Murray free-kick let Nyron Nosworthy knock the ball in to draw the Hornets level on 82 minutes.

Watford deserved their equaliser after dominating most of the second half, but Cardiff will be frustrated that yet again they couldn’t hold onto all three points and were stung by the Hornets. And it could have been even worse for the Bluebirds had substitute Chris Iwelumo scored with the last kick of the match following a three on two Watford breakaway.

Watford celebrate their equaliser

Fortunately for Cardiff, most of the teams around us also dropped points so we remain in that final playoff place with four games of the season left. Maximum points from those remaining fixtures will guarantee us a playoff spot, however I’m pretty certain that we won’t get 12 out of a possible 12 points so hopefully those around us will slip up a bit too, I’ll be very grateful if they do.

Here are the quotes from the post match press conference.

Cardiff manager Malky Mackay:

Cardiff midfielder Don Cowie:

Watford manager Sean Dyche:

Cardiff City

  • 01 Marshall Booked
  • 02 McNaughton
  • 03 Taylor
  • 05 Hudson
  • 25 Turner Booked
  • 07 Whittingham
  • 08 Cowie
  • 11 Conway (Lawrence – 38′ )
  • 17 Gunnarsson
  • 37 McPhail (Kiss – 56′ Booked )
  • 09 Miller

Substitutes

  • 22 Heaton
  • 04 Kiss
  • 13 Lawrence (Earnshaw – 79′ )
  • 27 Harris
  • 10 Earnshaw

Watford

  • 35 Kuszczak
  • 03 Dickinson
  • 05 Taylor
  • 12 Doyley Booked
  • 33 Nosworthy Booked
  • 04 Eustace
  • 19 Buaben (Iwelumo – 78′ )
  • 22 Murray
  • 26 Assombalonga Booked (Garner – 46′ )
  • 32 Hogg Booked
  • 09 Deeney

Substitutes

  • 01 Loach
  • 17 Bennett
  • 24 Whichelow
  • 10 Iwelumo
  • 25 Garner
Ref: Deadman
Att: 21,259
Permission for pictures given by Jon Candy

Middlesbrough 0 Cardiff City 2

Played on : Saturday 7th April 2012

Cardiff climbed back into the playoff places after what could prove to be a crucial win at Middlesbrough. Two goals inside the opening 20 minutes meant City left the Riverside with all three points, but how we were holding on near the end! This was the first win in six matches for Malky Mackay’s side who leapfrogged their hosts and Brighton to move to sixth in the table.

Kenny Miller was forced off injured just six minutes in after Boro keeper Jason Steele clattered him just outside the box. Amazingly the referee didn’t even book Steele for a challenge that was easily a straight red and left Malky incensed on the touchline. Miller’s injury was in fact to be something of a blessing in disguise for the Bluebirds as young Joe Mason replaced him and came close to opening the scoring not long after.

Darcy Blake was called up to the starting XI in place of Kevin McNaughton

The youngster ran onto a through-ball by Stephen McPhail, cut inside onto his left foot and fired a 25-yard shot which deflected over Steele but hit the underside of the post to be cleared by Justin Hoyte.

Cardiff did however open the scoring from the resulting corner. Liam Lawrence’s in-swinger found Ben Turner and the big centre-half guided a free header downward and inside the far post.

Andrew Taylor came close to doubling Cardiff’s advantage against his former club but his low drive went wide of the goal. However, Mason extended City’s lead 19 minutes in with a great solo effort. He raced onto McPhail’s pass and cut inside the area, brilliantly turning his marker one way and then the other before slotting the ball under Steele and into the net. This was the Irishman’s 10th goal of the season and what a prospect he looks to be.

Mason looked lively after coming off the bench and could have scored a few

Middlesbrough started the second half brightly and Mark Hammill’s angled drive hit the post only three minutes after the restart before Scott McDonald fired a shot over the crossbar.

Cardiff were struggling to get a foothold in the second half but at least they were restricting the away side to only long-range efforts on goal.

Boro hit the woodwork again five minutes from time when David Marshall tipped Lukas Jutkiewicz’s goal bound header onto the bar. And the post came to Cardiff’s rescue for a third time when Martin’s free-kick evaded everyone in the box and bounced up onto the bar.

The Bluebirds pushed their luck in the second half with Boro coming close on many occasions. But the fact we held on could prove to be massively important in the push for a playoff place. There are only five games left and it’s going to be a very close run thing. Watford are next up and are the form team in the Championship. Three points against the Hornets would be fantastic but I can see it being a one-all draw. Hopefully I’m wrong and the win today can give us the extra impetus to win the game on Monday.

Middlesbrough

  • 01 Steele
  • 02 Hoyte
  • 03 Bennett Booked
  • 06 McManus
  • 15 Hines
  • 08 Thomson (Emnes – 62′ )
  • 10 Bailey (Ogbeche – 84′ )
  • 11 Hammill (Martin – 69′ )
  • 17 Robson
  • 07 McDonald
  • 30 Jutkiewicz

Substitutes

  • 29 McMahon
  • 22 Martin
  • 33 Smallwood
  • 09 Emnes
  • 16 Ogbeche

Cardiff City

  • 01 Marshall
  • 03 Taylor Booked
  • 05 Hudson
  • 25 Turner
  • 07 Whittingham Booked
  • 08 Cowie
  • 13 Lawrence
  • 17 Gunnarsson
  • 23 Blake
  • 37 McPhail Booked (Gestede – 54′ )
  • 09 Miller (Mason – 6′ )

Substitutes

  • 22 Heaton
  • 02 McNaughton
  • 10 Earnshaw
  • 15 Gestede (McNaughton – 86′ )
  • 20 Mason
Ref: Friend
Att: 17,564
Permission for pictures given by Jon Candy