Back to earth

Adrian at the Carling Cup final at Wembley in 2011

Cardiff City 1 – Birmingham City 0

Saturday, 13 August 2022

Back to earth with a bang for Blues at one of their least happy hunting grounds as they fell to a one-nil defeat at the Cardiff City Stadium.

In all honesty, they were lucky to get away with it just being one, particularly after a very poor first half display where they were only saved from a three or four goal deficit at the break by the continued excellence of Ruddy in goal. 

A late change to the league starting line-up so far saw Ryan Woods replaced on debut by yet another academy product, Alfie Chang, following his impressive performance in the midweek penalty shoot-out League Cup defeat at Carrow Road.

Rumours swirled around that Woods was on his way out of the club, rumours confirmed by John Eustace after the game with Hull City his likely destination.  

The long-term consequences of Woods’ departure, a player who divides opinion, are yet to play out. Will the money be used to sign a replacement or strengthen in other areas? Or is it just another cost cutting measure?

Time will tell, but the short-term outcome was that, in the continued absence of Gardner and Bielek not yet fit, the Blues midfield had a very youthful look to it. And it showed in a first half dominated by Cardiff. 

Cardiff used the not unsurprising tactic of targeting the space behind our wing backs. This had been an Achilles heel for Blues last season and continues into this. Eustace still hasn’t solved the problem even with changes in personnel in his back five. Time and again Cardiff got in behind Colin and Plancheta, creating numerous chances cutting the ball back from the by-line for onrushing midfielders and forwards flooding the box. 

So, the Cardiff goal had an air of inevitability about it, doubly so as it was scored by an on-loan DVB – Keinan Davis next up for Watford on Tuesday by the way.

The excellent O’ Dowda once again got away from Placheta. As the centre backs were drawn towards O’ Dowda, space was left on the far post, Max being conspicuous by his absence. The ball was pulled back for Philogene-Bidace  to score what turned out to be the winning goal on 16 minutes. 

This kind of move seemed to be repeated at will by Cardiff in the first half on both flanks. Only Ruddy’s shot stopping prevented more serious damage. 

Going the other way, Blues offered very little. Hogan and Deeney ran around a bit but to little effect and the service to them was non-existent. Once Hogan got away and looked like he was going to pull the trigger before a late intervention from Collins stopped him in his tracks. The result was no shots on target in the whole of the game – another unwanted echo of last season. 

“Being so one dimensional also plays into the opposition’s hands – stop Bacuna, stop Blues. “

It’s obvious that Blues rely almost exclusively on Bacuna for chance making. If Bacuna’s not on song, then chances created plummet. Yesterday was one of those off days for Bacuna, running up blind alleys, after a sparkling start to the season. 

It’s clear that you can’t be so reliant on one player, what if he gets injured? Others have to step up to the plate. Being so one dimensional also plays into the opposition’s hands – stop Bacuna, stop Blues. 

Second half was marginally better, it wasn’t all one-way traffic. Blues had a good shout for a penalty when Hogan was brought down in the box by Kipre, but nothing doing according to the Alice band wearing ref. To be fair, he evened it up when he failed to penalise JJ for a foul in our box. But truth be told we never looked much like scoring.

We did look more solid at the back after the break, particularly when Roberts was replaced by another league debutant, Josh Williams, with Colin slipping inside to play centre back. 

With the players at Eustace’s disposal, particularly the reliance on so many raw youngsters, you suspect that we’re going to have more days like this as the season progresses. It’s whether we can balance it with enough days like Huddersfield at home to keep our heads above the water.

Let’s hope that yesterday wasn’t a sign that the new manager bounce is already over, but just a blip as Eustace fashions a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. 

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