David Cameron Walker

Posts Tagged ‘Cardiff City’

Cardiff come close in their season of transition

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

The end of the Jones era, the start of the Mackay era is what Cardiff fans had to get to grips with at the start of the season. Many thought Dave Jones’ time was up at Cardiff and were very interested to see who was going to be appointed as his replacement. Alan Shearer publically turned the job down, and rumours were rife that Chris Hughton and Roberto Di Matteo (at the time both out of work) were both in contention.

But along came Malky Mackay. He plied his trade at Watford with some impressive league finishes, especially with a shoestring budget. He was ready for a new challenge, a challenge with more pressure and higher targets and an expectant fan base.

With more than ten players leaving the club including big names such as Craig Bellamy, Jay Bothroyd, Michael Chopra and Chris Burke, he had the difficult task of rebuilding both the playing and non-playing staff of the club. He brought in players including Don Cowie from Watford, as well as Andrew Taylor, Aron Gunnarsson, Kenny Miller, Ben Turner, Joe Mason, Craig Conway, Filip Kiss, Rudy Gestede and fans favourite Rob Earnshaw.

Mackay instilled a hardworking and never say die philosophy into the football club and made sure every player who stepped out on the field gave nothing less than 100%.

Much different viewing in comparison to the players of the previous season, who were often lamented by the fans for not trying right up until the final whistle. This combination as well as excellent coaching methods with the involvement of up to date sports science made Cardiff more of a force than most pundits and football fans in general were thinking. A mid table finish many predicted within the Cardiff fan base, some being bold and predicting a possible playoff finish.

The league’s best midfielder Peter Whittingham, who always has speculation with a move away from the club lingering over him, was given a deeper role by Mackay and everything went through him. He was a joy to watch and when he was on song, very rarely did Cardiff lose. Many people would say that if you have lost the least games in the division (nine), you should be nearer the top. But the eighteen draws proved costly this season. The inability to turn draws into wins was an annoying obstacle on times, but the effort throughout the season by all involved should be commended. West Ham, with a wage bill more than likely to be three times the amount of Cardiff’s, proved too much in the playoffs but Cardiff will come back even stronger next season and the fans will always be there to support them home and away.

A place in the playoffs as well as very successful run to the final in the Carling Cup – taking Liverpool all the way to penalties in the final, Cardiff deserve a lot of credit.

A lack of squad depth ultimately cost the Bluebirds this season, but the players and staff had exceeded the expectations of all the Bluebirds fans with the league finish and cup final place.

Mackay has handed his retained list into the football league already and with the addition of Joe Lewis from Peterborough, this is only the start of what will be a very busy summer for Cardiff. Many more faces are expected to move to South Wales and join the likes of Cowie, Taylor, Gunnarsson, Miller, Turner and the very talented Mason to make us even stronger next season. We will be there or thereabouts next season, as we always are, whether we can make the final push time will tell, but our time is going to come very soon.

Written by Richard Blake, We Are Going Up’s Cardiff City Blogger

Richard tweets at @RichJBlake

The Scottish factor at City

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

In recent seasons, Scottish players have always had a reasonable amount of success whilst playing for Cardiff City, they always seem to give it their all. Gavin Rae was one who had a few decent seasons and always put in a shift, however he and the club knew his time was up and it is nice to see he has got a move back to his hometown club Dundee.

Chris Burke was well liked and due to circumstances out of reach for the Cardiff hierarchy he decided not to extend his contract. Stephen Thompson was a very hardworking target man who chipped in with a crucial goal here and there when the club needed it most. He was unlucky when Cardiff signed Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Robbie Fowler on very big wages as he knew he wasn’t going to be first choice, so off he went to Burnley.

Neil Alexander was an excellent addition from Livingston and the goalkeeper often made a string of vital saves to win matches. He made over 200 appearances for the Bluebirds and was the club’s longest serving player at the time, before David Forde was promoted to first choice ‘keeper which acted as a catalyst for Alexander to jump ship to Portman Road with Ipswich Town.

Scottish players still at the club before Malky Mackay took over at the start of the season included Kevin McNaughton and Paul Quinn. McNaughton, who has made over 200 appearances for the Bluebirds since his move from Aberdeen in 2006 has been a consistent performer and a firm fans favourite due to his never say die attitude and high level of performance on a regular basis.

It took a while for Paul Quinn to get his chance but when he did he took it with both hands and has shown the Cardiff City faithful what a decent and no nonsense full-back he is. Regularly being tenacious in the tackle and very passionate, he has had to wait for his opportunity since Mackay arrived as manager, but has regularly captained the League Cup side this season and scored the winning penalty against Leicester to put Cardiff through to the fourth round.

New additions:

Mackay has since added Don Cowie, Craig Conway and Kenny Miller to the playing staff as well as Joe McBride to his coaching setup. Mackay knew what he was going to get with Cowie as he worked with him at Watford, and it is safe to say he is becoming a favourite with the fans. He is an ever present this season with a very good engine and adds the odd important goal too!

Conway is a tricky winger, and after the departure of Burke to Birmingham City, someone was needed to fill that void. Injury hampered him through October but he is back fit and is often a threat to opposition defences down the left flank, as well as a goal threat.

Proven goalscorer:

When Cardiff signed Kenny Miller, the club made people stand up and take notice. Miller is seasoned professional who has been a proven goal scorer both at club and international level. He tried his hand overseas with Bursaspor and it wasn’t for him, but Malky seized the opportunity to sign him and has deployed the Scot in a lone target man role which he is revelling in.

Miller’s movement is superb which helps the likes of Peter Whittingham, Cowie, Conway and Aron Gunnarsson get more time on the ball and is a consistent goal-getter which is always welcome. The most recent example of this was against Birmingham at home, a tight contest between two promotion chasing sides, until Miller showed his class and smashed the ball home to win the game.

With a passionate Scot at the helm and a team who will continue to give 100 per cent throughout the 90 minutes, us Cardiff fans are all going home after each game knowing no more could’ve been given in terms of effort by the team that takes the field. The Scottish contingent has helped the club in the past and continues to now in what hopes to be a very good season.

With the players and staff Mackay has brought in and hopefully more reinforcements in the emergency loan window, culminating with another trip to Wembley in the Carling Cup final, this could be a very good season.

Written by Richard Blake, We Are Going Up’s Cardiff City Blogger

Richard tweets at @RichJBlake

Toppo’s Top Tens – Comebacks

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Everyone loves a good comeback – except the team on the receiving end of one! They tend to be few and far between in football and that’s why they’re so special. When the chips are well and truly down and all seems lost, sometimes being several goals down can galvanise teams to achieve the impossible. Comebacks are a joy for the neutral and the team doing them, whilst they leave their opponents in a state of disbelief.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find something more enthralling and dramatic than a great turnaround on the football field and this week Toppo’s Top Ten looks at some of the most memorable from the Football League.

10: Watford 4 Bolton Wanderers 3 1993

Vicarage Road played host to one of the most unforgettable games in its history in October 1993, as Watford staged a remarkable comeback against Bolton in the old Endsleigh Division One.

The Hornets were lanugishing in the bottom half of the table while Bolton, under the management of Bruce Rioch and Colin Todd, were a side looking to secure promotion into the Premier League. For the first 71 minutes of the game the Trotters looked every inch promotion contenders, as they opened up a 3-0 lead with Watford not offering much and home fans beginning to stream out of the stadium.

However Glenn Roeder’s side got themselves a goal when striker Gary Porter netted with their first shot on target in the game – some pride salvaged at least. However two minutes later they were back in it, Porter scoring his second after bursting into the box, chesting down the ball and smashing it into the net. With around eight minutes to go, a flick-on saw Ken Charlerey pick up the ball and the midfielder let fly from 25 yards, his shot finding the bottom corner of the net and the turnaround was complete – or so Watford fans thought.

With a minute to go, Watford had a corner which was swung in towards the back post. With Bolton defenders attempting to head it clear it struck an arm and the referee awarded the hosts a penalty. Gary Porter stepped up, sent the goalkeeper the wrong way and thus sealed an amazing comeback for the Hornets as their fans went mad in celebration.

9: Sheffield United 4 Nottingham Forest 3 2003

The game which started Nottingham Forest’s love-affair with the play-offs. Having finished 6th in Division One during the 2002/03 season, Forest hosted 3rd placed Sheffield United in the semi-finals, the first leg at The City Ground ending 1-1. The Blades were favourites going into the Bramall Lane return a few days later and it would prove to be an incredible match.

The hosts fell behind when David Johnson gave Forest the lead on the night midway through the first half and on 58 minutes, the Reds doubled their lead when Andy Reid struck Mathieu Louis-Jean’s deep cross into the net at the back post – Forest, it seemed, were on their way to the Cardiff play-off final.

However United stirred themselves and got a goal back two minutes later when Michael Brown’s deflected free-kick crept over the line and Steve Kabba equalised not long after, volleying the ball high into the net after a flick-on fell to him. With the scores level at 2-2 the match entered extra-time where United went in front through Paul Peschisolido, before a Des Walker own-goal extended their lead further. Jon Olav-Hjelde pulled a last-minute consolation back for Forest but it was Neil Warnock’s side who would go on to face Wolves in the final, after a rollercoaster 120 minutes of football.

8: Southampton 3 Leeds United 4 2005

Four goals in a frantic final 20 minutes saw Leeds United complete an amazing comeback against Southampton in the Championship six years ago. Saints were in control on home turf as Marian Pahars and a double from midfielder Nigel Quashie put them 3-0 ahead at the break – and the score was still the same with 70 minutes on the clock.

Leeds manager Kevin Blackwell threw on striker David Healy and his introduction sparked a remarkable turnaround. Paul Butler’s looping header gave the Whites hope then six minutes later Robbie Blake tapped in to make the score 3-2 with thirteen minutes of normal time remaining.

On 84 minutes Healy’s attempted chip was handled by a Southampton defender in the box and a penalty awarded. Healy stepped up to rifle his spot-kick into the top corner and it seemed Leeds had salvaged a point. However Liam Miller converted a low cross from the right on the half-volley with four minutes left to set the seal on an incredible afternoon’s football. He and his teammates ran to celebrate in front of the travelling Leeds support behind the goal, who would struggle to forget what they’d just seen.

6: Oxford United 5 Portsmouth 5 1992

In a match against Portsmouth they looked well and truly out of, Oxford United pulled off an amazing recovery in the final five minutes to salvage a point. This Division One encounter got off to the best start possible for Pompey as Alan McLoughlin rose highest to power a header into the roof of the net and striker Guy Whittingham doubled the lead with a first-time volley not long after.

The visitors made it three from a corner as Kerry Evans diverted the ball into his own net, David Penney did pull a goal back for Oxford shortly afterwards, but Portsmouth restored their three goal advantage as Whittingham scored his second. Jim Magilton volleyed Oxford back into it before the break after what had been a shocking first 45 minutes from his side.

In the second half it was Portsmouth who extended their lead again as winger Mark Chamberlain rifled a shot into the roof of the net and at 5-2, the match looked over. With five minutes left on the clock, John Durnin ran onto a flick-on to score, but with home fans leaving the Manor Ground Chris Allen was brought down in the box and Oxford had a penalty. Magilton slotted his spot-kick into the bottom corner to make the score 5-4 but they were not finished and after another ball was hit into the Portsmouth area, a shot was parried where it fell to Allen, who headed home to make it 5-5.

5: Peterborough United 4 Cardiff City 4 2009

During the 2009/10 Championship campaign, Peterborough United and Cardiff played out arguably the league’s game of the season as eight goals were shared at London Road in an entertaining 4-4 draw.

Cardiff, gunning for Premier League promotion, displayed their credentials, going into a 4-0 lead with 36 minutes gone. Joe Ledley scored twice, Jay Bothroyd added a third and Peter Whittingham’s 25-yard free-kick made it four. For bottom-of-the-table Peterborough, a heavy defeat was on the cards as the Cambridgeshire side were battling to avoid relegation.

However in the second half they turned the game on its head. Boss Mark Cooper introduced two substitutes to bolster his midfield and one of them, Josh Simpson pulled a goal back for Posh on 51 minutes. Charlie Lee’s header made the game interesting before George Boyd’s 89th minute top corner effort meant Peterborough needed one goal to equalise with just minutes to go. Incredibly they did it, Simpson’s close range effort making it 4-4. An unlikely, but brilliant comeback.

4: Birmingham City 4 Swindon Town 6 1993

On their way to securing promotion to the Premier League in the 1992/93 season, Swindon Town pulled off an outstanding comeback at St. Andrews against Birmingham City. In the first 45 minutes the hosts established a 2-0 lead through Dean Peer and John Frain, before Shaun Taylor’s towering header halved the defecit going into the break.

Two minutes into the second half Paul Moulden rounded Swindon goalkeeper Fraser Digby and finished to make it 3-1 to Birmingham before Andy Saville struck a ferocious left-footed volley which flew into the top corner of the net to extend the Blues’ lead further.

On 60 minutes Craig Maskell fired a low finish beyond Blues ‘keeper Andy Gosney to give Swindon a glimmer of hope and five minutes later David Mitchell’s diving header made it 4-3. Mitchell then silenced the 18,000 crowd as the ball fell to him eight yards from goal and he made no mistake, equalising for the Robins with 14 minutes left. Maskell gave Swindon the lead for the first time in the game as he headed home a corner and on the stroke of injury time Mitchell completed his hat-trick, beating the last defender and goalkeeper to slot home an easy finish. What a turnaround from Glenn Hoddle’s side, who were 4-1 down with half an hour to go.

3: Port Vale 4 Queens Park Rangers 4 1997

In 1997 Queens Park Rangers pulled off an astonishing comeback to snatch a draw at Vale Park in Division One, leaving hosts Port Vale wondering how they’d managed to throw away a four goal lead.

In the first half Vale opened the scoring when Dean Glover steered Jan Jansson’s 24th minute corner into the net and they made it two eleven minutes later, the impressive Steve Guppy crossing to the far post where Lee Mills nodded home. Guppy set up Vale’s third when he laid off Tony Naylor’s pass into the path of Jansson, who smashed the ball under the stunned Tony Roberts in Rangers’ goal. Vale’s fourth came before half-time as Matthew Brazier headed Jansson’s corner into his own net.

After a nightmare first 45 minutes, QPR’s travelling support were probably wondering why they’d bothered to make the 200 mile trip north to Stoke-on-Trent, but they had something to cheer on the 66th minute, as Vale debutant Jermaine Holwyn comically nodded the ball into his own net trying to intercept a lofted pass from the right of the area. On 85 minutes, Andy Impey reduced Vale’s lead to two with an outstanding volley which flew in off the bar – then Port Vale went to pieces. Paul Murray chipped Rangers’ third following some great build-up play, then in injury time striker John Spencer rifled in the equaliser after Paul Musselwhite could only parry away Daniele Dichio’s effort. Unbelievable!

2: Leeds United 4 Preston North End 6 2010

When Leeds United hosted Preston North End at Elland Road in the Championship last season, few could’ve predicted the 90 minutes which lay ahead.

It was North End – struggling near the foot of the table under manager Darren Ferguson – who took the lead through Jon Parkin’s tap-in. Luciano Becchio’s header equalised for Leeds and it was another header which put the home side in front, Alex Bruce beating North End goalkeeper Andy Lonergan. Lloyd Sam set up Davide Somma to make the score 3-1 to the Whites on 27 minutes before Somma added a fourth. Parkin almost immediately pulled a goal back for Preston before the break, but Preston looked all over the place as the sides headed into the dressing rooms for half-time.

Keith Treacy made it 4-3 nine minutes after the break from a corner as the home defence began to come under pressure. United defender George McCartney brought down Paul Coutts in the box to give Preston a penalty, which captain Callum Davidson dispatched high into the net for the equaliser. Preston completed a great comeback with 25 minutes remaining as Parkin scored his third of the night, a low left-foot shot beating Shane Higgs in the Leeds goal, and with eleven to go Iain Hume made it 6-4 to the away side, heading in Billy Jones’ diagonal cross from the right to cap off an incredible victory for North End.

1: Cheltenham Town 5 Burton Albion 6 2010

A goal-fest from League Two when Burton Albion met Cheltenham Town at the Pirelli Stadium during the 2009/10 season. The game saw eleven goals, ended up 6-5 and included a stunning fightback from a Cheltenham side who didn’t know when they were beaten.

Burton were 2-0 ahead at half-time thanks to a brace from Shaun Harrad but Justin Richards and Medy Elito restored parity early on in the second period. Burton were soon 4-2 ahead after an own goal from Cheltenham’s Michael Townsend, who deflected Cleveland Taylor’s cross into his own net, before a close-range strike from Brewers’ marksman Steve Kabba. With six minutes remaining Cheltenham were back in the game, Michael Pook making it 4-3 from a free kick in the 84th minute, but a minute later Kabba netted his second to put Burton 5-3 ahead and seemingly on course for victory.

Pook got his second of the match in the 87th minute as his strike hit a Burton defender before going in, then Richards grabbed his second goal to make it 5-5. Mark Yates’ side had pulled off an incredible turnaround but they were not done yet, as with virtually the last kick of the game, Pook completed his hat-trick and the most unlikely of victories, his rising drive beating Brewers’ goalkeeper Artur Krysiak from 25 yards out deep into stoppage time.

Within the space of ten minutes Cheltenham had somehow turned a 5-3 defecit into a 6-5 win, leaving the Burton players, staff and supporters shell shocked.

Written by Steven Toplis, We Are Going up podcast member and blogger

Tweet Steven at @steven_toplis with your suggestions for Toppo’s Top Tens

‘Super Kev’ McNaughton

Monday, November 7th, 2011

Kevin McNaughton is probably the most overlooked player in the history of the Championship. He has at least three songs that the Cardiff City faithful blast out at every opportunity both at home and away games. The Cardiff City unsung hero has also recently surpassed 200 games for the club.

Signed by then manager Dave Jones in 2006 from SPL outfit Aberdeen, he has been a prominent figure throughout his time at the club. He has been absolutely instrumental to the clubs level of performance since he arrived. He can play anywhere in the back four and the Cardiff fans are guaranteed to know that his match level will stay the same.

The 29 year old grey haired defender is fast becoming a legend on the terraces of the Cardiff City Stadium with his never say die attitude and unbelievable engine. This resulted in him winning the club’s Player of the Year for the 2010/2011 season.  Whenever he loses the ball he always strives to win it back which also brings the best out of his teammates. His consistent level of performance both home and away has not gone unnoticed from even the most cynical fan or pundit alike. If Cardiff had eleven of him in the 2010/2011 season they would have gone up as champions!

Malky Mackay has commented freely on the level of consistency from McNaughton since he has been manager of the club and has certainly brought in players such as Aron Gunnarsson, Don Cowie, Joe Mason and Filip Kiss who all fit the McNaughton bill in terms of temperament, character and work ethic. Mackay issued McNaughton with a more attacking full back role since joining the club, something which McNaughton has admitted will take him time to adapt to, as previous manager Dave Jones used a more rigid and defensive approach. This licence from Mackay for him to go forward will enhance Cardiff’s chances to score more freely and maybe McNaughton can add to his only bad point since being at Cardiff City, a goals tally which currently stands at 1 – although it was a sensational 20 yard strike in January 2008 against Hereford in the FA Cup.

How hasn’t he had more international caps?

McNaughton has made just four senior appearances for Scotland, the last coming in May 2008 against the Czech Republic. Scotland manager Craig Levein has picked defenders such as Blackburn’s Grant Hanley and Liverpool’s Danny Wilson who are both squad players at best. Nothing against these players, they just don’t play week in week out whereas McNaughton regularly racks up thirty plus games a season for Cardiff. Congratulations are due to Gary MacKenzie of MK Dons, who has recently been called up for the friendly against Cyprus, but he even plays at a lower level than McNaughton.

One thing Cardiff fans are all definitely happy about is that ‘Super Kev’ is under contract and part of something great at the club. If bigger teams from the Premier League don’t take an interest as well as Craig Levein and Scotland, it will certainly benefit Cardiff in the long term as he will always be appreciated in South Wales whenever he puts on the jersey of Cardiff City.

Written by Richard Blake, We Are Going Up’s Cardiff City Blogger

Richard tweets at @RichJBlake

Toppo’s Top Tens – Goalfests

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

The vast majority of football matches see a couple of goals scored per game at most. However on occasion, there can be matches where both sides go goal crazy, scoring at will. These make great spectacles for the neutral but can often leave the fans of the teams involved embarking on an emotional rollercoaster during 90 minutes of action-packed football.

Cardiff City and Barnsley scored eight goals between them on Saturday, as the home side ran out 5-3 winners at the Cardiff City stadium in one of the most entertaining matches of the Championship season so far. There have been many similar matches in Football League history, where the attacking teams have field days and the defences are pretty much non-existent. Here are ten games with big scorelines which gave those paying fans in attendance more than their money’s worth.

10: Cardiff City 5 Barnsley 3 2011

It is South Wales where this weekend’s top ten begins with Cardiff’s victory over Barnsley. As the visiting side, Keith Hill’s Barnsley scored three times but still went back home to Yorkshire with nothing to show for their efforts, instead rueing the five goals they had to pick out of the back of their net.

Kenny Miller got things going ten minutes in as he slotted a low finish into the bottom corner of the goal and it was soon two, Joe Mason tucking home the rebound after Peter Whittingham’s powerful free-kick was parried by Luke Steele. Former Cardiff loanee Danny Drinkwater pulled a goal back for Barnsley with a deflected free-kick but two minutes later the Bluebird’s Icelandic midfielder Aron Gunnarsson volley his side 3-1 into the lead.

Drinkwater hit the bar early in the second period but Cardiff extended their lead when Don Cowie rounded Steele before stroking the ball into the net cooly. Gunnarsson then grabbed his second as he finished off a good team move from eight yards out to make the score a seemingly comfortable 5-1 to the hosts. However Jim McNulty headed home Danny Butterfield’s corner on 82 minutes to give the visitors a glimmer of hope and then four minutes later, Ricardo Vaz Te rifled a low shot past David Marshall to make it a nervous last few minutes for Cardiff, but they secured an entertaining victory.

9: Peterborough United 5 Bristol Rovers 4 2008

Under the management of Darren Ferguson, Peterborough United have served up their fair share of entertaining matches, scoring goals for fun whilst sometimes allowing their opponents the chance to stick a few in their net too. One such occasion came in League Two three years ago as they and Bristol Rovers scored nine goals in a game.

Craig Mackail-Smith gave Posh the lead after sixteen minutes, linking up well with strike partner Aaron McLean before shooting home and returning the favour seven minutes later, setting up McLean who made it 2-0. Rovers’ Steve Elliott then reduced arrears with a back-post header to make the score 2-1 going into the break.

In the second half Mackail-Smith scored his second from the penalty spot before Shane Blackett put through his own net to hand Rovers a lifeline at 3-2. Mackail-Smith then grabbed his hat-trick with a left-foot finish to cap off a fine solo run but Rovers pegged back their hosts once again, Jeff Hughes tapping in from close range. With seven minutes to go Scott Rendell looked to have wrapped things up for Peterborough, heading in to make it 5-3 but Rickie Lambert curled home a superb free-kick two minutes later to set up a grandstand finish – Posh holding on to claim a memorable victory.

8: Grimsby Town 6 Burnley 5 2002

Prior to this game, Grimsby had found goals hard to come by in Division One but they ended up sharing eleven with Lancashire outfit Burnley on an amazing night at Blundell Park. On-loan Crystal Palace striker Steve Kabba opened the scoring for Town before Burnley frontman Gareth Taylor equalised.

Steve Livingstone rose highest to nod a left-wing cross into the bottom corner of the net for 2-1 to the hosts but Ian Moore levelled again as he controlled a ball into the box and lashed home a left-footed effort beyond Danny Coyne. Steve Kabba scored his second to make it 3-2 and Stuart Campbell made it four, tapping in Terry Cooke’s cross. However before the break Burnley were back in it as Robbie Blake’s acrobatic volley saw the scores at 4-3 going into the break.

In the second period Burnley equalised, Gareth Taylor’s finish the eighth goal scored in what was already an outstanding match. It got better as Alan Pouton scored a penalty for 5-4 to Grimsby then defender Simon Ford made it 6-4 with half an hour to go, heading past Clarets goalkeeper Marlon Beresford from a corner. However Robbie Blake’s penalty ensured a nervy final seven minutes for the Mariners but they held out for a remarkable 6-5 victory.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCcuAHA7WLw

7: Burnley 4 Watford 7 2003

Later in that same season Burnley were involved in another thriller, this time shipping seven goals at home to Ray Lewington’s Watford. Wayne Brown gave Watford the lead at Turf Moor, heading home Neal Eardley’s corner thirteen minutes in but Gareth Taylor equalised for Burnley two minutes later.

Watford went back ahead not long after when Micah Hyde converted Gavin Mahon’s centre for 2-1 and another Eardley corner asked questions of the Clarets’ defence, Neil Cox this time nodding into the back of the net to give the visitors a two goal cushion. On 29 minutes Watford had a fourth, a young Michael Chopra, on loan from Newcastle United beating the offside trap to score. Steve Davis made it 4-2 on 35 minutes then Taylor scored his second four minutes later to make it 4-3. Watford restored their two goal leads seconds after the restart, Paulo Vernazza’s through ball finished off by Chopra despite the attentions of the on-rushing Marlon Beresford. Howver Taylor had one final say in the first half, netting his hat-trick with an unstoppable shot which flew past Hornets’ goalkeeper Alec Chamberlain. The score was an incredible 5-4 at half-time.

The goalscoring continued in the second half as Chopra completed his hat-trick, tapping into an empty net after good work down the right by Eardley and the 19-year-old netted his fourth in injury time, rifling in a Jason Norville cross to round off an emphatic away win for the Hornets.

6: Chesterfield 5 Crewe Alexandra 5 2010

One of the best matches in the Football League last season without question, as League Two sides Chesterfield and Crewe shared ten goals at the B2Net stadium. Crewe went in front after just four minutes as Luke Murphy headed home at the back post and they doubled their lead two minutes later as Lee Bell flighted a free-kick over the Spireites’ wall and into the net beyond ‘keeper Tommy Lee. Alex were crusing seven minutes afterwards as Byron Moore raced through the home side’s absent defence to slot home for 3-0. The ever-prolific Jack Lester gave Chesterfield some hope with a 23rd minute header but Shaun Miller rounded Lee and made the score 4-1 at the break.

With sixteen minutes to go that’s how the scores remained but Chesterfield were defending an unbeaten home run which they clearly did not want to let slip, Lester grabbing his second of the match to peg Crewe back. Danny Whittaker then scored from the penalty spot to make it 4-3 and the comeback was well and truly on, however Clayton Donaldson swept home a fifth for Crewe to re-establish their two goal lead.

Chesterfield were not done though and won another penalty when Craig Clay was felled in the box, Whittaker rifling it in to make it 5-4 with a minute of normal time remaining. Incredibly the hosts found their equaliser two minutes into stoppage time when Clay powered home a low drive into the bottom corner to send the home fans wild and rescue an unlikely point for his side.

5: Accrington Stanley 7 Gillingham 4 2010

On the same day, at the same time as Chesterfield and Crewe were playing out their thriller, Accrington Stanley and Gillingham served up a match equally as epic with eleven goals scored at the Crown Ground.

Sean McConville opened the scoring for Stanley on thirteen minutes but Gillingham hit back through two neat finishes from Mark Bentley. Andy Parkinson equalised for the hosts as he slammed home his first Football League goal for three years, latching onto Terry Gornell’s through ball. Charlie Barnett then gave them the lead, his cross-shot finding the top corner of the net before half-time.

Ten minutes after the break Gillingham levelled, Cody McDonald embarking on a long run before clipping the ball over the onrushing Stanley ‘keeper Iain Dunbavin for 3-3, however it soon started going wrong for the Kent outfit. They had not won away from home for 17 months prior to this match and that run would continue. The hosts were awarded a penalty which Phil Edwards dispatched and on 62 minutes he scored his second, again from the penalty spot after Terry Gornell was brought down in the box.

Gornell beat the offside trap to score his side’s sixth nine minutes later and despite Adebayo Akinfenwa’s 79th minute penalty, Jimmy Ryan scored a minute into added time to make the final score 7-4 to Accrington in what was a pulsating match.

4: Ipswich Town 6 Crewe Alexandra 4 2004

Portman Road has played host to some of the most memorable matches in Ipswich Town history and this one is right up there with the best of them, the Tractor Boys prevailing in a ten goal thriller against Crewe Alexandra in Division One.

A mistake by Crewe defender presented Tommy Miller with the chance to give Ipswich the lead early on and he fired beyond Clayton Ince for 1-0 before making it two after nine minutes with a cracking left-foot drive. Dean Ashton volleyed home to keep Crewe in the game and played a part as Alex equalised after the break, the striker’s cross turned into his own net by Ipswich centre-back John McGreal.

On 55 minutes Shefki Kuqi nodded Matt Richards’ cross past Ince to put Ipswich back in front but the Suffolk club scored another own goal, this time Richards undoing his good work earlier as a parried shot richocheted off him into the net. Dutch winger Martin Reuser curled a fine effort past Ince as Ipswich went back in front, then the Crewe stopper could not do enough to keep Pablo Counago’s effort out and the score stood at 5-3 to the hosts with sixteen minutes left on the clock. James Robinson made it 5-4 on 82 minutes with a shot from twelve yards but Kuqi settled Town nerves two minutes from time, his cool finish completing a 6-4 success for Joe Royle’s side.

3: Leeds United 4 Preston North End 6 2010

An extraordinary match from last season’s Championship. Newly-promoted Leeds United, on the fringe of the play-off spots hosted Preston North End at Elland Road, the visitors suffering an inconsistent start under manager Darren Ferguson.

It was North End who drew first blood through Jon Parkin, tapping in after Leeds’ Shane Higgs parried a cross. Luciano Becchio’s header levelled the game and it was another header which put Leeds in front, Alex Bruce beating North End goalkeeper Andy Lonergan. Lloyd Sam set up Davide Somma to make the score 3-1 to Leeds on 27 minutes before Somma scored again to make it four. Parkin almost immediately pulled a goal back for Preston before the break, but few inside the ground would’ve predicted the events of the second half.

Keith Treacy made it 4-3 nine minutes after the restart from a corner as the home defence began to look rattled. United defender George McCartney hauled down Paul Coutts in the box to give Preston a penalty, which captain Callum Davidson dispatched with ease high into the net for the equaliser. Preston completed the comeback incredibly with 25 minutes remaining as Parkin scored his third of the night, blasting home a low left-foot shot and with eleven to go Iain Hume made it 6-4 to the away side, heading in Billy Jones’ diagonal cross from the right, what a game.

2: Peterborough United 4 Cardiff City 4 2009

An amazing comeback at London Road. Peterborough United, the Championship’s bottom side, faced fourth-placed Cardiff City in December 2009 and the two shared eight goals in what was ‘a game of two halves.’

Cardiff had the better of the first and took the lead through Wales international Joe Ledley after being set up by Peter Whittingham, he then grabbed his second with a header from a corner. Jay Bothroyd made it three, the striker cut in from the right before firing an unstoppable left-footed strike into Joe Lewis’ bottom corner and on 38 minutes it was 4-0, Whittingham curling a free-kick into the back of the net. Cardiff looked to be crusing and ready to cement their spot in the play-offs.

Peterborough manager Mark Cooper must have given the mother of all half-time team talks as his side roused themselves for the second 45. Substitute Josh Simpson began the comeback six minutes after the break following good work down the left from Craig Mackail-Smith then Charlie Lee scored a second for Posh, nodding home George Boyd’s cross. Cardiff’s resolve was tested to the limit in the final 22 minutes as the hosts dominated and with a minute of normal time remaining, Boyd’s dipping volley set up a tense finale. Incredibly Peterborough pulled off the comeback two minutes into injury time as Simpson levelled, rifling in from close-range after the Cardiff defence failed to clear a long throw-in. Posh were still bottom but had played their part in a fantastic match.

1: Burton Albion 5 Cheltenham Town 6 2010

League Two strugglers Burton Albion and Cheltenham Town met at the Pirelli Stadium in March 2010, where they played out one of the most incredible matches in Football League history with goals aplenty and a stirring comeback from the away side.

Burton went in front just two minutes in as Shaun Harrad volleyed home after evading his marker, before the Brewers’ forward doubled the lead from the penalty spot and the score remained 2-0 going into the break. Justin Richards scored a tap-in for Cheltenham to make 2-1 early in the second half  and the Robins equalised three minutes later, Medy Elito smashing a shot low into the net after Michael Pook’s cross.

On 56 minutes Burton went back ahead after Cleveland Taylor’s cross was deflected into his own net by Michael Townsend and 16 minutes later striker Steve Kabba looked to have made things comfortable for the home side again, making it 4-2 from close range after some poor Robins defending. With six minutes to go however the visitors were back in it, Pook crashing a free-kick low into the net from the edge of the area to set up a nervous finale. Kabba scored again just a minute later, sliding in at the back post to meet Harrad’s low cross and it seemed as if Burton had sealed it.

Two minutes after that Pook scored his second as his 20-yard shot deflected off a Burton defender and beat goalkeeper Artur Krysiak for 5-4. Mark Yeates’ side then equalised again in the 90th minute, Justin Richards slotting past Krysiak after a long-free kick was flicked into his path by Julian Alsop. Amazingly Cheltenham were not done and managed to find a winning goal, Pook completing his hat-trick in the fourth minute of injury time with a rising drive from 25-yards to snatch a 6-5 win for the away side as the Pirelli Stadium scoreboard went into meltdown. It was a vital three points for Cheltenham as they moved six points clear of the drop zone while Burton were left wondering just how they’d lost the game – unbelievable.

 

Written by Steven Toplis, We Are Going Up podcast member and blogger

Tweet Steven at @steven_toplis with your suggestions for Toppo’s Top Tens

Joe Ralls up in style…

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Ten games into Malky Mackay’s tenure and all things considered it isn’t going too badly. So, what do we know about this year’s side?

The most noticable of improvements comes in the work ethic instilled by Mackay; when the players cross that white line they’ve shown their all and given 100% in that wonderful blue shirt. Games such as last week’s respectable 0-0 draw against an expensive Leicester City side would have traditionally turned into a loss in the 92nd minute and I’d have expected a similar turn of events in the excellent 2-1 win against top of the table Southampton.

There’s no ego’s, everyone is working hard and the commitment levels are second to none. The man who has set the best example of this? Step forward one Don Cowie. Since following Mackay from Watford he’s been the most impressive of the summer signings; he doesn’t stop running down the flank, always looks to get involved and has an eye for goal, scoring an excellent diving header against Blackpool and finding the net with ease in the League Cup against Huddersfield and Leicester. Amongst all the signings in the Championship he’s proven to be up there as one of the best, even more so considering he arrived on a free transfer.

Ultimately it’s the results that do the talking and Mackay has chalked up four wins, four draws and two defeats, the most recent coming in the 2-1 reversal at the KC Stadium to a decent Hull City side, in which a depleted frontline did the best it could to get something out of the game. A much deserved mention goes to 17 year old midfielder Joe Ralls who signed professional terms on Friday and made his league debut the following day at Hull, coming on for an injured Kenny Miller nine minutes in, before later in the match producing a cracker of a strike from 25 yards out with the outside of his left foot. Whether Ralls get many more chances remains to be seen but he’s clearly well regarded by the staff at the club.

Other results have been mixed, including draws at Blackpool, Portsmouth and Burnley. Looking at the table, if players were forced to retire at 35 Mackay’s side would be top. However thanks to Kevin Phillips, Kanu and Nicky Barmby it’s not to be. Results show that despite not keeping many clean sheets and falling apart to old timers, Cardiff are a hard unit to break down and teams will find it difficult to pick up 3 points against them, especially at full strength. However sitting in 9th place having played six of the top eight is no mean feat and the team very much in the play-off chase. The international break couldn’t have come any sooner with Craig Conway, Robert Earnshaw and Rudy Gestede all picking up knocks during the Leicester game.

Overall impressions after the summer recruitment drive have been positive; Craig Conway has settled in well to the pace of Championship football and his crossing ability (alongside Cowie) is excellent. Andy Taylor looks to be the club’s greatest left-back since Andy Legg and has added some much needed balance to a back four that had so many chops and changes throughout last season. In the centre of midfield Aron Gunnarsson looks comfortable, for somebody of his height he’s not afraid to throw his weight around and dictate the play. That doesn’t mean he’s bad on his feet either as a precision pass put Kenny Miller through for his second goal against Southampton. Filip Kiss is showing just the same determination alongside him, albeit slightly bigger. I must admit how he didn’t pick up a yellow card in the Leicester game was beyond me. Nonetheless the two have played well alongside each other and will both be a big part of the jigsaw in City’s bid for promotion.

Frenchman Gestede has already shown himself to be a fans favourite by being everything Jay Bothroyd was and more, not hitting the deck every two minutes and complaining about decisions that go against him. Big, strong and deceptively quick he’s shown himself to be a useful target man, but having seen most of his opportunities come from the bench it remains to see how he’ll be utilised. Robert Earnshaw is Robert Earnshaw; shoot on sight and usually fail to hit the barn door. He’s always been selfish and to be fair a lot of the time it works, but it’s more frustrating when other players are in better positions only for the lad to blow it. Despite that he’s popped up with three goals so far, so to say he’s past it in this division is madness. Young Joe Mason is quite the talent and looks at home in the Championship, showing some very intelligent play when given the chance to impress. Ben Turner appears to be fully fit and I expect him to be challenging Anthony Gerrard for his position at centre-half instantly.

And we roll on to the ‘big debate’ amongst City fans, Kenny Miller. Having stated previously of my faith in the Scotland international to bring home the goods, it’s fantastic to see him bag a brace over a much fancied Southampton side. After trying to latch on hopelessly to long balls a tactical change from Mackay to a 4-5-1 utilising Miller as the lone striker has brought more positive results and he should thrive providing the formation stays the same; he’s shown willingness to work the opposing centre halves and ultimately bring the midfield into play.

However injuries have shown the need to enter the loan market is urgent. Don’t be surprised to see Mackay look out for another striker. Carlos Tevez anyone?

October is traditionally a good month for City, having enjoyed success in the past few seasons but the fixtures this time round don’t seem to suggest things will be so easy. The Hull defeat aside Ipswich have won on their last three visits to Cardiff and the game has a Michael Chopra hat trick written all over it. Peterborough’s London Road is a nightmare of a ground for the Bluebirds and Barnsley are another thorn in City’s side in recent times. However a trip to a defensively awful Leeds United should prove fruitful having not lost to them since the early 80′s and won the last six meetings. Add to that a winnable League Cup tie at home to Burnley and the team have their work cut out; that being said the opportunity of reaching the last eight of the competition is one that supporters should be excited about achieving.

And a final mention to whoever designed this monstrosity of a kit, what were you thinking?

Written by Alex Wilson, We Are Going Up’s Cardiff City Blogger

Alex tweets at @alextwilson

Toppo’s Top Tens – Big away wins

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

As the away side in a football match, you are expected to keep things tight and make life difficult for your hosts.  More often than not a well-fought draw will do and if you pick up a close victory, even better.

Thrashings in football aren’t a regular occurrence but they do happen. However it is rare when the visiting team hands out a pasting to their hosts. Last week Andy Hessenthaler’s Gillingham did just that with a 6-1 victory at League Two strugglers Hereford United, so today Toppo’s Top Ten looks at those occasions where the visiting team has a field-day in front of goal, leaving the home fans heading for the exits early.

10: Burnley 2 Sheffield Wednesday 7 2003

Sheffield Wednesday were already relegated by the time they travelled to Turf Moor for a Division One fixture in 2003 – you wouldn’t have known it though looking at the final score.

Paul McLaren opened the scoring for the visitors with a long-range effort which Burnley goalkeeper Nic Michopoulous failed to save. Two minutes later Ashley Westwood added a second with a close-range tap-in Brian Barry-Murphy’s cross. Defender Richard Wood made it 3-0 to Wednesday, his first senior goal coming minutes after Burnley striker Ian Moore was sent off.

Burnley manager Stan Ternent hauled off the goalkeeper replacing him with sub-goalie Marlon Beresford and the Clarets pulled one back through a Robbie Blake penalty but in truth it was a miserable first half for the hosts and things didn’t improve. A minute after the break, Richard Evans beat Beresford with a cross-cum-shot from 35 yards before Blake made it 4-2 with a left-footed drive.

Chris Turner’s Wednesday quickly restored their three goal advantage as Steven Haslam scored from Alan Quinn’s free-kick and within seven minutes they scored again. Burnley’s French defender Artur Gnohere put Grant Holt’s cross past his own goalkeeper before the travelling Owls capped off a memorable afternoon, Quinn hitting an excellent 30-yard drive past Beresford for an 7-2 success.

9: Crewe Alexandra 1 Coventry City 6 2002

In February 2002, Coventry City visited Dario Gradi’s Crewe Alexandra in a Division One fixture where the hosts had a shocker. The Sky Blues were still harbouring hopes of a play-off spot while Crewe went into the match having won their last four games in a row. By the end of this 90 minutes though there was only one emphatic winner.

The first goal came on 37 minutes when a Lee Hughes cross was spooned into the air by Alex goalkeeper Ademole Bankole and Laurent Delorge knocked it into the net. Crewe equalised in injury time when Shaun Smith curled in a corner and Rob Hulse powered a near-post header into the back of the net, but seconds later Coventry were back in front when £5 million signing Hughes turned Steve Foster before driving in a curled shot from 15 yards.

Two minutes after the break striker Hughes made it 3-1 as he beat Bankole to the ball, nodding home Lee Mills’ flick-on from a long throw-in. After the Crewe defence failed to clear a cross ten minutes later, Hughes saw his shot blocked but it fell to Delorge who slammed it home to extend the visitors’ lead.

Midfielder David Thompson made it 5-1 after a mix-up in the Crewe backline and then with 20 minutes to go Hughes completed his hat-trick as he ran onto Thompson’s through ball,  outmuscled Efe Sodje and Bankole before finishing easily. Gradi hauled ‘keeper Bankole off, replacing him with Clayton Ince but by then the damage had well and truly been done.

8: Hereford United 1 Gillingham 6 2011

Hereford United have made a poor start to the League Two campaign this season and their misery was compounded last week as Gillingham inflicted a 6-1 home reversal on them.

West Ham loanee Frank Nouble opened the scoring after good interplay with Chris Whelpdale before Garry Richards made it two five minutes later, his looping header beating Bulls ‘keeper Dave Cornell from Danny Jackman’s cross. Luke Rooney scored the Gills’ third on 38 minutes as his driven cross-cum-shot deflected off a home defender and into the net.

3-0 down at the break and things didn’t get better for Hereford as Jackman netted a fourth for Gillingham three minutes after the restart as he curled an excellent effort into the top corner of the net from wide on the left. Hereford missed a penalty midway through the second period but it was Gillingham who scored again, Whelpdale’s low effort bobbling over the diving Cornell and in.

On 82 minutes the visitors added a sixth when Stefan Payne netted his first senior goal with a strike from 20 yards but Hereford did salvage some pride, as with three minutes to go as Sam Winnall powered home a free-kick from 25 yards. Despite that it was the Bulls’ worst home defeat since returning to the Football League.

7: Millwall 1 Watford 6 2010

Millwall went into this Championship encounter against Watford proudly defending a ten month unbeaten record at home, but the Hornets ended that run in style.

John Eustace bundled home Don Cowie’s corner after seven minutes to give Watford the lead, which Jordon Mutch extended six minutes later, lashing the ball into the back of David Forde’s net after seeing his first effort blocked. Marvin Sordell’s left-footed effort two minutes into first-half stoppage time tricked over the line and saw Millwall 3-0 down at the break.

Nine minutes after the restart another Cowie corner led to a Watford goal as Adrian Mariappa headed the visitors into a four goal lead. Liam Trotter reduced arrears two minutes later but soon after Danny Graham rifled a powerful finish into the top corner to restore the four goal cushion for Malky Mackay’s side. They made it 6-1 added time as Martin Taylor directed a header low into the bottom corner to compound Millwall’s misery.

6: Reading 0 Bristol Rovers 6 1999

Having moved to the new £50 million Madejski Stadium in August 1998, four months later Reading put in one of the worst performances seen at the ground as they slumped to a 6-0 home defeat at the hands of Bristol Rovers.

The Division Two fixture in January 1999 saw Rovers’ pick up one of their best-ever away victories while The Royals were left embarrassed, particularly when the half-time score was 0-0. In the second half Jamie Cureton ran onto a through ball and slotted a composed finish beyond the advancing Reading goalkeeper for 1-0.  The striker then made it two from the penalty spot and soon completed his hat-trick, knocking in after a defensive mix-up between Elroy Kromkeer and Chris Casper. Jason Roberts then set up strike parter Cureton for his fourth goal – all of them coming within the space of 20 minutes.

More poor home defending allowed Roberts, a £250,000 summer signing from Wolverhampton Wanderers, to score twice and make it 6-0 to Ian Holloway’s men.

5: Bradford City 0 Portsmouth 5 2003

On their way to the Division One title and promotion to the Premier League in 2003, Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth travelled to Valley Parade in their final league match, where they hammered Bradford City 5-0.

Italian defender Gianluca Festa marked his final appearance for Pompey with a goal, his left-footed shot beating City goalkeeper Aidan Davidson to open the scoring. Svetoslav Todorov hit a quick-fire double after the break to make it 3-0 and was then felled by Bantams defender David Wetherall in the box for a penalty.

The Bulgarian striker stepped up and converted the spot-kick to complete a ten-minute hat-trick. Former England winger Steve Stone finished off the rout on 67 minutes with a well-struck right foot shot to give Pompey only their second victory at Valley Parade in 14 attempts and the best possible preparation for life in the top flight.

4: Hartlepool United 1 Plymouth Argyle 8 1994

Plymouth Argyle made the long trip north to Hartlepool United for a Third Division clash in May 1994 and left Victoria Park with all three points and a hatful of goals scored. Dwight Marshall set the visitors on their way with a 29th minute strike and Steve McCall added a second ten minutes later. Richard Landon and Paul Dalton made it 4-0 at half-time and there was no let-up after the break as Landon hit number five. Steve Castle added yet another goal before Hartlepool midfielder Nicky Peverell grabbed a consolation effort with 20 minutes remaining. Landon completed his hat-trick on 77 minutes to restore Argyle’s six goal advantage and midfielder Paul Dalton completed the scoring with a minute to go, as the Devon side racked up a remarkable 8-1 away win.

3: Oldham Athletic 1 Cardiff City 7 2002

Division Two promotion rivals Oldham Athletic and Cardiff City met at Boundary Park in March 2002, where it was the visitors who prevailed by some scoreline.

Veteran Scottish goalkeeper Andy Goram played for Oldham the club between 1981 and 1987 and was brought in by boss Mick Wadsworth to resolve a goalkeeping crisis for this match, but he found himself conceding seven goals. Scott Young put the Bluebirds ahead early on before Leo Fortune-West and Peter Thorne gave them a 3-0 lead after just 23 minutes.

Andy Campbell made it four half an hour in before Oldham’s Matty Appleby was sent off. Fortune-West hit the fifth and his second of the afternoon just before half-time and after the break striker Campbell completed his hat-trick, netting in the 64th and 73rd minutes. Stuart Balmer pulled a goal back for Oldham, a mere consolation sixteen minutes from the end which did little to gloss over a very poor performance from the Lancashire outfit.

2: Torquay United 1 Scunthorpe United 8 1995

In October 1995 Scunthorpe United equalled their club-record victory as they thrashed a lacklustre Torquay United 8-1 at Plainmoor. Torquay had made the Division Three playoffs the season before but lost in the semi-finals to Preston North End, however they suffered a play-off hangover at the start of the 1995/96 campaign which culminated with the 8-1 reversal at the hands of the Iron.

Future Torquay striker Andy MacFarlane caught the eye as he netted four goals but the manner of the defeat hit Torquay chairman Mike Bateson hard, admitting he could have sacked the vast majority of the players who took to the field for the game. Instead he relieved manager Don O’Riordan of his duties in a bid to turn around the club’s fortunes. See the goals from the game in the clip below.


1: Norwich City 1 Colchester United 7 2009

Colchester United manager Paul Lambert inspired his side to a remarkable 7-1 win at newly-relegated Norwich City on the first day of the 2009/10 League One season, putting himself in the frame for the manager’s job at Carrow Road in the process.

As Norwich City began life in the third tier for the first time in half a century, no one saw this result coming. Kevin Lisbie gave the U’s the lead after ten minutes, Clive Platt netted twice, David Fox netted from a free-kick and Lisbie found the net again as Norwich were 5-0 down within 38 minutes. Cody McDonald netted for the Canaries after the break but David Perkins’ volley and Scott Vernon’s close-range finish made it 7-1 to the visitors – a fantastic performance from Lambert’s side inflicting Norwich’s heaviest home defeat in their 109 year history.

Norwich sacked manager Bryan Gunn within a week of the thrashing and turned to the man who helped deliver it, Lambert being appointed Norwich boss soon after. He galvanised the Norfolk outfit and led them to promotion as Champions, before embarking on a memorable season the following campaign as the Canaries finished 2nd in the Championship to secure Premier League football for the first time since 2005.

 

Written by Steven Toplis, We Are Going Up podcast member and blogger

Tweet Steven at @steven_toplis with your suggestions for Toppo’s Top Tens

 

Malky makes big impression at City

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Many Cardiff City fans were left disappointed at not gaining automatic promotion last season, especially with the wealth of talent available at their disposal. Dave Jones trusted his own judgement by signing seven players on season-long loan deals; this was the defining season for him to try and get Cardiff over the final hurdle. The media spotlight was on Cardiff in particular due to the marquee loan capture of Welsh international Craig Bellamy. It sent out a signal of intent and gained headlines all over the world as there were many top clubs interested in acquiring his services after excellent form for Manchester City.

The end of season play-off semi-final defeat to Reading left a sour taste with many Cardiff fans calling for Jones’ head. Twelve first team players ended up leaving the club, including England one-cap wonder Jay Bothroyd, Michael Chopra and the seven loan players – Bellamy included – re-joining their parent clubs. After much deliberation, Cardiff decided to part company with Jones after six steady seasons.

After assessing several candidates, Watford manager Malky Mackay was appointed the new manager. He signalled his intentions from his first press conference and gave positive vibes which would give Cardiff fans a lot of belief.  He proved to be a shrewd operator in the transfer market with Watford by signing hungry, professional players on a shoestring budget. The budget at Cardiff was much tighter in comparison to the season before and Mackay had to assemble a brand new squad capable of competing at Championship level.

Mackay brought members of his backroom staff from Watford with him including David Kerslake and head of medicine Richard Collinge. He signed Don Cowie, one of his former players from The Hornets who is proving a huge hit with Cardiff fans due to his huge work ethic and never-say-die attitude. The signing of Kenny Miller from Bursaspor raised the profile of the club yet again and he repaid the faith by scoring the winner at Upton Park in the first game of the season. Other signings included bringing back cult hero Robert Earnshaw on a free transfer much to the delight of many Bluebirds fans. Further arrivals such as Iceland international Aron Gunarsson, Craig Conway, Andrew Taylor, Joe Mason, Slovakia under-21 captain Filip Kiss and Rudy Gestede have all played their part in a good start to the season.  Ben Turner also joined from Coventry City days before the August deadline but is yet to make his debut. Despite these signings, Mackay still has the smallest squad in the league, where any injuries would leave the team threadbare and he has signalled his intentions to utilise the loan market for further reinforcements.

The first ten games of Mackay’s tenure as Cardiff boss have been positive with five wins, four draws and one defeat in all competitions so far. With his management methods now starting to get through to his squad, as well as the players starting to gel, things are looking positive at the Cardiff City Stadium.

Mackay is not afraid to change his tactics for games either, something the fans aren’t used to due to Dave Jones usually sticking to a rigid 4-4-2 formation during his time in charge. A recent 4-5-1 system deployed away at Blackpool worked very well, with Miller operating as a lone striker and even if the game finished 1-1, Cardiff amassed 26 shots on target away to a team who have just been relegated from the Premier League.

After the recent 0-0 draw with Leicester, Mackay’s squad has beem depleted by injuries to Andrew Taylor, Craig Conway, Robert Earnshaw, Mark Hudson and Rudy Gestede. With Southampton coming to town on Wednesday, Mackay has been provided with his most difficult task to date as he prepares his Cardiff squad for the home match against the current league leaders.

The big difference this campaign compared to previous seasons is the team spirit and togetherness Mackay has instilled. Every player sings from the same hymn sheet and all egos from the past few years have been abolished. Every player gives their all and runs until the final whistle has been blown, which makes us Cardiff fans proud.

Written by Richard Blake, We Are Going Up’s Cardiff City Blogger

Richard tweets at @RichJBlake

Super Kev to the rescue….again

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

“He’ll probably be scoring them like that when he’s 104.”

Those were the words Ian Holloway used in his post match interview to describe Kevin Phillips after Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Cardiff City.

It was the 38-year-old hitman’s fifth goal of the season, and what a strike it was. Phillips netted on 62 minutes to salvage a draw against a confident looking Cardiff outfit, Malky Mackay’s side should have had the game wrapped up in the first half but for a flurry of chances saved by Blackpool’s Matt Gilks and a host of other opportunities spurned.

City’s left winger Craig Conway was particularly impressive. It hasn’t taken long for the summer signing to find his feet in the Championship and with three goals in nine games to his name he’s looking like one of the best buys of the season. ‘Pool’s Alex Baptiste and substitute James Hurst struggled to mark the 26-year-old Scot for long periods of the game. He was my Man of the Match and a player that I was hoping Blackpool would sign during the summer.

Anyone reading the Blackpool message boards after the game would think that the club were in Plymouth’s current predicament. “We’ve lost our creativity”, “I’m not interested anymore”, “Ollie will start to get fed up with the lack of funds” were some of the comments posted from so-called fans.

I wasn’t best pleased with the performance over the weekend but I’m not starting to worry. Do I think Man Utd will go unbeaten all season? Probably not. Will Blackpool will draw all of their remaining games? No. Teams have off days and in ‘Pool’s case they didn’t even lose, instead drawing against a team that is always there or thereabouts when it comes to promotion at the end of the season. So stop worrying, do I hope we can get a creative attacking midfielder in on loan? Yes, every fan loves a new signing (as long as his wages don’t cripple the club) but you can’t start worrying about what could be when the season is only seven games old and Blackpool are currently sitting in seventh place!

Cardiff deserved to win the game without question. ‘Ollie’ said he felt like a burglar after watching the Welsh team dominate for large spells of the game only for Phillips to score a goal from nowhere and bag Blackpool a point.

The next test for Holloway’s side is Portsmouth away and a long trip to Fratton Park awaits. I will, however, be gutted at not being able to give Luke Varney a cheer and a clap at the game. Varney was sent off in Pompey’s 1-0 loss to Hull at the weekend and will miss the match against his former teammates, Varney was a popular figure at Bloomfield Road and most Seasiders were disappointed to see him not sign for the club permanently in the summer.

Hopefully Blackpool can collect all three points points and regain their creative spark when visiting the South Coast this weekend. Maybe that would get some of the ‘fans’ off the players backs, at least until the next draw anyway…..

Written by Adam Kinder, We Are Going Up’s Blackpool blogger

Adam tweets at @adam_kinder

Toppo’s Top Tens – Thrashings

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

After Peterborough United’s 7-1 demolition job over Ipswich Town on Saturday, it is only fitting that this week’s top ten takes a look at some other big victories in Football League history.

Football is all about putting the ball into the opposition’s net and the vast majority of league fixtures will be settled by a couple of goals at the most. Sometimes there are dull, drab affairs with little goalmouth action, however occasionally there are matches which go against the norm.

Defences go walkabout while attacking sides run riot, having the sort of goal-gluttinous day they can only dream about. One goal quickly turns to two, two to three, three to four…..you get the picture. As one team bangs them in, the other looks on in bemusement and suffers complete embarassment. Such games go down in folklore – for the winning team anyway. Here’s ten memorable games from the Football League where one of the sides involved went goal-crazy:

10: Portsmouth 6 Leicester City 1 2010

Seven games into last season, both Portsmouth and Leicester found themselves nestled at the wrong end of the Championship table. Pompey, under new boss Steve Cotterill, were attempting to rebuild after Premier League relegation months before, amid financial woes which saw Cotterill working with a small, depleted squad. Leicester, having finished in the play-off spots the season before also had a new man in charge, Paolo Sousa, but the Portugese only picked up five points from his first seven matches and it was about to get worse for The Foxes.

Having beaten Pompey in the Carling Cup a few days previously, Leicester stayed on the South Coast ahead of this Friday night fixture, which got off to a bad start as centre-back Michael Morrison handled the ball in the box ten minutes in, Liam Lawrence converting the resulting penalty. Lawrence added a second twelve minutes before the break and as the teams headed off at half-time with the score 2-0, few could have predicted what would happen during the next 45 minutes.

Thirteen minutes into the second half David Nugent’s finish from a tight angle made it 3-0 then the striker turned provider for Dave Kitson, as he set up the former Reading man who netted with a chipped effort. Down to ten men after Migel Vitor rugby-tackled Nugent during the first period, Leicester’s defending went array follwoing Steve Howard’s consolation goal for 4-1. Kitson grabbed his second after the Foxes failed to clear a corner and then Michael Brown went on a sauntering run from midfield before slotting home from an acute angle to make the score 6-1. Leicester were humbled and Sousa was axed not long after with former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson arriving to steer the East Midlanders to mid-table safety come the end of the season.

9: Burnley 2 Sheffield Wednesday 7 2003

This game involved a side already relegated from Division One. Neutrals looking at the scoreline would’ve thought that team were Burnley, instead it was Sheffield Wednesday, doomed to the drop, who would sign off their campaign in the second tier with a thumping victory at Turf Moor.

Paul McLaren opened the scoring for the visitors with a long-range effort which Burnley goalkeeper Nic Michopoulous failed to save. Two minutes later Ashley Westwood added a second with a close-range tap-in from the brilliantly named Brian Barry-Murphy’s left-wing cross.  It got worse for the hosts as Ian Moore was sent off on 21 minutes for a cynical challenge on Barry-Murphy.

Defender Richard Wood made it 3-0 to Wednesday, his first senior goal coming as he volleyed home Grant Holt’s header.  Burnley manager Stan Ternent hauled off Michopoulous, replacing him with sub-goalie Marlon Beresford. The Clarets pulled one back through a Robbie Blake penalty but the substitution failed to stem the flow of goals. A minute after the break, Richard Evans beat Beresford with a cross-cum-shot from 35 yards before Blake pegged The Owls back again with a left-footed drive.

Chris Turner’s side quickly restored their three goal advantage as Steven Haslam scored from Alan Quinn’s free-kick and within seven minutes they had another. Burnley’s French defender Artur Gnohere put Grant Holt’s cross past his own goalkeeper before Wednesday set the seal on their performance as Quinn hit an excellent 30-yard drive past Beresford for an unexpected 7-2 away win.

8: Oldham Athletic 1 Cardiff City 7 2002

In the 2001/02 season both Oldham Athletic and Cardiff City were gunning for promotion from Division Two and the sides met at Boundary Park in March 2002, where Cardiff sent out a real statement of intent, leaving their hosts stunned.

It was a nightmare return to the Latics for veteran Scottish goalkeeper Andy Goram. He played for the club between 1981 and 1987 and was brought in by boss Mick Wadsworth to resolve a goalkeeping crisis, which he could not solve as he shipped seven goals. Scott Young put the Bluebirds ahead early on before Leo Fortune-West and Peter Thorne gave them a 3-0 lead after just 23 minutes.

Andy Campbell made it four half an hour in before Oldham’s Matty Appleby was sent off making his side’s day even worse. Fortune-West hit the fifth and his second of the afternoon just before half-time and after the break striker Campbell completed his hat-trick, netting in the 64th and 73rd minutes. Stuart Balmer pulled a goal back for Oldham, a mere consolation sixteen minutes from the end which did little to hide the total embarassment his side suffered.

7: Nottingham Forest 7 Swindon Town 1 2006

After Nottingham Forest suffered relegation into League One in 2005 they struggled to adapt to life in the third tier under manager Gary Megson. A series of humbling defeats at the likes of Yeovil and Oldham saw Megson leave by mutual consent in February with the team 13th in the table, four points off relegation. Assistant manager Frank Barlow and coach Ian McParland jointly took charge until the end of the season and resided over an fantastic run which nearly saw the Reds reach the playoffs as they won 8, drew 4 and lost 1 of the pair’s 13 games in charge. The highlight came during their second match in the dugout as the Reds ran riot against Swindon Town.

Nicky Southall bagged a hat-trick as the Reds stuck seven past their visitors at the City Ground, Southall opening the scoring just three minutes in with a half-volley which flew into the top corner. Wes Morgan and Ian Breckin nodded home corners to make the score 3-0 before the half-hour mark. After the break Swindon continued to ship goals as Forest’s passing football and the pace of Nathan Tyson down the left stretched them, Southall heading home his second goal before rifling home from close-range to complete his hat-trick. Morgan scored his second from another corner before Jerel Ifil received his marching orders for Swindon.

Football League journeyman Trevor Benjamin netted a consolation for The Robins, but Forest finished off the rout as Jack Lester’s deflected effort looped into the net to complete a memorable afternoon’s football for the Reds.

6: Preston North End 6 Cardiff City 0 2009

Two teams hoping to secure Championship play-off spots met at Deepdale in April 2009 and while the result may not have instantly affected Cardiff’s chances of a top-six finish, come the end of the season they would go on to rue their heavy defeat.

Neil Mellor opened the scoring on 17 minutes as his strike deflected into the net off Cardiff defender Roger Johnson then made it two on 41 as he got the final touch to another deflected effort, this time from captain Paul McKenna. Billy Jones then conceded a penalty, offering the Bluebirds a chance to get back into the game, but Ross McCormack saw his spot-kick superbly saved by Andy Lonergan.

In the second half Jon Parkin made it 3-0 as he raced onto Mellor’s pass and slotted a composed finish beyond the on-rushing Stuart Taylor and Mellor contributed to Preston’s fourth as his cross was headed into his own net by Mark Kennedy. Mellor was soon replaced but the goals kept coming as sub Chris Brown headed a fifth with fifteen minutes to go and Lee Williamson completed the scoring, making it a 6-0 thrashing four minutes from the end.

On the final day of the season Preston beat QPR 2-1 while Cardiff lost 1-0 against Sheffield Wednesday leaving the two sides level on points and a goal difference each of +12. By virtue of goals scored it was Preston who occupied the final play-off place having scored 66 goals to Cardiff’s 65 – an agonising near miss from Dave Jones’ men courtesy of that 6-0 defeat.

5: Millwall 1 Watford 6 2010

Newly-promoted Millwall went into this Championship encounter against Watford proudly defending a ten month unbeaten record at home. Ironic then that their defenders went missing as the Hornets racked up an unexpected five-goal win at the New Den in September last year.

John Eustace bundled home Don Cowie’s corner after seven minutes to give Watford the lead, which Jordon Mutch extended six minutes later, lashing the ball into the back of David Forde’s net after seeing his first effort blocked. Marvin Sordell’s left-footed effort rolled over the line two minutes into first-half stoppage time leaving Millwall 3-0 down at the break.

Nine minutes after the restart another Cowie corner was not dealt with by the Lions and Adrian Mariappa took advantage, heading Watford into a four goal lead. Liam Trotter reduced it to three two minutes later but that was as good as it got for the hosts, Danny Graham rifling a powerful finish into the top corner to restore the four goal cushion for Malky Mackay’s side. They got a sixth in added time as Martin Taylor directed a header low into the bottom corner to compound Millwall’s misery.

4: Peterborough United 7 Ipswich Town 1 2011

Darren Ferguson returned to London Road midway through last season and steered them to promotion via the League One play-offs. He’s done it before  in 2009 but as was well-publicised, he left the club a few games into the Championship season which saw Posh relegated amid a host of managerial changes. You sense the club has learned from that experience, Ferguson too from his unsuccessful time as Preston boss and all parties are better for it now. At the weekend they hosted Paul Jewell’s Ipswich Town and blew them away with a performance which has made the rest of the league sit up and take notice.

The loss of 35-goal man Craig Mackail-Smith to Brighton left some fearing whether Posh would have the firepower to compete in the second tier but with Paul Taylor, Lee Tomlin, and Grant McCann finding the net they have goals in the team. It was the visitors who went in front though as midfielder Keith Andrews slammed a 25-yard effort in off the post. Paul Taylor levelled with a fine volley from the edge of the area and Tomlin made it 2-1, chesting down a lofted ball forward, skillfully turning away from his marker and hitting an excellent shot into the far top corner. Taylor then pounced on a loose ball and sprinted away from the Ipswich defenders before slotting a composed finish past goalkeeper David Stockdale. Soon it was 4-1 as Tomlin grabbed his second, running onto McCann’s superb through ball and cooly rolling the ball through the ‘keeper’s legs.

Ipswich winger Lee Martin then saw red for a rash challenge on Mark Little and the controversial decisions continued as, 71 seconds after the break, Town subsitute Tommy Smith was sent off for bringing down Tomlin in the D, outside the penalty area. Despite that, the referee gave a penalty which McCann stepped up and scored with applom. Ten minutes after the break it was six as Lee Frecklington’s low cross was converted, via a deflection, by McCann for his second. In injury time the impressive Tomlin completed his hat-trick, following up on his cleared effort to make it 7-1, leaving Ipswich boss Paul Jewell reflecting on what he called an ‘embarassing’ defeat.

3: Hartlepool United 1 Plymouth Argyle 8 1994

This Third Division clash in May 1994 saw a relegated side host a promoted one and the gulf in class was easy to see, Plymouth Argyle thrashing United as they looked forward to a place in the third tier. Dwight Marshall set the visitors on their way with a 29th minute strike and Steve McCall added a second ten minutes later. Richard Landon and Paul Dalton made it 4-0 at half-time and there was no let-up after the break as Landon hit number 5. Steve Castle added yet another goal before Hartlepool midfielder Nicky Peverell grabbed a consolation effort with 20 minutes remaining. Landon completed his hat-trick on 77 minutes to restore Argyle’s six goal advantage and midfielder Paul Dalton completed the scoring with a minute to go, as the Devon side racked up a remarkable 8-1 away win.

2: Crewe Alexandra 8 Cheltenham Town 1 2010

One of the stand-out performances in the Football League last year came at the Alexandra Stadium as Crewe Alexandra decimated visitors Cheltenham, hitting eight goals as they chased a play-off place.

Clayton Donaldson opened the scoring for the hosts four minutes in, slotting home from Shaun Miller’s pass. The latter then added the second as he tapped in from Danny Shelley’s pass before Shelley laid on the third for Donaldson. Joel Grant made it four just before half-time and Cheltenham pulled one back after the break, Wesley Thomas with a close-range finish. Alexandra midfielder Ashley Westwood scored his side’s fifth as he converted Matt Tootle’s cross and Donaldson completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot after Steve Elliott handled in the area. Grant scored his second with a tap in and got his own treble with two minutes remaining as he netted Crewe’s second penalty of the match, awarded following a trip on Donaldson in the area. It would be a long trip home south for the travelling Cheltenham fans.

1: Norwich City 1 Colchester United 7 2009

As Norwich City began life in the third tier for the first time in half a century, no one could have predicted their opening day result at home to Colchester United as the visitors secured a memorable 7-1 victory in front of a stunned Carrow Road.

Kevin Lisbie gave the U’s the lead after ten minutes, Clive Platt netted twice, David Fox netted from a free-kick and Lisbie found the net again as Norwich were 5-0 down within 38 minutes. Cody McDonald netted for the Canaries after the break but David Perkins’ volley and Scott Vernon’s close-range finish made it 7-1 to the visitors – a fantastic performance from Paul Lambert’s side inflicting Norwich’s heaviest home defeat in their 109 year history.

Norwich sacked manager Bryan Gunn within a week of the thrashing and turned to the man who masterminded it, Lambert being appointed the new boss at Carrow Road. He galvanised the team and led them to promotion as Champions, before embarking on a memorable season the following campaign as the Canaries finished 2nd in the Championship to secure Premier League football for the first time since 2005.

Written by Steven Toplis, We Are Going Up blogger

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