Saturday, February 26, 2011


Don't generally post much about gardening on here, even though it's one of my "interests".

I don't have a big garden. Certainly not as big as I'd like, although it is south-west facing, so gets plenty of sun. It's on a bit of a slope, and has really heavy clay, so at the moment it's just like a bog. As it dries out it in the summer heat it opens into huge cracks.

I love this time of year. Been out in the garden a fair bit today "pottering" as I call it. The weather has been great, with the sun on my back it's been very warm. I haven't been at it hammer and tongs - mostly tidying up here and there and so on. It's amazing how much you can see when you get out there. The garden still looks bar, cold and wet from a distance, but get up close and there's all sorts poking through the wet soil. Spring is truly on the way.

My delphiniums (which I don't have much success with usually) are about 2cm high, and lupins are also on the way. Both usually succumb to a massive slug attack - the penalty from having heavy wet clay soil, so fingers crossed. I've got crocuses growing through the lawn, though the recent heavy rain has done for quite a few of them. And the buds on the roses and clematis suggest things are in full swing.

I've also been sowing a whole load of seeds - flowers and veg, using the conservatory in lieu of a greenhouse. Already stuff I sowed last week is beginning to show. Have to be careful though - a couple of sharp frosts and it could all go pear shaped, so have to be careful about what I do sow at this early stage.

What I enjoy most about gardening is it pretty much allows me to shut off from everything else, and just wander about at my own pace. I like that.

Tigers tamed: Hull 0-2 City

City secured three important points at the KC Stadium this afternoon, overcoming a dogged Hull side featuring on loan City player Anthony Gerrard. Hull's loanee at the CCS, Seji Olifanjana didn't make the squad today carrying a niggling injury.

In a scrappy first half, neither side managed a breakthrough, although City arguably had the better chances including a decent shout for a penalty. Bothroyd managed to get the ball in the net, but was flagged for offside.

In the second half City stepped up a gear, and pressed looking for that elusive goal. Eventually it came on 65 minutes when Chopra headed in from McNaughton's sweeping cross. Shortly after, Craig Bellamy was booked for what seems like dissent, and Stephen McPhail followed him into the ref's book a few minutes later.

JET came on for Bellamy - looked like a tactical change as Hull were clearly targeting Bellamy with a view to him getting another yellow, and Burkey came on for Chops.

It looked like City were going to have to hang on for a tight 1-0 until well into the 4 minutes of added time, when JET, juggled the ball and then on the volley squeezed home from an acute angle to make it 2-0 and confirm the three points for the Bluebirds.

A great afternoon's work for City. Another clean sheet for Heaton and the back four, some great work in midfield from McPhail who was very impressive, and Ramsey who sadly looks like he's going back to Arsenal after this match, and importantly, goals from the front men.

A win was a huge result given the Jack's demolition of Leeds earlier, and with Forest drawing at Millwall, City sit third, one point behind fierce rivals Swansea, two in front of Norwich who won again, and 3 in front of Forest, who still have a game in hand (their match away at 'Boro on Tuesday) and have the same goal difference as us.

Blimey, this is going to be a tight run in.....

Next up for City, Ipswich a week today and a rare 5:20pm kick off.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Foxes hunted down: City 2-0 Leicester

A massive three points for City tonight as they saw of Leicester at the CCS in front of 22,000. I was nervous about this game. Leicester, another side on a good run, with some dangerous players pushing towards the play-off spots.

City, without Bellamy, saw Chopra & Ramsey both pass late fitness tests. The opening exchanges were brisk, but neither side really penetrating. The officials were sharp on offsides a couple of times when City looked to have broken the trap.

The breakthrough came on 21 minutes as from a throw the ball was swept across the 18 yard box and Chopra coolly slotted home his 10th of the season.

After that, City sat on things a bit. They were a bit static in the first half all round, and several times players got caught waiting for the ball to come to them, or just ball watching generally. You could feel the crowd urging them to up the tempo, but it wasn't happening. Leicester had several corners, but bar one headed effort and a few long range shots there was little to test Heaton.

Leicester started the second half the better, and Heaton did have to tip one round the post. However, City sealed this game seven minutes after the break, when McNaughton, who was generally having an off night for him, slotted the ball across the box from the left, and on loan Arsenal (but always for us City) player Aaron Ramsey despatched the ball for 2-0.

The Foxes heads dropped after that, and despite plenty of endeavour, never really threatened again. City in contrast built their confidence. Chopra came off (a precaution I think) for McPhail, and Bothroyd for Burke, whilst Olifanjana went off injured and was replaced by "The Beast", Jon Parkin. City saw out the remaining period almost at training match pace, and were never threatened.

I thought JET had the best game he's played for us (that I've seen) tonight, though Ramsey was king pin. I wonder of we can keep him a bit longer. DJ certainly hopes so. We need his craft and control. Bothroyd and Nauts had off nights and Paul Quinn, who I've derided a few times this season, had another good game. Whitts was pretty awful in the first half, guilty of playing long raking balls to no-one in particular. When they come off they're great, but it wasn't working tonight, and his tracking back was also not very good. However when we went 2-0 up and the pressure was off, he improved significantly.

Defensively, we're looking better than we've done all season.

A great win, a big three points made all the better as Forest only managed a draw against Preston. With the Jacks still winning, we're now 3rd behind our fierce rivals, but only five points separates them from Leeds in 6th spot. Forest, a point behind us have a game in hand.

It's going to be a tight, nervous run in, and any one of those probably down as far as 10th will be thinking play off at least.

Hull next up for City, away on Saturday.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Slip sliding away...: Forest 2-1 City

Not much of a report this week, as 1) frankly I've just been too busy, and 2) I'm feeling pretty depressed about it all.

City again failed to show the necessary mettle to beat one of the other Championship high flyers, and I'm wondering (again), why with the quality we supposedly have, we can't really turn the screw.

Yes, it's been a decent run of late (too many draws for me), but we just can't seem to put a run together that has other sides/commentators saying "look out, watch Cardiff go".

Massive match v Leicester on Tuesday. Despite the fact there are still a lot of matches to go, I'm now beginning to think that a play off spot rather than automatic promotion is the more likely. And frankly, that gives me the willies. I really don't want to go through the play off saga again (though I'd take it rather than finish 7th or below), but it is a lottery. And I don't like lotteries, and the pain of last year's day out at Wembley is still very, very hard to bear.

So come on City. Pull your collective fingers out, and lets win at least 10 of the remaining games, though it might take more than that now for automatic.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

So frustrating: City 1-1 Burnley

Let's get this out of the way. This was a better game than Saturday's against Scunthorpe (though that wouldn't have been hard). In the first 20 mins it was actually quite exciting - open and fast. Then City retreated into a shell, forgot how to pass,forgot how to hold the ball, and were very poor. But Just on the half, Bothroyd dinked a delightful cross over, Chopra 4 yards out should have headed it in, but took it on the chest before smashing it home. 1-0 at half time, and City would have been very relived, Burnley, very disappointed.

In the second period, City again were far from their best, and Burnley grew in confidence. They were playing the best football, and it seemed only a matter of time before the got a really good chance. Inevitably, it was City old boy Steve Thompson, who couldn't hit the net with us if he was a yard out, who did just that, coming off the bench to glance a corner in at the near post through what looked like at least three City bodies.

Dave Jones had left Bellamy and JET on the bench in favour of Whitts and Burke, but Bellamy came on in the second period, but really didn't threaten too much.

This was City's game in hand, and we didn't make the most of it. Sure it's a point, but when defender wins MoTM (again), you have to wonder why your red hot strike force isn't getting the awards.

Hudson again immense at CB. He and Keinan have formed a decent partnership very quickly, and the defence looks strong now. But Ramsey was quiet after a great opening half hour, Olifanjana's second touch so often let him down and his distribution was poor, Whittingham looked lazy, and Bothroyd spent about 50% of the match on the floor. So often he's the difference. Tonight he just looked precious.

Burnley in contrast looked sharp, eager, willing to play, make runs, and for a side with relatively few "stars" and I say that with no disrespect, they looked a good side. Too often we still look like a side of 11 players, rather than 11 players who are a side.

Ref. Awful again.

Forest on Saturday away, and Leicester at home next Tuesday. Massive matches. Ordinarily I'd say we need 4 points from 6 from those two, and we really, really need something from the Forest game. Is it too much to hope for an away win? Then we need all 3 from the Foxes game. So 6 from 6 really. Huge ask, but it's getting to the business end of the season, and time will start running out very soon for those clubs aspiring for automatic promotion. We can't keep syaing we've got the squad if we're not getting the results.

Come on Bluebirds. Time to up the gears.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Turgid: City 1-0 Scunthorpe

This was hard work. Very hard work.

City almost scored from the kick off with a quick break. The next 45 minutes it looked like they were playing "how many times can we pass it back to our 'keeper". Tom Heaton certainly had about as many touched as anyone else in that first half.

To be fair, Scunthorpe seemed to be playing a 5-5-0 formation, and the only time they had a whiff of pushing forward was when City lost possession casually.

There were a few boos at half time, which was harsh, but in some ways understandable. Scunthorpe were dreadful, and a side like City pushing for automatic promotion and with the talent at their disposal, should be flaying sides like Scunthorpe - even if they were packing the middle of the park. You've just to find a way through. But City were static, lethargic, and so often playing in isolation. Sound familiar? Me, and many others have said that a lot this season.

Quick word on the ref as usual. This week's candidate for clown of the year was Mr Crossley, who denied Craig Bellamy what seemed a blatant penalty for being hacked down in the box, along with several other bizarre decisions throughout the match. Admittedly he was nearer to the action than we were, but he seemed to be watching a different match to the other 21,000 people in the CCS (and I'm honestly trying to be objective here).

City's most likely route to goal was through Bellamy who made several good runs, but the options and finishing were poor. JET also got through and hit one thunderous shot, that was well saved.

JET is an enigma. Clearly he's got talent - he's played a Champions League match for Arsenal this season. But either he doesn't really want to be here, he's playing out of position or we just haven't seen the best of him. He slows it down every time he gets the ball, cuts back inside (left footed player playing on the right), and as I've said before appears pretty u/s in the air for a big tall lad.

Second half City pushed, the Iron packed the midfield again, and it looked like it was heading for a 0-0, despite City's dominance (they ended the game with 64% possession).

Burke came on for JET (as in the Reading game the crowd had been calling for this) and immediately City looked to have more about them. Koumas came on for Chopra who'd huffed and puffed without much joy, and eventaully the "beast", Jon Parking came on with Bellamy making way. Parking got the ball in the net but it was ruled offside, but a few minutes later, the breakthrough eventually came, with 4 minutes left on the clock. Koumas looped a cross for the left, Parkin headed back across goal, and Olifanjana nodded in from close range. The relief around the CCS was palpable.

Inevitably the game opened up as Scunthorpe who had clearly come for a draw were suddenly looking down the barrel. But City held fast again bot much pressure all told, though Heaton had to be sharp to keep one effort out.

It was a bizarre game. City had 21 attempts on goal (half on target) but it didn't feel like it. Scunthorpe had 5, and arguably the better chances of the match.

Why City don't play fast and furious against teams like Scunthorpe I don't know. When they slow it down they look pretty ordinary. When they up the pace they look in a different league.

On the plus side, it was three big points, especially as everyone else in the top 8 who were playing also won. It was also a second clean sheet - Hudson again had a stormer, and Kienan looks good.

It's another big match on Tuesday, when our game in hand against Burnley takes place at the CCS. Two things I want from that match. Burke to start, and three more points!


Sunday, February 06, 2011

Ubuntu Linux

I'm feeling pretty chuffed with myself.

I've got an old Asus Eee 701 netbook, which has been gathering dust for a while. Originally it had Xandros Linux as an operating system (OS), which was OK, but not great. I eventually took the plunge and after much tweaking managed to install a very cut down version of Windows XP on it. That gave me the comfortable Windows interface, but to be honest it wasn't much fun on a 7" screen. Additionally the arrival of a 13" Macbook Pro consigned the Eee to the furthest corners of the study.

Recently, I got it out and was fiddling around, and decided to have a crack at installing Ubuntu's netbook Linux edition on it. Ubuntu is now one of, if not the Linux distro of choice for many, and has come a long way from the old command line only interfaces of Linux variations of yore.

So armed with a USB flash disk to download the distribution and act as the install disk, I duly cracked on. In the end, it was pretty painless - I consider myself an experienced rather than advanced user, and I can follow instructions, and it was straightforward. The Ubuntu interface was a revelation after my previous (albeit limited) experience of Linux. It's far more "Windows" like, and the Ubuntu software centre in particular does away with all that synaptic and repository stuff for installing software. which had previously put me right off. It's there hidden away if you want it, as is the terminal console - but I don't particularly.

It hooked up to my network like a dream, and I installed OpenOffice with no hassles - all this on a netbook with only a 4GB SSD mind you.

So, I've got a working Ubuntu netbook. Next up, though I wanted to connect my printer. This works over a wireless network, and the Ubuntu software centre didn't find the relevant printer drivers (it's a multi-function Canon MP560. So I downloaded the drivers after a quick google. I hadn't a clue what I was supposed to do, so double clicked a bunch of files, seemed to extract from the archive, tried to open/run some files that looked like executables and got a few errors. Another google suggested I had to edit an install executable. So I found a text editor, edited the offending line as instructed, and via a quick trip to the terminal window (really, this is gobbledy gook to me too) and a comand line instruction - bingo! Installed. Not only working, but I can print and scan - first time. Brilliant (considering I'm flying by the seat of my pants).

I've also just installed the brilliant Dropbox that allows you to store files "in the cloud" and then sync them and make them available to any device you install Dropbox on.

That just about does it for the moment. I've now got everything I need. A small, robust device, running a tidy OS that's Internet connected, I can print from and has all my key documents available to me via Dropbox.

If you're a real tech-head, this probably doesn't sound like very much of an achievement. Believe me, installing ANY OS is often fraught, one you are unfamiliar with is often treacherous. To get everything up and working, almost first time is an achievement, especially when you have to go digging in executables and editing files.

So all in all I'm very pleased with myself. I can now truly say that I am diversity personified when it comes to computing. I've got a Windows 7 desktop PC, a Macbook Pro laptop running Snow Leopard, an Ubuntu Linux driven netbook and an iPhone running iOS4.2. A tool (and OS) for every occasion!


Monster: Swansea 0-1 City

There are games of football. League games, cup games, and derbies.

And then there's the South Wales derby. Cardiff vs Swansea. One of the fiercest rivalries in professional football, anywhere on the planet.

The Jacks had beaten us at the CCS back in November, and since then we've been pretty ordinary to be fair. I hate to say it but Swansea can play attractive football, and are a decent side. Neither side has ever done the double over the other in the league (any league) before, so this game had more than the usual bragging rights hanging onto it. In addition, with both sides pushing for a realistic chance of promotion to the big time, it was, truly a monstrous game.

Jones started with Bothroyd & Chopra upfront, many people preferred pairing, including mine. Bellamy and Whitts wide, Big Seji and little Aaron in the middle, and the back four of McNaughton, Quinn, Hudson and a debut for Israeli centre back Dekel Kienan. Swansea had 11 players also.

City should have been ahead inside a minute when Bothroyd turned inside the box with only the keeper to beat and dragged a tame shot wide. Otherwise it was a typical cagey start, with both sides probing. Ramsey had a couple of decent chances running at the defence, and had one good shot parried, which Chopra leapt onto but was marginally offside. There were the usual niggles you'd expect, with both Chopra and Bothroyd seemingly quite happy to be physical. Bothroyd and Tate had handbags at one stage, and Bothroyd looked in danger of being yellow carded for dissent. Sure enough, Bothroyd eventually went in for one (fairly pointless in my book) challenge in the middle of the park, and ref Mark Halsey decided he's had enough. To be fair, on replay it looked like the big man had trodden on Tate's boot with more than a hint non-accidental about it, but hey, he's a hard man and can take it.

Chopra then came very close to being booked with a two footed lunge, and was lucky to be carded, or worse. As the scrappy half drew to a close, Pratley for Swansea rushed at the defence and blasted high and wide. Heaton in City's goal had pretty much zilch to do in the first 45.

City made a change at the break with Darcy Blake coming on for the brilliant Kevin McNaughton in what must have been an injury worry - Nauts was seen wincing a few times in the first period.

City started the second half brighter, with Swansea right on the back foot, but the game again became scrappy as both teams looked for openings. Eventually the Jacks settled, and when they got the ball they usually got it to Sinclair who attacked with pace and directness.

City had another great chance to go in front when a ball whipped in saw Quinn head it tantalisingly wide. Then a few minutes later, Darcy Blake played a great one two, cut inside beating three Swansea players into the box and looked certain to score on the angle only to see his shot come back off the post. At that time I was wondering if that was it, whether we were heading for a goalless draw - or worse.

Swansea were also starting to get up a head of steam and Sinclair had a great run and shot which went over the bar. Burkey came on for Whitts after the latter was injured, and soon after Sinclair again got through only to have his shot superbly blocked by Blake.

A disappointed Chopra was replaced by JET, who's still to convince me. He looks good, but doesn't jump for headers, and seems deceptively slow for someone who's supposed to have pace. Another City chance went begging when Burke was released in the box, but instead of shooting which seemed the only option, he squared the ball without looking up and it was cleaned up by Swansea.

Sinclair was still the most likely and dangerous outlet for Swansea, and on his next run, Quinn took him out, and was deservedly booked for it. A couple of minutes later, the two tangled again when Quinn was trying to let the ball roll out, and he appeared to shove the Swansea player in the back. He could have gone for that, though it would have been harsh. Swansea by this time were coming back into the game strongly, and it was Sinclair yet again carving through the defence, only to be blocked by Hudson who was having an outstanding game at the back.

It looked like the sides were going to have to settle for a draw, when in the 85th minutes, Bothroyd controlled the ball out on the right, held it up, turned and sent the ball long and square. Ramsey controlled the ball and layed it off to Bellamy fully 25 yards out. With virtually no back lift he blasted a wickedly curling shot past the outstretched hand of de Vries and in off the post. The City fans at the Liberty Stadium and in my living room erupted as the Bluebirds took the lead. With five minutes plus 4 of added time, there was still time for Swansea who piled on the pressure, but City, so flaky in defence this season, stood strong. Hudson, Kienan, Quinn (who I've long worried over) and Blake were immense and when Mark Halsey blew the whistle for full time the relief was immense, on and off the field.

So, still neither side has done the double. City move up to 3rd, a point behind Forest, but crucially with a game in hand, whilst the Jacks drop to 5th.

City were good value for the win, looking far more solid at the back. My MOTM was Mark Hudson who I think had an exceptional game, but Ramsey ran him a close second. Kienan looks good in the centre at the back with Hudson, but needs to stay on his feet. Hopefully the injury to Nauts isn't too bad.

Massive, massive win. City fans will be happy tonight if it's anything like in our house! I haven't had a beer as I've had to take ministats to his cricket training after the match, but no doubt I'll have the odd celebratory snifter later!

City now need to push on, score goals and keep more clean sheets. Next up Scunny at the CCS next Saturday. Bring it on!


Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Crazy: City2-2 Reading

I've said it before and I'll say it again. It's never easy supporting Cardiff City. With the buzz of new players coming in, and importantly Jay Bothroyd not leaving in the transfer window, 21 thousand packed inside CCS to watch City take on a useful Reading team.

Useful maybe, but City were packed with quality. Bothroyd and Whittingham (our own), Bellamy (Man City loan), Jay Emanuel Thomas (Arsenal loan), Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal loan). On the bench we had Jason Koumas, Jon Parking and Michael Chopra to name a few. The quality is mind boggling (to a Cardiff City fan). So hopes were high. The challenge though for Dave Jones is to get the quality playing as a team.

City looked bright early on, but it was a bit of sparring with both sides looking good going forward. Reading in particular had done their homework and singled out City's left back Lee Naylor as a weakness. Let's be frank here. He is. He's awful, and error after error had the crowd on his back early on. God knows what Dave Jones sees in him, but he continues with him, and every side who visit CCS pile everything down the left. But with the game looking evenly poised, City threw it away. Lee Nalyor (inevitably) failed to deal with a ball down the left, the resulting hacked clearance is hit back in by Liegertwood and deflected past Heaton. City stunned, and it should have been 2-0 a minute later as McAnuff weaved virtually unchallenged past static defenders into the penalty area and only a last ditch tackle by McNaughton saved the day. After this it was all Reading, and City were booed off by some of the crowd at half time. They had been poor - very poor.

Tactical change for City in the 2nd period, with Chopra on for Olofinjana, and immediately City looked brighter (no doubt with a flea in their ear too). And inside three minutes it was level, albeit from where I sat rather fortuitously. Reading's keeper Federici gathered the ball. Chopra, as he's want to do stood in front of him. As Federici made to punt, Chopra moved in front of him. In 99.9% of cases, the ref (of whom more later) would give a free kick to the 'keeper but he didn't. The kick was hacked only as far as Bothroyd, still wandering back. With no-one but Chopra and the keeper in from of him, he ran the ball back, round the keeper and slotted home for 1-1. Reading were furious, but to no avail, and frankly I couldn't care less.

City then picked up the pace and started to dominate. It wasn't great though. Emanuel Thomas who's a big lad was not having a good game. He won't (or can't) jump for headers, looks fast but plays very slowly (lazily?) and for a big lad isn't strong enough on the ball. The crowd were calling for Chris Burke, who duly replaced him and again City looked brighter almost straight away.

Reading still looked dangerous on the break though, and had a few chances, but it seemed only a matter of time until City scored. But it was Reading, breaking away in the 92nd minute who looked to have broken City hearts when they snatched a late, late goal though Manset. Half the crowd started leaving (and I was tempted), but with a few minutes of added time left, us die hards decided to stay, glum though we were. Then, in the dying embers, City got a free kick about 20 yards out when someone (not sure who) was hacked down. Reading were angry about the free kick, but it all kicked off as one of their players kicked the ball away and Chopra reacted. He and the Reading player were booked. Reading's wall looked about 7 yards back, with Whitts and Bellamy over the ball. It was Bellamy, and he hit it into the right hand side of the goal...2-2. Unbelievable scenes. That was the last kick of the match. If that hadn't gone in, City would surely have been booed off, despite a rousing second half. As it was it felt like a win, but sadly only one point, whilst those above us all won.

I think we should have started with Chopra (and Whitts on the bench), and with Kienan (and Naylor not even in the squad).

A word on the officials as promised. Mr GL Ward and his team. Frankly they were a disgrace. For one, one of the linesman needs a lesson from Sian Massey on the offside rule, because he made two or three appalling decisions. He also allowed play to go on when the ball was clearly over the touchline on one occasion when he was about three feet away. Not a bit over..a lot over.

Mr Ward himself was just, well, just crap. The bloke sitting next to me commented at one point (and he's not prone to comments like this usually) "it's beginning to look like a stitch up". On the other hand, he didn't award a free kick to the keeper on our first goal. But it does reinforce my belief that the majority of refs at this level really aren't that good.

So, where does that leave us? In practical terms, 5th, albeit with a game in hand over most around us, and only 3 points off 2nd. It's the bigger picture that's more worrying. Jones has a quality squad. But it doesn't look like he knows what his best starting XI is, or what to do when things aren't going right, or what formation to play. It's no good having the best "pound for pound squad in the league" (his words) if he can't get them playing the way other managers see to be able to get their players playing for each other.

And Naylor.....well, he's got to go.

My MOTM. Again, Kevin McNaughton. But I don't want our fill in centre back to be getting MOTM every week. I want our striker, or creative midfielder to be getting the plaudits.

Oh well. What's next up. Oh yes. Little local derby on Sunday. Away to the Jacks.....