Thursday, September 29, 2011

It's Miller time!: City 2-1 Southampton

A third match in a week, a squad laid bare by injuries and the top of the table side visiting. Hardly a recipe for optimism. Indeed, my son predicted a drubbing, whilst I was for once strangely buoyed with optimism. A 2-1 win I told him before the match, and when we bumped into a Twitter chum (@bennifactor) who was also thinking we'd be lucky to get away with even a draw, he asked me why I was so optimistic.

Well, for one, Southampton have to lose sometime I said. Secondly, though fielding a weakened side, the work ethic Malky has instilled means this bunch of City players never say die. Thirdly, I was clutching at straws.

And so it seemed as for the first 5 minutes of the match as the Saints players passed the ball with ease as City players ran around like headless chickens trying, In the main unsuccessfully to get a touch.

But City settled, and Southampton, despite creating chances, were profligate. In truth there wasn't much to the first half, which seemed much like the Leicester match a few days earlier. Peter Whittingham also had three chances from free kicks around the box, but frankly never got close.

I was impressed by the Gunnarsson/Kiss midfield, the defence was solid (for the most part), but Mason wasn't getting much joy, and Miller looked like he's done most of the season. Hard working, but with an awful first touch and no killer instinct (apart from that goal against West Ham on the first day).

But n 56 minutes the game changed. Marshall collected a ball and immediately punted long for Miller to chase. For once his kick was accurate, and Miller running down the full back just beat the advancing Kelvin Davis to nod the ball past him and into the empty net. 1-0 City.

That was surely the prompt for the visitors to up their game. They had been guilty of spectacular time-wasting to that point, especially Davis in the Southampton goal. Quite how referee Gibbs hadn't booked him for this as early as the first half I'll never know - you could have made a cup of tea as he prepared to make his goal kicks - but I guess the reason was the same one I moan about every week. The ref and his assistants were agin poor in my opinion, and weak.

Still Southampton didn't get chance to press, and 7 minutes later a beautiful Gunnarsson pass set Miller free to slide the ball in for number 2, and City were in heaven.

Going 2 down did spark the visitors into life, and with Chaplow coming on, they suddenly looked more creative. Southampton suddenly had all the possession, and wave after wave of attacks on the City goal looked threatening. Chaplow shaved the post with a shot, Lambert missed a couple of headers, and Marshall kept Lallana out with a cracking save with his legs.

When the 4th official indicated 5 minutes injury time, things looked relatively sen up, but suddenly De Ridder was put through, and controlling the ball wonderfully with his hands, unseen by Mr Gibbs and Co, slotted past Marshall, leaving a couple of nervy minutes for City to see out. They did though, and make no bones about this, this was a wonderful win for City. The only downsides were both McNaughton, who battled hard all night (and was battered all night) and Kiss both limping off.

A brilliant performance by City, and the fans and Malky should rightly be proud of this performance.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Is anyone fit?: City 0-0 Leicester

After the excitement of the Carling Cup match between these two sides in midweek, or rather the penalty shoot-out which City won 7-6, the match being a pretty dull affair for the most part, two very different looking sides took to the pitch this afternoon.

Malky started with the same 4-5-1 formation that did so well against Blackpool last week, whilst Sven kept only Matt Mills from the Foxes starting XI in midweek.

The first 20 minutes was a pretty turgid affair, our midfield nullifying theirs, and I can't remember us actually getting into their box in that time. But then Conway took a tumble and looked like he'd done his ankle, and limped off to be replaced by Earnie. Straight away we looked more potent, but our change in formation with Miller pushed wide right also opened it up for Leicester. There weres some efforts from both sides before Earnie cleared one of the line (so that's why he stays back at corners), but on 41 minutes, the sub was subbed as Earnie got injured. On came fans favourite Rudy Gestede. Though raw, he works hard and looks to have bags of potential. 0-0 at half time.

When the teams came out for the second period, City had made another enforced change with Darcy Blake coming on for skipper Hudson. I admit I was worrying now. Three players injured, and no subs left by the start of the second half.

City though looked the better side in the second period, and challenged for long periods without ever really forcing Schmiechel into a save. Kevin McNaughton looks more attacking this season, and though his final ball is often poor, he is clearly creating, and on one occasion squared a ball that Gestede really should have put away. Whitts had a couple of free kicks but didn't force a save. With Leicester finishing the stronger in the last 10 minutes, only some last ditch tackling kept a clean sheet, but which time Gestede was hobbling on one leg, and at the final whistle McNaughton was off the field with blood pouring from his face.

So a hard earned point, with not a lot of quality about the game. Malky's immediate concern will be finding 11 fit players for Wednesday's showdown with League leaders Southampton. In the last week we've lost Taylor, and McPhail and now there must be doubts about Conway, Earnshaw, Hudson and Gestede. With Parkin at loan at Doncaster, the cupboard is beginning to look pretty bare for the City manager especially with Miller continuing to look out of touch.

Up the City.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A winning draw? Blackpool 1-1 City

I'm afraid I struggled to keep up with events at Bloomfield Road yesterday, even via Twitter as I and Mrs H were in the company of friends at a brilliant wedding

Nevertheless, grabbed snatches of news via Twitter, texts and the Sky Sports footie app, told me we'd gone ahead via a Don Cowie header, only to be pegged back to 1-1 via a Kevin Phillips "stunner" that he later admitted had been an intended cross. The BBC report is here.

Bloomfield Road is always a tough place to go - we didn't win there for something like 30 years until very recently, and before the match I'd have probably taken a point. But the news feeding back from both players and fans alike is that we truly deserved to win, so it's a shame that we didn't come away with all three points.

Malky seems to be shaping the side nicely, and showed some variation as he played 5 across midfield with Gunnarsson replacing Earnshaw.

Couple of tough games coming up now - both against Leicester, as we take them on in the beer cup on Wednesday, followed by the League match on Saturday.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Scrappy - but a win: City 2-0 Doncaster

It seems an age since City last played, and on the pitch it looked like they hadn't played for a while too.

Before we get to the match though, a couple of other matters.

Firstly, and tragically, the death of Cardiff City fan Mikey Dye at Wembley has shadowed a lot of people's thoughts. Around the pubs, and stadium collections were being taken for his family, and outside the "Ninian" Gate, fans and the club had laid scarves, flags, wreaths and other assorted City memorabilia in his honour. A minutes applause was held before the game started and was very well observed. Whatever the circumstances surrounding his death, and these have yet to be established, this is a shocking event.
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Also, last night the father of Swansea City's manager Brendan Rogers' passed away, and when this was announced there was also generous acknowledgement. Something that perhaps we might not have seen a few years ago, and possibly something that says although rivalry on the pitch is fine, off it, respect is beginning to show through.

Elsewhere, fans of the View From The Ninian podcast (what do you mean you've never heard of it! Get it here) who are also "Twitterers" met up at the Ninian Pub for the first "@ViewFromTheNin" tweetup.

As well as myself and @ministats, there was @rhodrielisjones, @bennifactor, a couple who's

name I didn't get and the VFTN lads themselves, Adam & Ben. It was great to put some faces to names and meet the legends who are View From The Ninian. The photo shows @ministats with Adam (left) & Ben. Thanks lads!

So, on to the game. I fancied City to win this comfortable, and when Earnie hit the post inside the first minute (he should have scored) and then within seconds a last ditch leg out from a Donny defender slid the ball agonisingly wide of what would have been a terrific own goal, things were looking rosy. But, it has to be said, that was about as exciting as it got in the rest of the first half. City starting with the same XI that started at Pompey looked nervous, static and when the did get the ball, largely bereft of ideas. Only Whittinhgam looked like he'd woken up this morning knowing he had a match to play. Miller & Earnie just aren't working as a front pair, and surely it's not long before Malky starts with Gestede instead of one of the diminutive pair. At the back there were a few hairy moments, as Gerrard in particualr looked slow and with the ball at his feet, well......let's just say the View From the Nin lads perspective that he likes headers is because he can't kick a ball to save his life at the moment.

So 0-0 at half time, and frankly Donny looking brighter and having forced Marshall into the save of the half.

After the break though, things warmed up a bit. City who's best player by a mile remains Peter Whittingham won a free kick wide on the right. Whitts hit a screaming cross in that was met by he who loves headers (Gerrard) and it was 1-0! Good job it didn't fall to his feet!

That relaxed City, but they still looked ill at ease, sitting deep and allowing Doncaster far too much of the ball.

The introduction of Aaron Gunnarsson for Blake in midfield settled things though, and the Icelander immediately looked at ease doing what City should have been doing all afternoon. Collecting the ball and playing an easy lay off to a free player. Indeed it may have been Gunnarsson (I can't remember specifically) who set Miller free , who again should have done better but eventually squared the ball where Whittingham found Earnshaw to slot home from 6 yards.

That goal was crucial. It killed the game, but importantly gave Earnie a goal and confidence after his howler against England at Wembley.

So three points, but it was never vintage City. I thought Whitts had a good game, but unfortunately not enough of the others were on his level. Gunnarsson looked good when he came on, as did Gestede, and as I said earlier, Malky really must start with him soon.

Miller it has to be said was awful. His first touch let him down all day - as it has all season. I know what he can do, but he hasn't shown it yet. Whether that's because he & Earnie are too similar I don't know. Gerrard needs to learn to kick a ball, or let someone else take free kicks from the half way line. His one attempt which flew right into touch just about summed up his kicking day, although I suppose we have to forgive him as he scored our opener!

However, for the moment, it's a win and 6th spot, and that's what counts.

Up the City.