Bluebirds Flying High – Perching At Top Of The Championship
Blackpool visiting the Cardiff City Stadium was either going to be a glorious moment on which to rebuild the rest of the Bluebirds’ season following the dire performance and bitter loss at Selhurst Park or it will be another Tangerine nightmare to break Bluebird hearts; the 2010 play-off final defeat relived would have been the most bitter pill to swallow.
However a lively and commanding performance by the Bluebirds resulted in a 3-0 win – the goals coming from a Peter Whittingham crowd pleasing free kick, a calmly fired a low curled shot to the near post that beat Gilks all ends up and two strikes for the unlikeliest of sources defender Connolly. The game did bring about the loss of another striker for Cardiff City with Tommy Smith forced off after just twenty four minutes.
On to the midweek clash against Birmingham City, Cardiff City took the three points on a night that seemed to mark the start of winter – the game started in rain and ended in a downpour of almost monsoon proportions, it was to the credit of The Bluebirds battling spirit that they managed to record an historic fifth successive home victory in what was a close-fought and at times really ugly game against The Blues.
Both teams created Chances, Birmingham initially had the lion’s share of possession, but The Bluebirds showed dogged determination and started to snuff out The Blues, then Cardiff stepped up a gear. The pressure told, Mark Hudson beat the offside trap and squared to Craig Bellamy who gleefully fired home a simple tap in which brushed Butland’s leg on its way in. With the rain lashing down, Cardiff went in at half time one up
The restart brought a refreshed Birmingham who quickly found an equaliser. A free kick was whipped in by Wade Elliott, Swansea Loanee Leroy Lita ghosted past the Cardiff City defence to net a simple tap in that gave David Marshall no chance.
The goal galvanised Cardiff, the response immediate and devastating. Peter Whittingham delivered in a curling corner that seemed to ricochet around the six yard box for an age before an off-balance Mark Hudson smashed the ball into the Birmingham net. The captain’s goal turned out to be the difference between the two sides; for the much of the rest of the game Cardiff enjoyed most of the possession, however the Bluebird faithful were to hold their heads in their hands horrified in shock and disbelief when Craig Bellamy took a nasty knock and clearly in a lot of pain and barely able to walk had to be cajoled to leave the field by Hudson and Whittingham, all knowing that Bellamy is truly world class and along with the afore mentioned Hudson and Whittingham the lynch pin of the Cardiff City team. For the last ten minutes the Bluebird faithful lived on their nerves, worrying about the Bellamy knock and that the City were going to throw it all away at the death, so it was to much relief and joy all round, when the game was finally brought to a close by referee Kevin Friend.
The mass exhalation broke out, with chants of “We are top of the league” ringing out throughout the Blue sections of Cardiff City Stadium. The Bluebirds sat at the top of Championship table after nine games, separated by one point from Leicester City.
The following few days two news stories broke which carried possible retrograde ramifications’ for Cardiff City Football Club.
First Peter Ridsdale was banned from any company director roles for seven-and-a-half years, following an investigation into financial irregularities during his time at Cardiff City. An Insolvency Service probe centred on payments totalling £347,000 to Ridsdale by Cardiff between May 2007 and March 2009 which should have instead been directed to his company WH Sports Group. The inquiry concluded the money was paid into bank accounts in Ridsdale’s name as WH Sports Group was liquidated with tax debts. Between May 2007 and March 2009, he acted improperly and in breach of his duties to WHSG by causing payments totalling £347,000, received for invoices raised by WHSG for services provided to Cardiff City Football Club when he was the chairman, to be paid into personal bank accounts held in his own name, to the detriment of WHSG and its creditors. Ridsdale’s wife Sophie, who was a co-director of WHSG, has also been banned until 2016.
Just a few days later former Bluebird striker and supporters favourite Michael Chopra was charged by the British Horseracing Authority with serious breaches of the Rules of Racing. The allegations focus on horses being laid to lose on betting exchanges in races that took place between 1st November 2010 and 31st March 2011. It was food for thought for all City fans.
And so with heads full of financial irregularities – not for the first time! It was off to Portman Road and Ipswich the last game before the international break.
The first half was largely absent of any real quality or talking points with neither side covering itself in glory, but the game was turned on its head with the final touch before half time, as Ipswich took the lead in the most controversial fashion. Mark Hudson’s slip allowed the home side through to attack via their left wing, and the resulting cross from David Martin was literally thrown into the back of the net by the hands of striker DJ Campbell. Campbell was reluctant to celebrate the goal, and was visibly shocked at the referee’s failure to disallow his effort, though there were initially no appeals from the Cardiff players, who did not have the benefit of the instant replays on Sky that had all the Cardiff City supporters and neutrals screaming at their Televisions’ at the injustice.
The Bluebirds took fifteen minutes of the second half to level things up. Substitute Craig Conway played a dangerous diagonal cross into the area which Ipswich keeper Loach fumbled to the grateful Heidar Helguson, who will not get an easier tap-in all season. With the game all square it was the Bluebirds who looked in control for the next twenty minutes, and their dominance was rewarded with the winning goal just a few minutes before full-time, Helguson slight in built and stature and looking like Nicky Bryne (of Westlife and Strictly Come Dancing fame) got between and rose above both Richard Cresswell and Scott Loach to fire a header into the net and to see City past Leicester City to the top of the table.
So the Bluebirds sit during the international break after ten matches top of the Championship, with manager Malky Mackay fully expecting his Championship leading side will be back at virtually full strength in time for their next match at Nottingham Forest. The Bluebirds manager will welcome Craig Bellamy, Tommy Smith and Jordon Mutch back after injuries for the clash with Forest at their City Ground home on Saturday week.