FA CUP THIRD ROUND
SUNDAY 7TH JANUARY, 2007
CARDIFF CITY 0 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0)
Referee: - Howard Webb
Attendance: - 20,376
Cardiff (4-4-2):- Alexander; Gilbert, Purse (Capt.), Loovens, McNaughton; Flood, Scimeca, McPhail, Ledley; Chopra, Thompson
Subs not used: - Forde; Johnson; Cooper, Blake; Campbell
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson (Capt.); Chimbonda, Dawson, Davenport, Lee (sub Gardner, 87); Malbranque, Tainio, Huddlestone, Murphy (sub Lennon, 66); Defoe (sub Keane, 81), Berbatov
Subs not used: - Cerny; Zokora
“People of Tottenham, London, England! Welcome to Ninian Park, Cardiff in the Principality of Wales! You have paid your tax of £5.10 to enter our territory, and now we welcome you to our ancient stadium. Unfortunately we can only afford to seat a few of you. A recent tribe of Englishmen from Birmingham ripped up over 40 seats, but we have done our best to replenish the loss and accommodate those of you of a comfort-seeking disposition in your accustomed manner.
We natives are used to a harder environment and you will find many areas around our quaint little ground also have no seats. On your right, you will be greeted by our up and coming army of younger hooligans, who, despite being separated from you by a full length net from ceiling to ground, will happily engage stewards and police in their attempt to reach you and greet you physically. Occasionally, one of our number sneaks through our vast security net with an instrument such as a flare, and towards the end of the game, he is likely to throw this (alight) towards you, but fear not, the flare will not pass through the net, and will more than likely hit the back of one of the local Heddlu (that’s Police Officer to you English), to flare away harmlessly in the no-man’s land between you and your hosts. Although it is 30 years since your last visit, perhaps if you should call again, you may like to bring a gladiatorial trident with you and a helmet, because our heathen crew will more than happily engage with you, inside or outside the ground.
On your left, purporting to be more respectable members of our support, in a half-seated stand, you will be greeted by our “1970s crew”. These veterans of hard battles of times past hanker for more such fun, and if the match should be a draw, they are more than likely to seek to visit hell upon your High Road, as they did in October, 2002. Please do not seek to encroach near the boundary between your section and our poorly protected home stand, as our hundreds of riot police are more than ready to prevent the fun of the games that we used to enjoy in the darker days of football history.
At half-time you may wish to visit our novel latrine area, where the water flows in places it should not. Our “Jobsworth” stewards will then allow you to queue up in the limited half-time period to join those of your friends who have already found refuge in the minute covered area around a bar. Yes, I know it’s a surprise, but we do now serve alcohol in Wales on the Lord’s Day!
After the game you will be required – no, sorry, let me re-phrase that – we would be grateful for your co-operation (on pain of mutilation), as we detain you in the ground for some 20 minutes, whilst we attempt to disperse your hosts from the precincts around the ground. You see, forgive us, but our regulars love visitors so much that they often hang around in large numbers to catch visiting supporters stupid enough to try and introduce themselves. Despite that delay, we will also hinder your escape from the principality by sending you on a long trek around the car park and the Athletic stadium to make it as difficult as possible for you to escape the Principality as quickly as you might like. See – there it is! The athletic stadium is likely to be the location for our planned new ground, which if it is an all-seater (is that what you call them?) may prevent the type of welcome we currently offer.
Oh, I forgot to mention, during the game, one of our fans, chosen at random, will run from any part of our ground and seek to invade your territory, threatening your weakest and disabled supporters. Do not fear. This is part of our traditional greeting, and will be brought to an end by our well-trained security stewards and police. They can’t spot a flare, but they love a fight too! Enjoy your stay!”
And now for something completely different – the match report! Dave Jones called the Cardiff fans magnificent. Well they certainly made a lot of noise throughout the game, that must have made this venue almost as intimidating as that experienced in Turkey, when playing Besiktas earlier this season. I didn’t go to Turkey, but in all my years of attending football matches, this was certainly the worst environment I have experienced. Not helped by being placed nearest the home support. Such are the perks that I am currently being offered as an away season ticket holder. To my mind the atmosphere I experienced is the best argument against “safe standing areas”, as it seemed to me that the lack of seats served to encourage the old tribalistic nature of football fans. Perhaps if there had been an early goal, there might have been more focus on the football by the fans, and this reporter.
As expected, Martin Jol left Aaron Lennon and Robbie Keane on the bench, and fielded as gutsy a midfield as he could muster in an attempt to quell the anticipated onslaught of the home team. Unfortunately, gutsy does not offer much in the way of skill, and there was little creativity from those four today. Berbatov and Defoe created the odd chance for themselves in the early stages, and Defoe and Malbranque had chances in the second half, but most of the time, when Spurs were in possession, they were matched by the Bluebirds. The only man who seemed to find space for manoeuvre in the opponents half was Young-Pyo Lee, who received a few balls, but sadly made poor use of the opportunities that arose.
There was a nice early move by the Spurs strikers, resulting in a Berbatov shot saved by Alexander, who was the only member of either starting line-up surviving the last meeting between these two sides in October 2002. Alexander was worried after 10 minutes, when Berbatov flicked on a long ball into Defoe’s path, whose shot went wide across the goalmouth.
Cardiff created plenty of chances over the course of the game, but thankfully for Spurs, their accuracy was woeful, and Paul Robinson was rarely threatened. McPhail crossed the ball deep from the left after 16 minutes, but Chopra’s attempted header was placed far too wide. Mid-way through the half, after a Spurs a free kick, a defensive error nearly led to a Spurs goal, but Alexander was down quicker than Defoe to Berbatov’s shot. A minute later, Robinson did have his dodgiest moment, getting down to Thompson’s header, but fumbling it round for a corner.
After the break, Thompson, who is a big man, and puts himself about a bit, but has little scoring power, skewed another opportunity. Then Malbranque received a pass from Berbatov, and slipped the ball through to Defoe, whose shot missed the right post by two feet. Cardiff continued to put Spurs under some pressure, but their shots on goal were poor. I thought that both Dawson and Davenport had excellent games today, especially in the closing stages, when the pressure built upon Spurs. Chimbonda had crossed the ball giving Malbranque a half-chance with an over head kick that was not far off the mark, but the Spurs right back was more useful with his headed clearances at the back. Anthony Gardner was brought on in the closing stages to re-inforce the defence, and whilst both Lennon and Keane did get on, by this time, Spurs were looking to batten down the defensive hatches and accept a draw for a reply at White Hart Lane on Wednesday 17th January. Our League Cup semi-final games will be further delayed.
Whilst I must give a “big up” to “Cardiff Dave” whose hospitality I very much enjoyed on the outskirts of town before the game, I will quite happily never again visit Ninian Park, or whatever venue supercedes this stadium.
I know that Cardiff’s support is feared around the country, and can only advise you to “lock up your daughters” on January 17th!
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