Sunday, September 10, 2006

Preston 2-1 Cardiff City

This was a good choice as Eric Junior's first away game. Deepdale is a fine stadium, and Preston seems a friendly club. City lost, but the way they played suggests that they might not lose too many more if they stay injury-free.

We parked just across the road from the stadium in Moor Park. But a word of warning. Yes, it's convenient, but they think nothing of blocking you in and the car park takes 20 minutes to clear. It'll take you another 15 minutes to get onto the Motorway from here.

The Tom Finney statue is fantastic. The use of water is very effective, and it is easily the best tribute that I have seen at a British ground.

We popped into the Museum of British Football, which lies within the stadium. It's a good pre-match diversion, but I was slightly underwhelmed if I'm honest. Naturally, it is heavily orientated towards England, with just a few items of Welsh interest, namely Billy Meredith's shirt, and an audio piece from his Mother Winnie. I couldn't find Cardiff's 1927 victory in the FA Cup exhibition, which surprised me. Welsh football fans are better served by the Hall of Fame at the Welsh Folk Museum in St Fagan's, Cardiff.

There are good facilities underneath the away end at Deepdale, but I would advise you to eat at the Burger Bar outside. The £3 charge for a hot dog isn't justified by its part-baked baguette and a double sized tinned frankfurter. Why do all these franchised sports-rip offs seem to originate in Berkshire? I reckon that Slough must be the home of American-influenced sports-crap. And I bet they sell popcorn at the Madjeski Stadium.

Inside, the view is superb, though of course the 1500 City fans stood up beyond the first five rows, which I meant that I had a worm's eye view of proceedings.

As soon as Looven's was sent off, the game was distorted. He had to go. It was a clear red card despite the protestations of the City support. What game were they watching ?

This was my first live view of Dave Jones's side, and I was very impressed. Any City side that I have seen over the past 30 years would have crumbled, but this side is made of sterner stuff. In fact, they had the better of the game at 10 v 11, and they played at pace, with no little skill. Chopra looks to be the most talented player that I have seen in a City shirt, apart from Nathan Blake, in his days as a midfielder, before Sheffield United muscled him up.

Preston were spiky, and it was no surprise when the ref evened things up. Nugent feigned to kick the ball at the linesman, in an act of petulance for his first yellow, but I thought his second yellow was a little harsh.

Initially City thrived on the extra space, and at half time I could only see one winner. McPhail started spreading the ball around, and Thompson looked to be working well with Chopra.

But at half time, Preston manager Paul Simpson brought on Patrick Agyemang. He immediately made an impact, and put Preston one up. McNaughton wasn't looking comfortable at centre half, and City were out of shape, as they pulled Joe Ledley back to left back. THe squad is obviously threadbare, with no replacement centre half.

The Preston programme has a flag of each player's nationality next to his name. Agyemang has a Welsh flag. If there is any connection (and I'm doubtful there is), the Toshack should be taking a look. He's just the sort of player that could change things for Wales when things aren't going well.

We scored a good equaliser through Chopra, but Preston always seemed likely to score, and when they did, we couldn't respond. No complaints from me. I was just pleased to see a team full of players in blue shirts who seemed more than capable.

It was strange to hear the Preston fans singing "Top of the league ? You're having a laugh." I am used to being the underdog, but there is a definitely something in the air. We're still top after yesterday's results, and with strengthening in January, I think we could make a go of it.

I've been one of Sam Hammam's biggest critics, but I think he's absolutely right not to overstretch himself. If we haven't got enough money to compete, then so be it. Look at what happened to Leeds when Ridsdale was urged by the fans to spend, spend, spend.

I was entertained in the car by Jason Perry on Radio Wales. I'm sure he's had media training. His voice peaks and troughs in all the right places, and he uses pauses for dramatic effect. This isn't the old Jason Perry that I knew, but good on him. He makes Kevin Ratcliffe sound like Alan Durban.


Gary Socrates said...

Why a definte red card? I'm still not convinced it was a foul after seeing it about 10 times- it was shoulder to shoulder and Nugent went down very easily.

Anyway, we were rubbish second half. Jones out!

Eric the Red said...

At the time I didn't even think it was questionable. It happened pretty close to me, and it was straightforward. I was only 10 yards from the linesman who gave the decision.

But having seen it on television it looks less conclusive I admit.