There are those of us of a certain vintage who were delighted to see a Cardiff backline with McGuinness Flint in it but, early 70s nostalgia aside, this sobering defeat in horrible weather was more than disappointing.
Town’s trips to South Wales rarely bring many rewards but the circumstances of this encounter promised more than most. Cardiff’s dreadful form, which cost Mick McCarthy what may prove to be his final job in management, coupled with the Terriers’ encouraging season to date was sufficient comfort to overlook a generational propensity for Huddersfield Town to be the perfect opposition for struggling teams.
Despite having better squad depth available to him this season, Corberán went with an unchanged 11 from the physical demands of the past week. It was a decision that looked far from wise by halftime, despite his charges leading 1-0 at the end of a low quality 45 minutes, as both Hogg (after less than 10 minutes) and Holmes had to be replaced with injuries. Both failed to complete the Peterborough game and Hogg, in particular, should not have been brought back so quickly. A swirling wind carrying the type of rain which sprays and soddens with miserable intensity was weather more suited to the rugby international which made Cardiff city centre a great place to be prior to the game; a sparse football stadium seemed miserable in comparison.
Hogg’s injury immediately preceded Town’s opener. McGuinness, under no discernible pressure, under-hit a back pass to Smithies which turned into a through ball for Sinani, who finally opened his account for Town by holding off a challenge well before squeezing the ball between Smithies and post.
This was a perfect gift for the visitors. An early lead, provided by the incompetence of an opponent struggling with confidence, has the effect of deflating home support which eventually turns against their team whose anxiety levels spike and performances implode.
Town largely let Cardiff off the hook. Instead of piling on the pressure, some ridiculous decision making at the back, the main culprits being Nicholls and Colwill, managed to achieve precisely the opposite. It was fortunate that the Bluebirds were incapable of taking advantage of their opponents’ largesse, some decent recovery work by Town players should be acknowledged, but the opportunity to bury Cardiff psychologically was completely missed.
Towards the end of the half, the visitors could and probably should have doubled their lead with a couple of decent forays forward but Holmes failed to react quickly enough to a ball across by Sinani. O’Brien also created a shooting opportunity as Town finished the half strongly, but it was far too little, too late.
The second half was as frustrating an experience as you expect from Town on far too many occasions. They were clearly the better side, they were capable of some very decent football sporadically and created simple opportunities to put the game to bed which, had they been taken, would have resulted in an entirely different post-match conversation.
In the first 25 minutes of the second half, Town largely controlled their struggling opponents and started to ramp up pressure with extended periods of possession which culminated in a burst of activity which should have sealed the 3 points.
Scott High had a goal bound effort blocked following good work by Koroma, as the left side of Town’s attack began to click; Toffolo, O’Brien and Koroma were causing problems with decent interchanges and movement.
It was O’Brien, whose bursts caused Cardiff problems all through the second half, who fed Sinani for another blocked shot which led to the corner which, in turn, produced the easiest chance to go 2 up and win the game.
Thomas, who looked far too leggy, delivered a quite superb corner which eluded a bunch of battling opponents to reach Colwill about 3 yards out. The youngster had little time to weigh up his options, but they weren’t particularly complex. Either head the ball down or back across from whence it came. Unfortunately, the ball rather hit his head and flew at Smithies who, nevertheless, made a very good save to push the ball onto the post.
It was a remarkable miss and a potentially deflating one but Town kept coming and forged 2 further chances to finish the contest.
Ward did very well to beat Flint to a high ball from Nicholls which left him clear on goal and one on one with his good friend, Smithies. His deft chip beat the keeper but not the upright and another glorious opportunity went begging.
More good work down the left saw Koroma deliver a sumptuous ball across the face of Cardiff’s goal but Ward was unable to apply a finishing touch.
The encouragement of a spell of play which emphasised Town’s growing superiority was quickly replaced by the dread of the knowledge that spurning opportunities would only lead to punishment, and so it came to pass.
A rather cheaply conceded corner indirectly following sloppy attempts to play out from the back (which blighted Town all afternoon) was very well delivered for Moore to get in front of Colwill and equalise.
Hugely disappointing, though ominously predictable, it was the first time the dangerous Moore looked like contributing to the afternoon and wouldn’t be the last.
Town responded reasonably well and, to their credit, didn’t simply retreat to take the point, but they were unable to carve out another chance despite some promising possession.
Thomas, while trying to set up another Town attack, under hit a pass forward, Cardiff switched it out to their left, Pearson was too easily beaten and Moore, again, beat Colwill to head home a thoroughly undeserved, but undoubtedly welcome, winner.
It is legitimate to question Corberán’s decisions for this game, particularly keeping an unchanged line up after a gruelling week. Losing Hogg and Holmes in the first half was prima facie evidence of error and one which reduced the possibility of flexibility in the second half to counter the evident tiredness towards the end.
And oh for a centre forward who can play as poorly as Keifer Moore did and score twice!
When we are all dead and gone, future Town teams will be losing away games in this manner as they have so often in the past.
(And that’s me done for a while – finally allowed back in the US. Will return for Barnsley away).