The first shocking image that the Board won't have failed to notice was the terrible home crowd. The gate wasn't given again this evening but it really didn't look like there were more than 10,000 there at kick-off (on the basis that there are 15,000+ season ticket holders and a generous 2,000 Cardiff fans, the official gate can be little more than 18,000?). The Cardfiff end filled up a bit, but they were well short of what I had anticipated. Although by estimation of "500-600" Blackpool fans was well short of the 950 given in tonights programme). The home sections were so sparesly populated, it must have very hard for the MC to say "come on, make some noise for the boys." Frankly, I was embarrassed for him. Take a look for yoursleves....
The second undeniable fact is that our record under Phil Parkinson continues to worsen and, once again, we have failed to close a game out and record what would have only been Phil's fourth win in twenty-six (26) league games. Not only that, but having gone two-up in the second half for the second successive week, we have again contrived to turn it into a draw. This squad should be playing with no fear by now and we all expected the tail to wag at the end as the players finally showed their mettle and, I believe, some of their underlying qualities. The fact that they haven't, reflects directly on the management of the side. There are no other excuses left.
For the record, it was the same eleven that started against Blackpool (Elliot, Youga, Hudson, Ward, Butterfield, Bailey, Zheng Zhi, Racon, Sam, Shelvey and Burton). It was also a similar game. The first half was slow. Cardiff dominated possession but were restricted to two fine shots both of which were pushed to safety by excellent saves from Rob Elliot; the first a rasper from Chopra who seized upon a poor pass from Racon to Youga and swerved inside to open the angle and fire for the top corner only to see Elliot get a hand to it and touch it wide of the post; the second was an equally fierce volley, from Ledley I think, from 25 yards which was screaming in until Elliot managed to get two hands on it to edge it over the bar. After the woeful performance given by the returning Hameur Bouazza a couple of weeks ago, it was equally pleasing to see Jay Bothroyd put in a stinker as well, particularly in the first half.
For their part, Charlton had a couple of half-chances before scoring before the break. Bailey had managed to thread a pass into Burton in the box but Tom Heaton just got there to thwart him. Bailey then went down in the box but he was going away from goal and was up far too quickly to protest for it to look too convincing. After that, it was left to the boy-man Jonjo Shelvey to further enhance his burgeoning reputation with another opportunist goal. This time it came courtesy of a good bit of Charlton pressure that saw Lloyd Sam deliver one of his better balls this evening to the far post which evaded all the jumpers but fell to the lunging Jonjo who stabbed it passed the helpless Heaton.
Things livened up in the second half. Jay Bothroyd showed commendable sportmanship to blast the ball out so the prone Lloyd Sam could receive treatment. This after Youga and Bailey had played on only to lose the ball and it had been played up to Bothroyd before he put it out pointing back to Sam. Zheng Zhi should then have put the Reds two up. He controlled a delicious forward pass from Shelvey and move inside his opponet at the back of the box in one movement before sliding the ball passed Heaton and onto the post.
Chopra went off to allow McCormack to move upfront alongside Bothroyd and Spring was introduced for a tired looking Lloyd Sam. Cardiff then scored what looked to me like a good goal. A long punt was chased downfield by Bothroyd who collided with Hudson and the out-rushing Elliot. Elliot looked to have pushed the ball onto Bothroyd who found it at his feet and with the other two sprawling he managed to finish it off. Maybe it was the noise from the visitors or the spectacle of the latest two visting fans to try to enter the field of play in celebration, but most of those around me also failed to notice that the goal had been ruled out for some reason (a foul presumably).
With ten minutes left, Charlton got the break that should have won the match. A corner from Shelvey wasn't cleared and it bobbed around the box as heads went high and bicycle kicks were attempted before it dropped for that man Nicky Bailey to smash home low through the crowded six yard box. Amidst the celebrations, Cardiff broke and the sub Burke advanced down the niddle of the field as the Charlton defence retreated at full speed for the box where, presumably, they intended to tackle hm. With the space opening up for him, Burke simply ran on, lined himself up and pumped a hard pass into the gap on Elliot's right-hand side.
Two-one and panic set-in. The entire Charlton team dropped behind the ball and would not come out further than 25 yards. The East Stand were screaming and gesticulating for them to advance everytime we cleared the ball but they sat tight and conceded free-kick after free-kick.We were in danger of having a player sent off as Zheng Zhi, Bailey and Butterfield were all on yellows. You knew what was going to happen and it was Gabor Gyepes who finally got the shot in that levelled the match. Hard to point fingers at a collective collapse but Butterfield did not have a good game again and he looked particularly vulnerable when the panic set-in. The winner came from just in front of him and I suepct he might have done better to prevent the shot but I'll need to see it again to be sure.
I'll say it again, just in case there's anyone left who hasn't got the message; PARKINSON HAS TO GO.