Sunday, 22 January 2017

Cardiff City 1 v 0 Burton Albion

Saturday 21st January 2017
English Football League Championship
Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff
Admission: £20.00
Programme: £3.00
Attendance: 15,457
Match Rating: 2

Today’s bargain £1.50 return coach journey from London took me to Cardiff, with every intention that I would take in a Welsh League game. Sub-zero and frosty conditions made me nervous on my way westwards, but there was no indication that my intended game at Pontypridd Town was in doubt until I was already on the train from Cardiff and the club tweeted that their pitch had failed an inspection. Unfortunately that was too late for me to reroute to another Welsh League game, and so I decided to revisit the Cardiff City Stadium, with my only previous visit almost eight years ago, a few months after the stadium opened. Today would be my first visit for a Cardiff City home game, however.

The Cardiff City Stadium is about a 20 minute walk from the city centre, and stands high above the adjacent park land and retail park. The stadium is pleasantly decorated around the outside, with a statue immediately outside one corner, and a nice touch is the presence of the gates from the club’s former ground, Ninian Park, set some way back from the stadium and close to the site of the club's former stadium. The frame of the gates has some memorial plaques, with a basic memorial garden alongside. Once inside the stadium, the concourses are very spacious, and a live band was playing to help generate some atmosphere before kick off. On my last visit, this was a continuous wrap-around stadium consisting of one tier, apart from the two tiered main stand. Since then, the single tiered length has been expanded upwards and is now three tiered and towers above the rest of the stadium. As one might expect from a relative new build, views are excellent and unobstructed. The 68 page programme was a good read and well designed, with plenty to digest.

Both of today’s teams are battling against relegation, with Cardiff in 18th place with 30 points from 25 games and six points above the relegation zone, but they won their last two league games. It is still scarcely believable that Burton Albion are in the second tier of English football, and they are certainly not out of their depth at that level this season. But they are just a point and a place above the relegation zone, with 25 points from 26 league games. When the two teams met back in October, Burton Albion won 2-0.

On a bright, sunny but perishingly cold afternoon, this was a dire game for the most part, with a lack of quality on the pitch and a very subdued atmosphere in the stands. This was certainly the case throughout the first half, with very few goalscoring opportunities being created as Burton focused their efforts on being solid and difficult to break down, whilst Cardiff did not have the creativity or skill to break them down. Indeed, the boos from the home fans on the half time whistle was indicative with a performance that deteriorated into poor passing and decision making. 

Cardiff started the second half much brighter and opened up a couple of good opportunities, and overall they had the better of the things, but as time went on they looked less and less likely to net a winner as a goalless stalemate became inevitable, which would have been a fair reflection of a dour, uninspiring game. But in the first minute of added on time at the end of the game, after a free kick into the box was blocked, the ball was then crossed into the danger area just out of the clutches of the keeper and Rhys Healey headed the ball home to provoke wild celebrations amongst the players and the crowd. Although Burton still had time to create an opportunity to claim a point in the remaining minutes, Cardiff held on to claim a valuable three points to move eight points clear of the relegation zone, which Burton Albion have fallen into following this result.

Video highlights of this match can be viewed by clicking here.

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