The ACN Match Review – Cardiff (a)


A landmark game for so many reasons - and a long-awaited result. Then why isn’t Jon McGregor heading home from Cardiff with a spring in his step?

The line-up

Wagner has talked before about his hunch that Placheta could be re-envisioned as a left back. It’s an interesting theory, especially when your game plan involves the full backs haring down the wing at speed. It’s the sort of thing you might try out in pre-season, and assess carefully. To give it a whirl with the team in such a disastrous slump seems, with respect, absolutely crackers.

Placheta is not a left back, in my extremely humble opinion, and the decision cost us two goals. Kellen Fisher will be a right back soon, but today he looked unready; positionally sound but shy of the tackle.

We ended up with a strongish team on the pitch; we didn’t start with one. 

Hurrah moment

I mean, the last ten minutes, obviously. I wasn’t looking forward to this game, at all – I’ve been wondering for quite some time just what on earth the point of all this is, when the team and the club are drifting and floundering with no sense of a plan or any kind of narrative we can latch on to and believe in and fight for – and at half time I felt grimly vindicated. And I don’t think anyone’s kidding themselves that a couple of scrappy goals against a weirdly unconvincing Cardiff team constitutes the turning point our season will hinge upon. But it’s just a huge amount of bloody fun to score twice like that and win a game, isn’t it? Limbs, and all that. That conviction that if we just keep going for it we might grab something was a highlight of the best Farke years, and has been missing for a while. Hurrah, we scored a goal. 

Boooooo moment

It was striking that at full time Wagner didn’t come anywhere near the away end; either because he didn’t want to risk a mixed reception or because he knows he’s on his way out. Or maybe he just wanted to support Stuart Webber, who tiptoed onto the pitch and would never have considered coming anywhere near the fans, who he lost interest in long ago. 

I lost interest in Webber a while back myself. He came in and did some interesting and innovative things, made some great calls, gave us a story we could believe in. But the appointment of Dean Smith was the giveaway for me – when he sacked Farke I figured that he must have a cunning plan, a great new undiscovered coach lined up; but no, he was just flailing about and appointed the guy our relegation rivals had just sacked. It doesn’t matter what font you use in the PowerPoint presentation, Stuart, your plan is fucked. 

So yeah, boo to Stuart is what I’m saying. The divorcés won’t miss you.

Hero of the match

Collective award here to the substitutes, and to the man who made them, Mr David Wagner. 

First, Dimi and Stacey patched up the holes in defence. Then Onel was lobbed on, immediately bringing his mad bastard energy to bear down the left, and you could see Jonny Rowe’s shoulders relax – here’s a man I can do business with, he was thinking – as he dropped his way into the Cardiff box and an unfamiliar feeling crept over the away end. That feeling was not so much ‘belief’ as a kind of “hmm, well, there’s a possibility of a goal occurring here.” And occur it did, through sheer force of will more than guile, Onel chasing the own goal over the line.

Sometimes the right substitutions can transform a game. Who knew?

The atmosphere

In keeping with most of the new stadiums from the last couple of decades, Cardiff’s ground is a bit shit – architecturally disjointed, short on facilities, and lacking in atmosphere. The mood in the away end started out boisterous, but fizzled out after twenty minutes of ineffective build-up play, during which Cardiff just sort of wandered around and let us do the same, only with the ball. Some of our wandering around was quite effective. But much of it was vague and uncertain, and – after our cracking little first goal – started leaving more and more gaps. Gaps through which the Cardiff players just of wandered and went, “our turn, is it? Shall we score? Okay cool thanks.” The half-time atmosphere was predictably flat, as a result. But the last ten minutes reminded everyone (bar the suckers who left early; yet again what were you thinking?) why going to the football can, sometimes, be fun. 

Our post-match takeaway

Who knows, at this point, what is going on or what to expect next. I still think we have enough talent and creativity in this squad; I still think Warner is a gifted and intelligent coach (and clearly a very nice man.) But we mainly won this game because Cardiff weren’t very good. Something really substantial needs to change at this club, and one win shouldn’t distract us from that.


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