Cardiff City 0-1 Hull City
The football was nothing to write home about. We were second best for most of the afternoon, but defended pretty well. It didn't really matter. The result was all that mattered and midway through the second half, Marney crossed low, McPhee hit a shot, Forde parried and Dean Windass pounced to hammer in the rebound. The away following went absolutely mental and they deserved it because the support was superb. It was cheerful, uplifting and very vocal. We've suffered enough through the years. If there was any luck to be had or any injustice to be handed out, we deserved to be on the right side of it because we've taken every slap in the face from the beautiful game and we've come back week after week, owner after owner and manager after manager and given the best support we could give. Yeovil was the best reward most of us had been given so far, but for me personally, yesterday topped it. For many reasons, but mainly because we've looked dead and buried many times this season, because we showed guts that far outweighed our ability, because we (almost) put Leeds United in Division 3 and because Dean Windass scored the goal that ensured salvation.
It was a massive goal. This club cannot take a backward step. We've put in 5 years of hard work and hard cash to come this far and at a crucial stage in our development, relegation would've been a crucial blow. As it is, we can relax next week and start to plan for next season. Some of the pre-season signings played a big part yesterday. It's been a long time coming but we're getting some of our money's worth from them. It doesn't gloss over the cracks. We haven't been good enough all season and we lack a spine of consistent, classy players. However, we're in a good position to move on now. We do have players who can perform well, we've seen it any times this season and we have a good base to build on. This time last season, half of the squad looked destined for the lower divisions, while this season, we have much more quality to start with.
Michael Turner was absolutely outstanding at Cardiff. With 10 minutes to go, I thought that he'd been flawless but I didn't dare say it out loud for fear of jinxing him. I can't recall a better performance from a City centre half. He didn't miss a header or a clearance. He was strong and determined and he was always in the right position. Delaney was capable alongside him, although he lost track of Thompson twice early on, only for the big Scot to head straight at Bo on both occasions. Turner is the better defender, it comes naturally to him. He still needs to be stronger and more intelligent (i.e. dirtier) but he's grown into a really reliable centre half. I wouldn't swap him for Leon Cort, I know that much.
Sam Ricketts, facing dog's abuse for daring to play for Swansea, grew stronger as the game went on. Early on, two good crosses flew in from his side, but after that, he snuffed out the threat and began to get into good attacking positions. There was little threat from Cardiff's left in the second half.
Dean Marney came on and changed the game. He gave us more drive from midfield and a bit of energy that put Cardiff on the back foot. He replaced Parlour, who'd made a couple of good passes, but had largely been a spectator, leaving the hard work to Ashbee, who was excellent, and Peltier, who worked hard but doesn't have a clue positionally. I think Marney's last 6 or 7 came appearances have been very good and I hope it's a sign that he's settling in. He has a ton of ability. His second half run through the Cardiff defence was superb. He's still very young and I hate for us to dump him now just to recoup a few quid.
Elsewhere, Forster ran himself into the ground. He's got phenomenal fitness levels and he was generally pretty good on the ball too. McPhee did a better job than last week but didn't really threaten their defence. What the two of them do though, is keep the defence alert and stop full back's coming forward because their pace is a big threat. Unfortunately, having those two wide leaves Windass having to occupy two defenders, which is the traditional problem with one up front. Deano does a decent job, but he doesn't have great height or pace, so it's hard. As a result, Purse and Johnson often had the ball with no pressure. Fortunately for us, their distribution was appalling. Dawson had a steady game, but hit rotten corners. Myhill didn't have a lot to do really, considering the territorial advantage Cardiff enjoyed. Barmby came on to help calm everyone's nerves and occupy the Cardiff defence. The situation we've been in has almost overshadowed one of my football dreams. I've seen Nick Barmby and Dean Windass play in the same Hull City team.
With 4 or 5 minutes left, we were biting our nails, desperate to cling on to a result that would put us in the box seat on the final day. Then, the unthinkable happened. It's wonderful, a little pocket of people start shouting and jumping up and down and it ripples through the stand. Half of the people are jumping around and have no idea why, but it's not hard to guess. Ipswich have equalised at Leeds. There was a little flurry of activity on the City bench, they obviously knew and the ref put up 4 minutes of injury time, just to make us sweat, but we held out. It was awesome. Deano came across to ask if it was 1-1 at Leeds. The players made their way to the corner to watch Sky Sports News on Cardiff's big screen and then erupt when the final score from Elland Road comes through, as we all did. It turned out not to be the final score, because Leeds fans were rioting, but it didn't matter in the end. Adam Pearson got a big hug from Peter Risdale. The friendly Cardiff stewards shook our hands and congratulated us on doing Football a huge favour and the Cardiff fans applauded us out of the ground and applauded our Coaches out of the city. Wonderful place this, wherever did they get that nasty reputation?
The job is almost done. Almost. We need to get the one point to make it certain. In fact, getting 3 points would equal last season 52 point tally and would be a good achievement for Phil Brown, considering the position he started from. Whether it'll be good enough to get him the job and whether he should get the job is a debate for another time. I'd like to thank Phil Brown for rescuing a dreadful season and providing one of my favourite City memories. The players were as brave as lions in the second half. In fact, they were as brave as a little bloke fighting a lion armed only with a City shirt and a pair of footy boots. I'll repeat, Hull City produced a battling performance in Cardiff yesterday and won a crucial 3 points to, barring a miracle, relegate Leeds United. Football hooligans across the country were united, 606 was inundated with whining fans and Dennis Wise and Ken Bates were truly miserable. Pride and Joy shone out of the city of Hull and I had a smile as wide as the Humber Bridge. Happy Days!
Ratings: Boaz 7, Ricketts 7, Dawson 6, Turner 9, Delaney 7, Ashbee 7, Peltier 6, Parlour 5 (Marney 7), Forster 7, McPhee 6 (Barmby), Windass 7.
We ARE staying up!