Date:Monday September 25 2006
Cardiff have failed to perform in front of the Sky cameras in recent seasons but confidence was high going into the game after the 4-1 win over Luton. Cardiff again named an unchanged side going into the game with the on-form Michael Chopra in attack.
Southend included hot-shot Freddie Eastwood in their line-up as well as former City loan player Michael Ricketts on the bench. The game began at a high temp with both sides looking lively and confident. It was Southend however who created the first real opening when Kerrea Gilbert was caught in possession and Billy Paynter saw his glancing header bounce off the top of the crossbar. Almost immediately afterwards Cardiff took the lead as Steve Thompson was fouled on the City left. The Cardiff centre-backs moved forward to join the attack and a clever bit of quick thinking saw Stephen McPhail cross early for the oncoming DARREN PURSE to force home. The quickly taken free-kick caught most Southend players by surprise but Purse still did well to outmuscle 2 defenders and bundle over the line and credit must go to McPhail for being so alert.
Another superb pass by McPhail, this time a sublime 50-yarder, put Gilbert in space on the right and his clever turn and pull back saw Chopra`s on-target shot blocked. The goal appeared to rattle Southend and they were unable to match Cardiff`s slick, fluid passing. The Shrimpers did get the ball in the City net on 41 minutes only for Paynter`s effort to be ruled offside. And once again, Cardiff made them pay for their miss on the stroke of half time, Scimeca`s low drive forced a corner from which Chopra did brilliantly well to hold the ball up, surrounded by defenders before setting up RICCY SCIMECA to drive low into the net from 8 yards.
0-2 up at half time and only flashbacks of the nightmarish surrender to Plymouth could dampen City`s spirits. The second half began in much the same fashion with Cardiff looking like the home team and dominating possession, Eastwood and Paynter both became frustrated and whilst both looked lively, they were superbly marshalled by a determined Glenn Loovens and inspirational Darren Purse who looked at his best again. Some brilliant quick passing and ball retention saw Ledley go close on 56 minutes, his shot just flying over but it wasn`t long before the third and decisive goal came. Michael Chopra did extremely well on the right and looked up before slotting a great square ball to the incoming JOE LEDLEY who forced home from 6 yards. The defender may have got a touch but Ledley was there and can claim the goal. The rest of the game was played out in a controlled and disciplined manner and Southend never found a spell of sustained pressure as Cardiff kept possession and dictated the tempo. Michael Ricketts came on but failed to make an impact and Steve Thompson and substitute Willo Flood both went close with low shots for the Bluebirds. Alexander had to be alert in the final minute to parry away a close-range Hooper shot but City were more than good value for the win and can be pleased with a clean sheet against a potent attacking threat.
Southend were soundly beaten, their first home defeat of the season, and whilst many Southend players and fans were disappointed that some decisions did not go their way, they knew that they were beaten by a much better team. That`s 10 goals in 3 games now for Cardiff City and they move 3 points clear at the top of the Championship with a far higher goal difference than any other team in the division. Cardiff showed their quality live on television and deserve to be in top spot, every other team now knows they have to play very well to take points off us and all will see matches against Cardiff as big games.
Stephen McPhail was the pick of the City players and was instrumental throughout but Darren Purse, Scimeca and Chopra all had excellent games too while Thompson again put himself all over the park deserving more reward for his efforts. Next up is Wolves at home on Saturday 30th September, a tough game with the Wanderers in 6th place after a 2-0 win over Stoke.
Date:Monday September 25 2006
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