The Bluebirds have landed themselves a midweek beast of a journey to play Carlisle United in their Emirates FA Cup third round replay.
Manager Neil Harris and his team face a 12 hour, 700 miles trip to Cumbria on Tuesday, January 14. It’s a pig of a journey, virtually all on motorways, and the trip should not have been necessary.
League Two Carlisle should have been dismissed from the cup at Cardiff City Stadium, but they strode into a 2-0 lead and were grateful for the chance of a second game by the end.
The Bluebirds were, though, the better team and should have seen off their League Two visitors. It is, though, a terrible trip for the replay.
Many years ago, I drove to Carlisle on a wet and windy day, when matches were being postponed and rang Brunton Park around 12 o’clock on the way up.
‘The game is on,’ I was told time and again. As we arrived in Carlisle a couple of hours before kick-off, it was announced the fixture had been called off because of a waterlogged pitch.
I will never forget that feeling of frustration as we headed back home.
The good news is that Cardiff City will be in the FA Cup fourth round draw on Monday evening. It will be made at the Emirates Stadium before Arsenal’s home tie against Leeds United.
They are the only Welsh team left in the competition after Swansea City lost 5-1 against QPR and Newport County went down 3-0 against Millwall away.
City were two goals down at half-time after Jack Bridges (penalty, 12 minutes) and Harry McKirdy (45+2) scored, while Callum Paterson (50) and Gavin Whyte (55) scored to give their team a second chance.
“There was no ranting or raving at half-time,.” Said Harris. “I didn’t make any changes, but asked the players for a little bit more belief. I was keen to see them move the ball a bit quicker and felt end product would come.
“We scored two goals and we could have easily had another three or four.
“The last 10 minutes was like a real FA Cup game, it could have gone either way.
“Disappointed not to get through, but pleased to come back from being two down.”
Carlisle prepared by stopping en route to South Wales for a session at Aston Villa’s training ground.
“We were treated like Premier League players,” said Carlisle manager Chris Beech. “We travelled down and organised to train at Aston Villa thanks to Dean Smith.
“I rang him and he supported us by keeping his chefs back. They cooked us salmon and pasta so we were fuelled up for the match.
“We stayed at a nice hotel in Cardiff and ate well. We’re trying to improve standards at the football club.
“They are little steps, but the boys have had a good 24 hours, they’ve filled their boots.
“They gave a proud, positive performance in front of a loud supporter base and I’m really proud of the football club.”
Cardiff were bitterly disappointed by the attendance – only 5,828 spectators turned out – and Harris said: “The amount of fixtures in the schedule over this period makes it difficult for supporters to support every single game.
“It’s crazy. I know, I’m a father of three myself and it’s expensive taking your kids places.
“Taking your family to football four times in 12 days is not easy.
“Scrap one of the league games. The FA Cup is here to stay and is a wonderful competition. Everybody in football appreciates the FA Cup.
Harris selected Sam Bowen, the son of ex-Bluebirds playmaker Jason, and former Manchester United youth player Tom Sang among the substitutes, while Murphy, Paterson and Whyte all started.
Cardiff’s manager admitted he was shocked that his team were losing at half-time, saying: “I couldn’t believe we were 2-0 down because we controlled the first-half.
“Carlisle’s second goal was a killer blow and we gave ourselves a mountain to climb, in an FA Cup tie that ultimately we should win.
“I told the boys at half-time that I wasn’t panicked, but I was disappointed with being behind. I said that if we played with a bit more tempo and were a bit more repetitive with what we do, chances would come our way.
“After scoring two early second-half goals and being so on top for so long, it was disappointing not to score a third and fourth goal.”
Cardiff players were booed off at half-time, but they showed the character, hunger and desire to fight back and earn their trip to Brunton Park in Cumbria later this month.