Today would have been Cardiff City’s last league game of the season. It could have been a day where Cardiff were fighting for that last playoff spot or a dead rubber, a game where neither side has anything riding on it. Instead, we’re all sat at home twiddling our thumbs and wondering just what will happen to football in the future. Still, content never rests and it’s a good a time as any to revisit our visit to Hull two seasons ago; a day where our Premier League promotion was all but sealed.
Last Chance Saloon
I don’t know if it was just me but I remember thinking we’d blown the automatic promotion slots before this game. It pains me to say it but the loss away at Derby felt like the final blow to our dream of automatic promotion. We’d gone one nil up in that game and then just fell apart like Matt Hancock at a daily briefing. It’s bizarre to think that one of the players at the core of that collapse against Derby – Yanic Wildschut – has been expunged from the brains of most Cardiff fans.
So the Hull game felt like shit or bust for us. Though Hull had been scrapping for their life at the bottom all season, they were safe when we played them but they were still an ex Premier League team and they had some decent names in their starting lineup. A couple of former Cardiff players, too!
It just didn’t feel like we had it in us to get the three points we desperately needed.
An archetypal Warnock side
If any game called for Warnock, it was this one. If you look at the starting lineup that day, the only player you’d say was missing was Manga. But even so, it was probably the perfect starting XI for the occasion. Bamba and Moz at the back were giants that season. Bennett was having his best year for the club and Peltier is Peliter – if you asked him two, he’d tackle a car. Gunnarsson and Ralls anchoring behind Pats with Hoilett – simply el fuego that season – and the emerging Lendez-Maing took the wings with Zohore up front.
You’d maybe put Manga in for Peltier but for that game, Peltiers sheer tenacity was probably needed.
Perhaps a side note that got lost in the reaction to the result was Marko Grujic’s first half cameo. The young midfielder had come in from Liverpool and depending who you spoke to, was a cultured midfielder who offered us something different or a raw hothead who was liable to cost his team anytime.
Perhaps Warnock benched him because he couldn’t trust him to keep his cool. And perhaps that was a premonition of what was to come. Aron needed replacing at 10 minutes and Warnock through Marko in. It took him 20 minutes to get booked and then maybe a further couple of minutes to test the referees trigger finger once more.
And at half time, we saw a classic sub being subbed moment as Bryson came on for Grujic. Warnock was probably right to make this call, as harsh as it was on Grujic. It was a big call and if Grujic had picked up a second yellow, who knows what would have happened to our promotion chances…
A typical Warnock performance
Warnockball is known for a few things and being free flowing isn’t one of them. But whatever your view, it was and is effective. And against Hull was a perfect example of how effective it could be.
You look back at the stats. Hull dominated the possession – 66% – and probably dominated the passes made that day. The Sky report says that it wasn’t a vintage display from Cardiff but one could argue that it was exactly that.
When you look at the shots tracker, Hull managed no shots on Target while Cardiff managed six. We dominated the corners – with Moz’s first goal coming from one – and we played the game like we knew how. It was like Brighton away the following season. Cardiff suffocated the game, sucked the life out of it somewhat, and pounced when they needed to. It worked.
Sean Morrison became captain that day
Sean Morrison has been a Cardiff City player for six years. But this season felt like the season he truly became president. Sorry, Captain. And this game was when he cemented his place in Cardiff history.
He scored seven goals during the course of that season but not many will rank as highly as the two he scored away at Hull. The first goal was typical Moz and typical Cardiff. An in-swinging corner from Ralls landed right in the corridor of uncertainty – about four yards out from the goal line. Grujic blocked off McGregor. Paterson piled into the same area and Moz rose highest to head home. It was a perfectly timed run and a great connection.
But his second goal? Probably should never have happened. When you consider he scored it in the 80th minute, you have to ask; just what is a centre half doing piling forward like that? And how did he have the chutzpah to perform a cutback like that in the box?
When you watch it back, as NML breaks, Moz is out of shot. But the first glimpse you got of him before that, he’s got that determined look about him. Somewhere, I’m sure a coach was telling him to check his run and let the attackers do their jobs. But it felt serendipitous.
He timed it all to perfection. He broke the defensive line and checked his run to the inch as NML swung the ball his way. He was calmness personified as he checked back and took one more breath before curling it into the far corner. A captain’s goal and one that basically secured promotion.
Have you ever breathed a sigh of relief so loud? I don’t think I have. It was like the realisation of the season. And when you heard the roar from the away end, you’d think we’d been the home side at the KC Stadium.