1 January 2001.
Cardiff City (a)
BLUE MURDER! Cardiff's six goals pile pressure on Blake.
CARDIFF CITY 6 EXETER CITY 1
CITY REPORT by NICK BEER
EXETER City's stuttering season plunged to a new low at Ninian Park as they were ripped to shreds by rampant Cardiff. Even by their recent sorry standards, the Grecians put on a pitifully poor display in the Welsh capital. They battled bravely enough for the first 45 minutes, restricting their hosts to just a solitary Scott Young strike. But they completely came off the rails after the break as the Bluebirds reeled off a four-goal salvo in 18 soul-destroying minutes. Boss Noel Blake then stripped off for his maiden appearance of the campaign only to play the fool as Cardiff substitute Paul Brayson completed his side's agony. And after insisting last week he remained full of hope for the future, City's heaviest defeat in over seven years must give the manager serious food for thought. For the third game in a row, Blake walked away from the ground without facing the media. And with the club now only six points clear of rock-bottom Carlise, having played three more games, the alarm bells are surely ringing loud and clear. There were, of course, mitigating circumstances. Flamboyant owner Sam Hammam has lavished £1.8 million on his latest plaything since assuming control at Cardiff in September. The Bluebirds had triumphed in each of their previous 12 contests at Ninian Park. And City's run of failure can be partially blamed on a punishing sequence of away fixtures against some of the top outfits in the section. However, it is difficult to excuse the manner of this defeat against a club they took to the wire at St James's Park on the opening day of the campaign. For the first time this season, Blake named an unchanged starting line-up and, despite a couple of early scares, Exeter seemed to have settled well at a boisterous and near-full Ninian Park. But their season-long susceptability at set pieces reared its ugly head on 22 minutes when they fell behind to a cleverly worked Cardiff corner. Rhys Weston's stinging 18-yard drive was charged down by Chris Curran, but the ball broke to Scott Young who fired unerringly home. City nearly carved out at equaliser when striker Paul Read cheekily stuck out a foot while lying on his back inside the Cardiff box. Startled Bluebirds 'keeper Mark Walton managed to stick out a glove and Curran only just failed to reach the rebound. However, the Welshmen doubled their advantage within three minutes of the restart when skipper Andy Legg whipped over a cross for new £550,000 frontman Gavin Gordon to head in from six yards. With the livewire Jason Bowen popping up all over the pitch, City were suddenly overwhelmed by Cardiff's superior movement, flair, passing, pace, width, vision, and awareness. The excellent Matthew Brazier then exposed another yawning gap in the Grecians rearguard, Bowen pulling the ball back for Legg to smash home the third. The fourth goal duly arrived three minutes later when substitute wing back Josh Low cut in menacingly from the right flank before feeding Bowen, whose shot flew just inside the near post. And another delicious Low pass then found an unmarked Brazier who emphat- ically smashed Cardiff's fifth past a shell- shocked Arjan Van Heusden. To their credit, the Grecians remained determined to rescue at least a slither of pride and Steve Flack forced a flying save out of Walton following a flowing Exeter move. Jamie Campbell nodded a foot over the bar from the resulting corner. And another looping John Cornforth flag kick then led to City's goal, Walton saving superbly from the boot of Campbell only for a crestfallen Andrew Jordan to slice into his own net from point-blank range. But Cardiff completed their biggest win of the season after Neil Whitworth got himself into a tangle deep into his own half. Substitute Paul Brayson toyed with a back-pedalling Blake before slotting the ball effortlessly into the far bottom corner.
M Walton, D Gabbidon, S McCulloch, M Brazier, J Bowen, A Legg, R Weston, J Harper, S Young, G Gordon, R Earnshaw
P Brayson (for Gordon 67 minutes), K Nogan, J Eckhardt, J Low (McCulloch 55), A Jordan (Young 64).
A Van Heusden, N Whitworth, G Power, C Curran, J Campbell, P Buckle, J Cornforth A Roscoe, F Tierney, S Flack, P Read
S Fraser, K Ampadu (Tierney 71), G Tomlinson, C Holloway (Holloway 55), N Blake (Roscoe 64).
Young 22 (1-0)
Gordon 47 (2-0)
Legg 59 (3-0)
Bowen 63 (4-0)
Brazier 66 (5-0)
Jordan o.g 79 (5-1)
Brayson 87 (6-1)
CARDS - Booked:
Read, Power, Whitworth (Exeter).
Shots on target: Cardiff 11, Exeter 4 Corners: Cardiff 6, Exeter 6
Fouls: Cardiff 8, Exeter 17
Offsides: Cardiff 4, Exeter 5
Referee: Anthony Bates (Stoke-onTrent)
PAUL READ Worked tirelessly up front for scant reward and the former Arsenal striker never let his head drop.
"I really feel a little bit sorry for Exeter...it just clicked for us today"
- Cardiff owner Sam Hammam