Severn sins leave Cardiff in search of redemption

Bristol City 3 Cardiff City 0
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The Independent Football

There may have been local bragging rights for Bristol City to claim after winning their first Severnside derby in nine attempts, but the continuing decline of Cardiff City is obviously of wider interest as the promotion race opens up. One by one the wheels are coming off what had been a seemingly irresistible bandwagon.

Having started the day in second, Cardiff now find themselves in fifth. And the fact that it is their nearest and dearest Swansea who have advanced into the automatic berth will not help their disposition any. Yet Cardiff can hardly bemoan their position, having taken eight out of a possible 30 points.

It has been a dreadful run, compounded by back-to-back drubbings in the stuffing season. On Tuesday, they shipped four goals at Watford; at Ashton Gate yesterday it was three as Bristol City pulled themselves away from the relegation zone. "That was our best home performance of the season," said manager Keith Millen. His mood was in direct contrast to that of Dave Jones.

The Cardiff manager told one inquisitor he was "out of order" for asking whether he felt under pressure. "Look, we're fifth, three points off second," he said. "If that's pressure then you're looking at the wrong end of the table." Nevertheless, Jones did admit his side's deficiencies. "It's been a miserable couple of months to be honest," he said. "The way we are defending at the moment is certainly not the best. The players need to step up to the plate."

Jones is reportedly in the market for a centre-half, and whoever comes in cannot arrive soon enough as the two first-half goals highlighted. They were carbon copies and, with respect to the pinpoint accuracy of Jon Stead's crosses, they were Cardiff cock-ups. The left-back Lee Naylor twice went AWOL, allowing Stead to find Brett Pitman and then, at the same far post, Lee Johnson.

Pitman's opener came in the third minute and it was just the start Millen was hoping for against a side who quite clearly have lost their confidence. No one sums up the frustration better than Craig Bellamy. But then, nobody ever could.

His boots might have been bright yellow, but his face was the angrier shade of red for much of the afternoon. The captain frequently snapped at his faltering team-mates, though they might have expected more from a player reportedly on £90,000-a-week.

It was Stead, not Bellamy, who stood out as the star performer. And last night he might well have enjoyed a smirk as he remembered Blackburn letting him go after signing Bellamy.

If there was the faintest measure of revenge to take in that regard, then the memories of Cardiff's 6-0 victory here last season made this afternoon all the sweeter.

Cardiff had their chances in the first half, David James saving at the feet of Michael Chopra, who also struck the post. But after the break they were abject. Credit to the Robins, who beat their red breasts and refused to sit back.

Tom Heaton had to be sharp when denying Pitman and Stead. However, there was to be no stopping Jamal Campbell-Ryce in the 55th minute, the Jamaican international unleashing a clinical strike into the corner of the net.

That, in effect, was that. Cardiff had neither the wit nor inclination to launch any sort of comeback.