CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW: Cardiff City v Nottingham Forest

Cardiff City will welcome Nottingham Forest to Cardiff City Stadium this Good Friday. The Bluebirds are looking to push their way into a play-off spot while Forest are looking to put more room between them and the relegation places.

The Bluebirds returned to winning ways in their game as they beat bitter rivals Swansea thanks to an Aden Flint header. It was the Bluebirds fist win after a run of three without one, however, Cardiff have only lost once since the arrival of Mick McCarthy. Forest are without a win in six with three draws and three defeats.

The sides have met twice this season with City winning in the reverse league meeting and Forest winning in an FA Cup third round tie. Cardiff have won eight out of the last ten league meetings between the sides.

Curtis Nelson and Perry Ng have recovered from injuries and could feature on Friday. Lee Tomlin, meanwhile, suffered a setback prior to a under 23’s games this week which will delay his return. Jordi Osei-Tutu is back in training, but will not play a part at the weekend.

For Forest defender Joe Worrall is still suffering from a rib injury and is a doubt for the trip to Cardiff. Former Cardiff man Harry Arter is still out with a calf injury. Joe Lolley is also likely out for the season, and Gaeten Bong is another who is a doubt for the trip to Wales.

Ahead of the game, Cardiff Manager Mick McCarthy said:

“I would prefer to be top and they are all chasing me! But considering when we played Bristol, we could have gone fourth or fifth bottom.

“You could sense the change around the place, the confidence. We are now nipping at those in front of us.

“If you’re in the top six, all you worry about is falling out of it.

“Even if you’re in the bottom three, you’re chasing to get out. Fourth or fifth bottom, you don’t want to drop in now.”

Forest Manager Chris Hughton told Nottinghamforest.co.uk:

“The only points in my mind at the moment are in the next game and trying to win that. It is such an unpredictable league this season, with performances and those teams that can beat any team on any given day.

“So many of the results show that and it is very difficult, you don’t know how that run in will be. You look at the teams towards the bottom of the table and any team is capable of putting together a decent run.

“We want to finish the season as well as we can and, at any stage of the season, there are always influences that can affect your thinking. There are players that over a short period of time put some better thoughts into your mind or change your mind about them.

“Also, we would rather go into the start of next season after a decent end to the season. Although there is a gap in between, you can psychologically have that little bit of momentum.”

Prediction: Cardiff City 2 – 0 Nottingham Forest

FA WSL Round up: The Blues remain top of Women Super league

Champions Chelsea remain top of the WSL after two goals from Sam Kerr earned them a win over struggling Aston Villa.

Manchester City kept the gap at the top to two points with a 87 minute winner from Chloe Kelly helped them to a one nil win over Reading.

Manchester United, meanwhile, remain in third spot as Lauren James and Cristen Press scored in a two nil win over West Ham.

Arsenal also won the North London derby by three goals over Tottenham with goals from Caitlin Foord, Vivianne Miedema and Katie McCabe.

Elsewhere, Everton hit Brighton for five, Hayley Raso getting a hat trick, while Birmingham and Bristol City drew 1-1, with Bristol moving into tenth place.

Manchester United 2 – 0 West Ham United

It was a historic day for Manchester United as they played at Old Trafford for the first time.

United had an early chance as Lauren James turned on the edge of the box and looked to put the ball into the top corner. Her effort however was comfortable for West Ham keeper Courtney Brosnan.

West Ham’s Martha Thomas made a decent run at the home side defence but put her shot wide of the goal.

United took the lead not long after half time with James scoring. West Ham failed to clear a United corner, and Maria Thorisdottir headed back across the six yard box towards James who’s flicked header from close range found the net.

It was 2-0 just six minutes later with Press getting onto Jackie Groenen’s though ball. Groenen ran at the West Ham defence and despite having her shirt tugged was able to slide the ball into the box finding the run of Press who finished with the inside of her left foot.

The home side were in control of the second half were helped as Laura Vetterlein was shown a second yellow for cynical foul.

A good win for United on their first appearance at old Trafford, midfielder Ella Tonne living the dream told BBC Sport:

“As a Manchester United fan it was a dream come true to play on such an amazing pitch so it was a special occasion and I’m glad we went out there and got the three points.”

Manager Casey Stoney was more concerned with her side performance than the venue:

“We weren’t good in the first half – that was probably the worst I’ve seen us in a long, long time, so I think there was definitely a case of the occasion. That’s done now. They know what it’s like.

“Players know when they are not good enough. I said [at half-time] if you want to qualify for Champions League football, you have to play at a Champions League standard and we weren’t.

“When we started playing collectively in the second half we were better.”

Tottenham Hotspur 0 – 3 Arsenal

Arsenal secured 3-0 win over Tottenham in the North London Derby, which was played at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Caitlin Foord linked with Noelle Martiz down the Tottenham right to give The Gunners the lead after 25 minutes.

Arsenal were on top as the first half went on with Jordan Nobbs twice trying from outside the box forcing Rebecca Spencer into action. Spencer making two good saves to keep her side in the game.

The visitors pressure did tell as Vivianne Miedema made it two nil. Katie McCabe’s whipped in a corner which was met on the volley by Miedema and riffled into the top corner.

McCabe made sure of the win with Arsenals third just after the hour. A poor pass from Abbie McManus allowed McCabe into the box and she put the ball past Spencer.

Tottenham had the chance to pull a goal back but were denied by a triple save from Manuela Zinsberger.

The win keeps Arsenal in fourth just three points of Manchester United with a game in hand.

Chelsea 2- 0 Aston Villa

Chelsea cruised to victory over Aston Villa with two goals from Sam Kerr.

Kerr’s first came after 24 minutes after Fran Kirby lifted the ball into the box and Kerr looped her header over Villa keeper Lisa Weiss.

It was Kirby and Kerr who combined for the second after 57 minutes. Kirby finding Kerr in space in the box and Kerr lifted her shot over the keeper.

Kerr had the chance of a hat trick after being played in by Harder but she sent her shot just wide.

Chelsea were always in control of this game but were unable to get a third goal.

Chelsea manager Emma Hayes praised the duo of Kirby and Kerr:

“Both of them are in the form of their lives and that combination is dynamite, it’s telepathic. It’s rare in football to find those things. I know that they are going to get chances in every game and it’s about capitalising on those chances.”

Manchester City 1 – 0 Reading

City left it late to clam victory at home to Reading with Kelly scoring the winner in the 87th minute.

Rose Lavelle forced Grace Moloney into a good save as City looked to gain the advantage. Moloney had to sharpe again turning away Caroline Weir’s low effort.

Reading almost took the lead as Fishlock played Eikeland in and the Norwegian International forced a good save from Ellie Roebuck.

Kelly put a good low cross across the Reading six yard line, but Stanway subsequently put it wide. A real chance to give City the lead.

Lauren Hemp saw her effort come back off the post, again coming from a Chole Kelly cross across the Reading Box.

The second half started like the first as Moloney again denied Lavelle. The American shooting from the edge of the area only to see Moloney turn it away.

It was looking like a frustrating night for City as Weir then shot over the bar.

City did get their breakthrough in the 87th minute with Chole Kelly finishing. After a mesmerizing run from Lauren Hemp, who made her way past four Reading players. She squared the ball to give Kelly a tap in.

A vital win for City in their chase for the title but heart breaking for Reading who battled and defended so well for this game.

Brighton 0 – 5 Everton

Everton put in a dominant performance as they put five past Brighton.

A mix up in the Brighton defence saw Raso fouled and Everton win a penalty. Izzy Christiansen put the penalty into the bottom left corner, Megan Walsh went the right way but unable to stop it.

Hayley Raso made it two after running past several Brighton players into the box to poke the ball into the net.

Raso had her second just after the restart. Claire Emslie taking advantage of an error by Maya Le Tissier to give Raso a easy header on the line.

Simone Magill added a fourth after more sloppy defending from the home side. Raso then got her hat trick shooting though a crowd of players to wrap up a good away day for Everton.

Birmingham City 1 – 1 Bristol City

In a relegation battle Birmingham and Bristol hap to share the points. Ruesha Littlejohn tested City keeper Sophie Baggaley early on, the Bristol keeper pushing the long range effort over the bar.

Bristol took the lead on 13 minutes, Carla Humphrey’s initial effort blocked the ball fell to Charlie Wellings who turned the ball home.

Birmingham levelled on 58 minutes thanks to Christie Murray, firing a shot into the top corner from inside the box.

Gary Bowyer appointed Salford City Manager

The former Blackburn Rovers and Blackpool manager Gary Bowyer has agreed to become the new boss of Salford City until the end of the 2020-21 season. 

The 49-year-old is set to become Salford’s third manager of the campaign after Richie Wellens was sacked on Monday having been in charge for just four months.  

Wellens had led Salford to victory in the EFL Trophy 2019/20 final a little over a week ago, as they were able to overcome Portsmouth. It was his performances in the league, however, that proved the ex-Swindon manager’s undoing and prompted Gary Neville and ‘Class of 92’ to sack him.  

Bowyer is currently set to take charge of Salford’s remaining 11 games before returning to Derby to resume his role as their Under 23s boss.  He is going to be assisted by former Manchester United Coach Warren Joyce, who has also had spells as manager with Wigan Athletic and Melbourne City, and ex-Manchester United and Everton midfielder Darren Gibson.   

Following his appointment, Bowyer said: 

I’m delighted to be here, I’ve got to first and foremost thank Wayne Rooney, Darren Wassall at Derby County for being so helpful to allow me to come here. Obviously today is a case of meeting the players and setting the expectations of what we expect of them from now until the end of the season.

“We want them to be playing aggressive football both with and without the ball, and have a right good go at these remaining 11 games. We have an opportunity like everybody else in this league to try and force our way into the reckoning to try and get into the play offs and see if we can do that.”

During his playing days Bowyer played as a full back for Hereford United and Rotherham United, but he had to retire early due to injury.  He was, however, part of the successful Miller’s side who won the EFL Trophy in 1996.  

As a Manager, meanwhile, one of his main highlights so far has been winning promotion from League Two with Blackpool via the play-offs in 2017.  

Indeed, that is something that Neville and the Class of 92 will want Bowyer to emulate with their Salford side who are six points outside of the play-off places following there 2-0 loss to leaders Cheltenham Town.  His first game in charge will be against fellow play-off hopefuls Exeter City this weekend.  

Can Salford still achieve promotion to League One this season? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below….   

The Guardiola Effect

With Portsmouth appointing Danny Cowley and his Brother Nicky as new coaches yesterday and having watched their interview, It was hard not to start thinking of the Guardiola Effect.

In case you haven’t seen the interview, the Cowley brothers were asked how they like their teams to play football.

The answer …

With a High Pressing line, attacking on the front foot and fast, giving the opposition no time to think

Having listened to this, the mind started to wander towards Pep Guardiola. You see his teams have played that way for years. The results are obvious. Trophies!

Now you can argue that he has brought success, but there are many negations for that, because players still have to perform. Although, if you were in charge of a team that had very very rich owners giving you a blank cheque book to buy the best, then I challenge you to not buy them.

Its this transition caused by Guardiola, that has led a number of managers to follow suit. Some examples are: Mauricio Pochettino, now at Paris St Germain, Maurizio Sarri, formerly of Chelsea and Juventus and Jurgen Klopp, of… Oh Yes, Liverpool.

Now these are some more famous examples. Each of course would argue that he has his own ideas behind that philosophy. Lets, however, look closer to home for some more examples of The Guardiola Effect.

In the Championship, Darren Moore now at Sheffield Wednesday, while in League One: Grant McCann at Hull City, Russ Martin at MK Dons. More on MK Dons in a moment. Mark Robinson at AFC Wimbledon and finally Darren Ferguson at Peterborough All of these are managers who, are adapting the Guardiola effect.

Now when you actually stop and think about it, the principle is very simple. Your team has two parts of its game. In Possession and Out of Possession. Simply put, when you lose the ball your have to win it back again and keep control of it so you can dictate the pace of the game and wear the other team down.

Ultimately, you want to be playing in your opponents defensive area, which is your final third because attack is the best form of defence.

Make Sense?…

Games of Football are won by scoring goals and not conceding them. This was embodied by Guardiola’s teams at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and now Manchester City

If you concede more than one every game, then clearly you are not going to be very successful. This brings me on very nicely to two team who through the years, do this very well.

First cast your mind back, waayy back to the mid-eighties. Wimbledon, love them or loathe them, played the game this way. In those days they played the POMO game – Possession Of Maximum Opportunity.

It was successful, though they bypassed the midfield and relied on winning second balls, they gained lots of promotions this way and won an FA Cup Final in 1988 against Liverpool thanks to a Lawrie Sanchez goal.

Bolton Wanderers, years later under Sam Allardyce, were also as successful playing like this. Now fast forward to date and this current season. Currently in League One, MK Dons under the guidance of Russ Martin, they are arguably playing the most successful brand of football throughout the Football League.

They play possession based football, which week in week out causes their opponents no end of problems and Martin’s side invariably win the stats charts by miles compared to other teams.

MK Dons, play the Guardiola Effect very well, wearing teams down and it is no coincidence that they often score last minute goals, simply because the other team are tired from trying to win the ball back.

The transition is fairly smooth and the opposition very rarely get to touch the ball. A testament to how effective this style of play is demonstrated by regular appearances of MK Dons players’ names appearing in the League One Team of the Week.

Now they may not win promotion this season, but the play-offs are a possibility along with Portsmouth. They will be strong favourites for automatic promotion, possibly even as champions next season from League One.

Whether Portsmouth do get Promotion this season via the play-offs, due to the Guardiola effect remains to be seen, but it will be an exciting period in PO4 for the next 12 games.

So, who else will the Guardiola Effect… Affect?

DONS Youth Show The Way

AFC Wimbledon’s Youth side last night showed the Senior Team just how to win a football match by beating Burnley 1-0 in the FA Youth Cup at Plough Lane.

The team has been together for a few years now and they successfully took the game to their Premier League counterparts. The result was all the more enjoyable because Burnley are a Category One Premier League Youth set up unlike AFC Wimbledon.

In another twist of irony, the game at Plough Lane last night was AFC Wimbledons Youth sides first appearance at the Stadium

In addition, it also came some 46 years after the original Wimbledon Travelled to Lancashire in the FA Cup and defeated Burnley 1-0. The goal on that memorable occassion was scored by Mick Mahon.

Fast forward to the present day, however, and it was Wimbledon who took the game to their Premier League opponents.

In yet another ironic twist, The Dons formation for last night’s game was a 3-5-2 formation. Yes!!!… the very same much maligned formation the first team were playing before Glyn Hodges left by mutual consent.

On this occassion the 3-5-2 formation was made up like this: Three central defenders, two holding midfielders-to give cover to the back line while also allowing the left and right sided central defenders to provide overlaps for the midfield, four midfielders, which comprised two wing backs and two central midfielders, one of which was an attacking midfielder and finally one lone striker.

From the outset The Dons took the game to Burnley and were unlucky not to be leading at the break.

It should also be pointed out, that AFC Wimbledon’s youngsters are no strangers to getting good results. In the past they have also won significant victories against Newcastle and Chelsea.

They have also won a trophy this season by beating Rotherham on their own patch, courtesy of a goal from Matthew Cox… Their Goalkeeper, who used to to play, of all things… Rugby!!

Last night, however, he was just one of the stars as Wimbledon scored their 81st minute winner through Paris Lock.

What is clearly very evident, is that the Youth team are showing the Senior Team the way forward and are in a lot of ways better to watch than the seniors, though that is a matter for another day.

For now though, the Dons Youth March on!

THE FANS PLATFORM

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