Sunday, October 31, 2010

We are top of the league! City 3-1 Norwich

I had predicted a win by two goals (to myself and Ministats anyway) ahead of this game, and for once my predications came true.

In startling and ridiculously open first period, both teams went at it hammer and tongs. Norwich certainly hadn't come to sit back and soak up City's attacks and try and hit us on the counter.

However, it was the Bluebirds who took the lead after just 9 minutes when a superb Whittingham corner was headed back across goal by Gabor Gyepes, and Bothroyd nodded home from a yard. If that wasn't enough, just three minutes later a classic keeper punt, and nod on by Bothroyd put Chopra through. It looked like he'd messed his first touch, but he's a class act finding his sharpness, and he slotted the ball under the advancing keeper for 2-0. Last week against bottom of the table Bristol City we were two down after 8 minutes, and here a week later after 12 minutes we were two up against fourth placed Norwich! Football is indeed a bizarre game.

Credit to Norwich though, who were still playing good, pacy football, with Naylor once again being given a hard time at left back. The Canaries piled on the pressure on the edge of the 18 yard box with the City faithful howling for someone to just try and get a tackle in. They seemed incapable of challenging for the ball at this point. This intense period did see Norwich put the ball in the net, but it was ruled out for a push - one of the abysmal Mr Scott's better refereeing decisions of the day.

Eventually though you just knew the pressure was going to produce result,s and Hoolahan nipped in front of Gypes for a brave header that brought the score back to 2-1.

Two minutes later though and it was 3-1 when Ward was adjudged to have handled when the ball hit him. It may have been harsh if you're of the ball to hand school, but from where I was sat in the Grange End, it was a clear handball. The linesman gave it, and after their No. 9 Grant Holt tried putting Petter Whittingham off by moaning about the placement on the spot (to be honest Holt spent most of the match whingeing about something or other), Whitts slotted the ball in for 3-1.

Seconds later, it could and should have been 4-1. In build up play Naylor was clattered. Mr Scott saw no reason to give a foul (his decision making was at best ropey all day long), the ball fell to Chopra and he was hauled down just inside the box. If the handball penalty was dubious (it wasn't), this was a no-brainer penalty and red card, but Mr Scott just waved play on. I don't know which match he was watching, but it wasn't the same one I was.

I said after the Bristol City match that the standard of refereeing in this League is shocking, and Mr Scott's performance today has done nothing to alter that view.

In the second period, things predictably quietened down a bit. The Bluebirds got hold of the ball, and importantly generally held on to it well. The Canaries still piled on pressure when they got the ball, but City's defence was stouter and more marshalled. Bothroyd had a screamer bounce back off the bar, and both he, and Burke could and probably should have scored late on when City were in the last 10 minutes and in total control.

The one blot on the match was the (almost inevitable) yellow for Bothroyd for a challenge on Smith. Bothroyd's claimed on Twitter and in reports that he never touched the Canary man, and it looked a harsh decision, but the ref had such a shocker whether or not Bothroyd caught him it was probably going to happen.
That means our talismanic front man misses the next match - the huge South Wales derby v Swansea at CCS on Sunday. It couldn't be a worse match to miss, but it's done and we have to get on with it - Jones will have to remind City players to play the ball to feet, as with Chopra, and Bellamy our attacking options are, well, short, to say the least.

So our three points, plus QPR dropping points at home to Burnley means for the moment anyway, City sit proudly atop the Npower Championship.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Center Parcs photos

Photos from this weeks trip to Center Parcs can be found here

All back safe and sound from our trip to Center Parcs. Despite a few whinges (see last but one post) it's been great fun, and only when you rejoin the roads and the rate race on the way home do you appreciate the CP experience for what it is.

Everything they say (who?) is a learning experience. One thing I've learnt this week, is there comes a time when showing off to your kids isn't worth doing.

Yesterday arriving back at our villa in the evening after a lovely meal at the Italian Restaurant I came down the quite short, but quite steep hill by our villa at a fair lick (it's a paved path), and attempted to skid the back wheel on my bike left then right to negotiate a slight zig-zag in the path. I'd done this successfully a couple of times over the week, but last night I got it wrong.

The left skid went according to plan, the back wheel slipping away from me, but I over-compensated on the right skid, the wheel hit a patch of wet mud, and the rest, as they say is history. Crashed and burned big time. Mud everywhere, but mostly over me. Only two good things to come out of it. 1) no broken bones, but that's more luck than judgement, and 2) that only my kids saw it!

I'm almost 51 for God's sake! Let it go.......Where's my pipe and slippers.....

Bye bye Pipex

I'm on my way to leaving Pipex. I've threatened this for a long time and recently decided I was going to do the deed.

Today I rang them and asked for my MAC code which will allow me to leave and go to another provider. Tales of trouble trying to leave Pipex abound in various Forums, but this first stage seemed to be a pretty painless process. The person I spoke to tried the usual to get me to stay but once I made it clear all I wanted was my MAC code, he got the message. He couldn't give me the code then and there (why not?) but told me I'd get it via email, text, post and via voicemail on my landline with 5 working days. I got a reference number too, so let's see how it goes from here.

As previously mentioned, I think I'm going to BE broadband. Unlimited usage for £13.75 a month. Sadly, whichever provider I go to I think the max download speed I'll get is about 2 meg, but I'm not close to that with Pipex, and the contention issues in the evening make it even worse.

Fingers crossed

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Center Parcs - the good and the bad

We're currently on a short midweek break to Center Parcs (Longleat Forest). We've been many times before, so we know what we're doing here. Generally it's a great min-break. Devoid of cars (mostly) the "village" is about bikes, walks, forest, nature and activities - or just relaxing.

With our kids now 16 (almost) and 13, it's great because we can just about leave them to their own things, although generally they've stuck with us. So far we've done a 3 hour spa session (me & Mrs Stats - the kids went off for night time swimming in the sub-tropical swimming paradise), a nature walk around Longleat estate with a conservation ranger, archery (kids), American Pool, crazy golf, lots of swimming/rapids/slides, eaten too much, bike rides around the forest and later we're going for an "Outing with Owls". All brilliant fun.

The downside? It's very expensive. Basically you pay for your accomodation - a "villa" in the forest. Most of them look a bit like posh portacabins, and many of them appear a bit run down from the outside. To be fair Center Parcs appear to be in the process of refurbishing them, but it's a big job on a 400 acre site with over 700 villas.

Inside they're fairly comfortable, with the basic level offering all you need. Pay eve more and the facilities increase. They also come in 2 berth to 8 berth sizes so can suit couples or family groups. As with many holiday companies, the prices are hiked ridiculously in school holidays. The same holiday for us a couple of weeks away from half term would probably be half the price.

You get access to the sub-tropical swimming paradise with all the rapids, flumes etc thrown in for free, but petty much everything else you have to pay for. But you pays your money and takes your choice. You don't have to if you don't want to. But it can get expensive if you want to get involved in lots of activities.

This time round, much as I've enjoyed it, I get a sense that some of the polish of our earlier visits has vanished. When we first came 15 years ago, it felt almost exclusive. Now it feels a bit like a poshed up Butlins. Actually, that's harsh, but but you might get a sense of what I mean. A lot of the utensils/cutlery in our villa was not clean, the customer service is patchy - great most of the time, iffy now and again.
And for a techno like me, being (mostly) away from a 3G/wifi and even GPRS signal for almost a week is hard going. There is free wifi at the main centres, and in the posher villas, but keeping a connection is hit and miss - at least was for me.

But at the end of the day, it's still a great holiday. Feeding squirrels from your hand out of your patio door, seeing hares, deer (we haven't this time but we have before) a multiple birdlife in the midst of a big forest, where it gets so dark you can really see the stars properly, and swimming in the open air on starry nights is fantastic.

Will we come again? Yes.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cheaper to start again?

I think I've probably ranted on here before about the extortionate price of ink for inkjet printers. I read somewhere once that ink for these, ounce for ounce is probably more expensive than gold. Whether that's true or not I' don't know, but it's an interesting tale.

Anyway, what's clear is that when your shiny new printer runs dry of ink and you come to replace the cartridges, you'd better have your credit card with you, because the cost of doing so can almost be as much as buying a completely new printer!

I've recently experienced the same thing when buying replacement shaver heads for my electric razor. Three new cutting heads for my Phillips razor cost over £30. I can certainly buy a brand new bottom of the range electric razor for that money - quite why anyone would need to pay the £150 plus for a top of the range razor is beyond me (do they make tea as well?). And you'd get a bucket load of plastic Bics for that!

Anyone know of any other commodities where to replace a part to keep the original unit going makes you wonder if it's not worth junking the lot and buying a new unit?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

City going strong: Coventry 1-2 City

City triumphed at the Ricoh Arena tonight and in doing so tightened their grip on second spot, and narrowed the deficit to QPR to only 2 points after the leaders could only draw with the Jacks at the Liberty Stadium.

The Bluebirds, started with Coventry old boys Craig Bellamy and Jay Bothroyd, and they got off to a flier when Peter Whittingham scored from the spot after only three minutes. Whitt's who's missed twice from the spot so far this term, made no mistake, his confidence heightened by his two goals on Saturday.

Coventry clawed once back just before the break, and despite chances at both ends, it looked like the points were going to be shared until Jay Bothroyd, touted for an England call up by manager Dave Jones scored in the 87th minute to send the City faithful at the stadium, on the radio, and like me catching up via tweets whilst in a cricket committee meeting, into raptures!

City now have a five point cushion over third places Watford, and are sniffing at QPR's coat tails. Some big matches follow, with Leeds away next Monday, then Norwich and the really big one, the Jacks at home on 14th November.

I'll settle for seven points from nine over that lot, providing three come against the Jacks!


Sunday, October 17, 2010

App karma

Following my post of a few weeks ago about the multiplicity of to do and note type apps on my iPhone, I think I have finally settled on a set up that seems to be working for me, far better than any previous approach.

For Notes I'm using Evernote. I splashed out on the premium version, mostly because I want to have my notes available at all times, not just when I have an internet connection. I'm using both the iPhone app and the cloud version on my Macbook Pro and PC, which works just fine. I've migrated all my others notes from others apps, and everything seems to be going OK. I like the way I can clip to Evernote from a web page using Firefox's EN plugin too.

For my to do app, I'm using Appigo's ToDo. I have to say I really, really, like this app. I've tried three of four (at least) other to do type apps, and all have their merits, but nearly all have substantial flaws (for me at least). the Appigo offering is great. It's neat and simple if that's all you want, offers lots of options if you want to, and I'm growing into it more each day. If you have an iPhone, and like to keep your to do list in order, I highly recommend this app.

I'm also finding that my app use is steadying down. Thought I've downloaded a couple of hundred apps over the life of my iPhone, I'm really only using a few in anger with any degree of regularity. They are (and this is only the order in which they appear in my homescreen, and exclude things like Settings, Mail, Messages and Contacts as I'd assume anyone would use those regularly:
There are loads more obviously - I have about 100 plus apps ont eh phone at the moment, but these are the ones I use as a matter of course on a day in, day out basis plus mail, messages, calendar, safari and contacts.


What is going on at Liverpool?

They've under performed for years, notwithstanding an an increasingly occasional Champions League Cup. Their more recent history under Rafa Benitez, Messr's Hicks and Gillett, and Roy Hodgson is the stuff of nightmares for such a big club.

Surely, this new deal with NESV will turn things round? Maybe, but not in the immediate short term. They were absolutely abysmal today against Everton, and I'd seriously fancy City's chances of giving them a good thrashing. Is Hodgson the man to do it with new owner John W Henry? I'm not so sure.

I hope they sort it out. I used to support them as a schoolboy, when everyone else in my class supported Leeds (I'm talking the days of Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Tommy Smith and Steve Heighway here by the way). Even now as a Cardiff City fan for many years, Liverpool are still the Premiership side I always want to do well.

Video technology and offside

Now I'm not a great fan of Blackpool FC, seeing as how they beat us in the Championship Play-Off final this year, but you've got to hand it to them. They're making a great fist of playing in the Premiership, and for most of the game with Man City today, they were by far the better, and more entertaining side.

But, because definitely two, and possibly three big decisions went against them, they lost.

Tangerines boss Ian Holloway, always an entertaining person to be interviewed, aired his thoughts on the BBC website after the match where he, like millions of others is scratching his head wondering why football won't embrace video technology for key decisions.

Blackpool were way on top when their "opening goal" was ruled out for offside, although Taylor-Fletcher the man who "scored" clearly wasn't offside (I'll come back to the offside rule in a mo).

Then Man City scored to go ahead with a goal from Carlos Teves that clearly WAS offside, but that stood. Holloway's issue with the third decision, where he claims a foul on his centre half which led to Man City's second is more debatable, as 1) I thought Man City could have had a foul seconds before, and 2) the level of contact is almost impossible to see.

These decisions change games, but hey also change careers. A manager can be sacked if performances are poor, but what if performances are poor because of decisions like this?

And so to the offside rule. Confusing at best, this weekend has brought a rash of comments about goals scored when a player "technically" in an offside position, has been stood in front of a 'keeper in such a way as it "could" be argued that he's impeding the view of the 'keeper, but because he's not "active" he's not offside? Eh?

This weekend's example, and I'm sure there are more, include Gallas for spurs in their match with Fulham, an Everton player blocking Reina's view in the Merseyside derby, and even, dare I say it, Jay Bothroyd standing in front of David James in yesterday's Severnside derby (of course though it's all right if it's your own team (!). In today's Man City v Blackpool match, Taylor -Fletchers perfectly valid goal was ruled out because the ball had passed close by (but interestingly had not touched) another Blackpool player who was in an offside position when the ball was played, but who played no part in the goal (other than, presumably, the linesman, oops, sorry, assistant referee, though he was "active" (because he was on the pitch?) See above. Confusing? Sure confuses me.

This has got to be sorted. How can a player, deliberately and conciously standing in an offside position, bang in front of a 'keeper not be active in the game? As many a pundit would say, if he's not active, what's he doing on the pitch?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Where do you start? City 3-2 Bristol City

This was a game and a half for all sorts of reasons. A Severnside derby, only outshone by a game against the Jacks, the Robins cam to the CCS rock bottom, shipping goals like a leaky sieve.

It looked like the Bluebirds defenders were still on the international break when City found themselves 2-0 down after only 8 minutes. Sloppy defending gave away a needless free kick toward the corner flag and woeful marking let in Caulker from the ensuing free kick. Only 2 minutes later, the Bluebirds defence were static again as Stead flicked home a loose ball and City had it all to do.

Thankfully the goals came early, and Bristol City aren't the Championship's bottom side for nothing. In a crazy opening spell Bothroyd grabbed one back for City on 12 minutes. Gradually City settled and fashioned the better chances, with Bothroyd and Chopra both going close, but City were still a goal down at the break, but looking the more likely.

And so it proved. Two minutes into the second period, Whittingham curled a long range free kick into the box, everyone let it go, and one bounce was enough to see it into the cornner past a flailing David James. The Bluebirds supporters were understandably ecstatic. Level from 2 down, and last seasons' top scorer in the League, Whittingham, finally off and running. Whether it was meant to be a shot, or just a hopeful hit into the box that everyone missed, only he will know - but he won't care either way.

Despite City's growing dominance, they still looked awful at the back. All four of the back row looked uncertain at times. Naylor, Hudson and Gyepes are all suspect against pace, and all of them too often dwell on the ball trying to play their way out when a good punt into the stands or upfield would be the better option.

In midfield, Olifanjana is a towering presence and City are a different proposition when he's in the team. He needs Drinkwater back with him though. Stephen McPhail seems to have reverted to type, playing the ball in any direction except forward. Koumas, who replaced Burke late on is not showing anything like the form of his previous City spell (yet), and Blake of course was suspended for this one.

Chopra worked hard, but still looks like he's trying too hard, and Bothroyd, is well, Bothroyd. Brilliant one minute, and frustrating the next. Booked for kicking the ball away, he's too quick to get on the wrong side of referees for his dissent. Just play the game Jay - you're good at it.

Talking of refs, today official Mr Moss (yes you sir, stand up and take a bow) had a shocker. In mitigation, the general standard of Championship refs isn't great, but you have to have some sympathy for the players today. He was the absolute epitome of inconsistency. Blowing up for fouls in the final third (either end), and completely ignoring some fairly rash stuff in the middle third. Booking Bothroyd for kicking the ball away late on, but only giving a Robins player a taking to earlier for the same offence. If I was a player, I'm, sure I'd be angry and frustrated too.

Anyway, back to the game City's dominance deserved another goal, and when Whittingham was bundled over dead centre about 22 yards out, the only worry was that Koumas who had rushed over was going to take the kick. He didn't. Whittingham did. 3-2.

In a match that had it all, there was almost a great moment for the City fans, when following a great move and cross by Burke, David James pulled of a phenomenal save, he and his captain Louis Carey went toe to toe, and only the referee stepping in stopped one of them decking the other. To be fair, I though the ref should have let that one run!

So, three points to City and a great fight back showing great character, but it can't hide some fairly bad flaws in City's defense. Dave Jones needs to get that sorted asap. Whether Chris Riggot is the answer, only time will tell.

And to top off a great afternoon, I held the third place winning ticket in the half time 50/50 match draw, which nets me a signed match ball. Result!

Oh, and one more thing whilst I'm at it. Why oh why do I struggle so to get a decent 3G signal at CCS? It's normally crap, although for the Wales game last week it was wall to wall 4 bars 3G. Today? Zip, bugger all again. Almost impossible to get anything except a bog standard GPRS signal as soon as I get anywhere near the stadium. Makes tweeting nigh on impossible.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Ok, that's it. Goodbye Pipex

I've finally had enough. Very shortly I'm going to be saying au revoir to Pipex internet. I've been with them years, but through the various acquisitions - first by Tiscali, then by Talk Talk/Opal the service has become poorer and poorer. There are times when my internet link just appears to turn up it's toes and say, "not tonight".

I've hung on, out of some misplaced loyalty to a company that's long since vanished as it used to exist when I started with them, but reading this months PC Pro Awards (you can't read them online yet - I've seen them because I'm a subscriber so get the mag early), Pipex languish in 16th place for fixed line broadband providers, held off rock bottom place only by AOL. These awards are based on readers experiences, so they aren't biased by anything particularly other then real life scenarios, and there had to be a certain number of readers submitting info to make the rating valid. Notwithstanding that, I rate PC Pro's views anyway.

Pipex's ratings were as follows, (out of 6 bizarrely)
  • Reliability - 2
  • Speed - 2
  • Customer support - 1
  • Value for money - 2
  • Recommended? - 1
  • Overall - 1
As a comparison, the top two performers were Zen Internet and Be Broadband. Zen scored 6 in everything except value for money where they rated 5, and Be scored 4 in Reliability and 5-6 in everything else. Third placed O2 was just a smidgeon behind Be.

I think at this moment I'm going to go with Be, with their value package at £13 a month for up to 8meg and unlimited downloads. My line can't receive more than 2 meg according to most providers assessments, but I'm not even getting close to that with Pipex.

The difficulty, however will be actually cancelling the Pipex account. There are tales upon tales of woe on of people who have had terrible problems trying to geyt their MAC code and cancel their account.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Whitts stays a Bluebird

I'm pleased to see that Peter Whittingham has signed a new deal at Cardiff City. The midfielder who was the Championship's top scorer last season was widely linked with moves away from the CCS this season, but City have kept their man.

He's yet to rediscover last season's form by any stretch of the imagination, or his goal scoring touch. Two gimme penalties have been saved and that's surely dented his confidence, but as the old cliche says, class is permanent, and Whitts is class.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Scrappy (again) but 3 pts. Barnsley 1-2 City

Bellamy back, three points. Great stuff. A scrappy encounter by all accounts, and Whittingham failed to score from his second penalty in the last two games.

However, from the resulting corner, Olifanjana turned home City's second and in doing so, secured all three points for City.

The other dark spot for City was a red card for Darcy Blake who picked up two yellows in short succession, though to be fair, on the TV highlights, it looked a harsh second yellow.

So, international break time, and thankfully for us, Bellamy's no on duty with Wales. A couple of weeks R&R will do the players no harm, and hopefully they'll be back fully refreshed for the Bristol City match.

Up the Bluebirds!