Way to go Joe! Hat-trick hero of Cardiff City’s 4-2 victory at home to Birmingham City.
I’ve known ‘Rallsy’ since he first signed for City getting on for a decade ago.
Full of energy, a box-to-box midfield player who shines in the Championship. Personally, I love watching all-action Joe play – and some of the criticism from fans I’ve read and heard about him has been ridiculous.
The dedicated midfield player has played on through injury and manager Neil Warnock described the combative Ralls as a ‘manager’s dream’.
“The thing about Ralls is he’s the easiest player to criticise for the fans, but he never hides,” said Warnock. “He always wants the ball even when he’s not having a good time.
“It takes a lot of courage to play that way and it’s all credit to him when he has a day like this.
— Cardiff City FC (@CardiffCityFC) November 3, 2019
“He gives the ball away because he has it all the time. He always wants the ball even when he is being criticised. He never shirks – a manager’s dream.”
Ralls’ treble was Cardiff’s first hat-trick since Peter Whittingham scored three against Wolves in September 2012 and, talking to Cardiff City TV, he said: “We needed a response against a good side [after the 1-0 defeat at Swansea].
“It was tough at times. We really had to dig in, but the boys put in a really good performance and showed the fans what we’re all about again. That one was for them.
“To score three goals was amazing. I’m over the moon with that.
“We had to dig in with 10 men and the boys did that. We defended our box superbly. It was exactly what we needed at this time of the season.
“Now we have to build on it now and kick on.
“Next weekend’s Severnside Derby is another big game. They keep coming!
“We’ve set our standards now and must to keep to that for the rest of the season.
“The crowd were amazing. That support is brilliant and helps us through the tough times.”
Central defender Curtis Nelson made his full Championship debut for Cardiff with captain Sean Morrison out injured.
It was a memorable first #CardiffCity league start for Curtis Nelson on Saturday afternoon.
— Cardiff City FC (@CardiffCityFC) November 3, 2019
He learned his trade with Plymouth and Oxford and was competent, composed, scored a goal and had another effort disallowed.
He spoke to Cardiff City TV and said: “It’s been a while since I’ve played a competitive game.
“I went on against Reading, but I’m really happy with how the game went. It was really important we won after the Swansea defeat and the disappointment that brought to the club and fans.
“The boys showed a great amount of character. The Gaffer made a few changes and contributed from the sidelines with a few things that helped us.”
Sol Bamba was among the City substitutes and replaced Nelson for the last five minutes plus injury time, a first appearance March 2019.
“It felt unbelievable to return and I can’t even describe it,” said Bamba. “It was a long road to recovery and I’m happy to be at the end of it.
“Credit to everybody at the club. Since I’ve injured the medical staff and fans in particular have been so supportive and I can’t thank them enough.
“We have the feeling that we can win and want to keep our home a fortress. We showed the character in our team again.
NW on hat-trick hero @Joe_Ralls: “He always wants the ball. He never hides. He never shirks. And it does mean he gives it away. It takes a lot of courage to play like he does.
— Cardiff City FC (@CardiffCityFC) November 2, 2019
“There is big competition for places, but Curtis [Nelson] has come to the club, kept his head down, worked hard and waited for his chance. He did extremely well.
“I’m glad Joe [Ralls] scored a hat-trick because he works so hard and has been at the club for a long time. We know what he does for us and we love him to bits. He deserves that hat-trick.”
Cardiff started badly against Birmingham by midway through the first half many supporters were yelling ’Sort it out, Warnock’. That was fair enough because Birmingham City were completely on top and could have been three goals in front at that stage.
That was when the experience of Warnock, along with trusted lieutenant’s Kevin Blackwell and Ronnie Jepson, took decisive action and ‘sorted it out’.
They tweaked Cardiff’s playing formation in small ways, and the result was that Birmingham were no longer able to dominate in the way they had for 20 minutes.
The visitors had been able to dominate through the middle, where they appeared to have extra players and major momentum, but Warnock moved Lee Peltier inside a little to help captain Marlon Pack and ensure that midfield area was more congested and Birmingham could not find space easily.
Blues head coach Pep Clotel claimed Warnock’s Bluebirds had ‘all the luck’, but in my view Cardiff impressed in the way they stormed back and took control despite having striker Danny Ward sent off.
The three points are a tribute to the character and togetherness at Cardiff City, traits which are hallmark factors in Warnock teams.
Ralls (3) and Curtis Nelson, making his full debut, were the goalscorers for the Bluebirds in their first win for five matches.
“The lads were really nervous to start with and I am tremendously proud of the character they showed,” said Warnock.
“They knew how bad they were at Swansea. The only way to get the fans back in favour was to show how much it means to us and we did that.
”I was chanting with the fans ‘Warnock sort it out’ and thinking ‘come on, get a grip’.
“I am pleased I managed to sort it out as we have a great group of fans and you couldn’t blame them for being upset last week.
“When we play well there are not many better teams than us in the division. The season starts now really.
“It is one of the best wins since I have been at the club, under the circumstances. You could see how nervous the players were. We had to put a performance on for the fans and we did.
“They stayed and saluted us even though they must have been wet through. It makes me proud as a manager to see the lads put in a shift like that.”
Clotet was far from happy at the end and said: “The game had a little bit of everything, a lot of emotion and intensity.
“For us, we left Cardiff without receiving what we deserved.
“Cardiff had all the luck when it comes to transforming chances and we didn’t. We knew it was a difficult game for us, but we had 25 shots on goal and still only managed to two goals.
“I will watch the Harlee Dean red card again and consider an appeal.”
— Gavin Whyte (@gavinwhyte8) November 2, 2019
Both teams had a player sent off, although Birmingham’s Harlee Dean was not dismissed until injury time.
Kristian Pedersen put Birmingham ahead (3 minutes), while Cardiff were given a lifeline when they were awarded a controversial penalty and Ralls netted the equaliser on the half hour.
Dean was penalised for pulling Aden Flint’s shirt, a decision which angered Birmingham players.
Nelson (38) fired Cardiff ahead and Ralls struck again after 69 minutes, curling his shot home after excellent work by Nathaniel Mendez-Laing.
Ivan Šunjić pulled one back for the Blues (89) and at 3-2 the visitors had a glimmer of hope.
They were, though, down and out when they had Dean sent off three minutes into injury time and then Ralls fired home from his second penalty of the match.
Cardiff are 14th in the Championship and know a win against Bristol City at home next Sunday could put them in touch with the play-off places.
Birmingham City: Camp, Pedersen, Roberts, Colin, Crowley (Bailey 80), Jutkiewicz, Dean, Villalba, Mrabti (Maghoma 65), Bellingham (Giménez 69), Šunjić. Subs not used: Trueman, Harding, Clarke-Saltere, Davis.
Cardiff City: Etheridge, Peltier, Bennett, Flint, Bacuna, Ralls, Pack (capt), Nelson (Bamba 85), Mendez-Laing (Paterson 80), Ward, Hoilett (Bogle 75). Subs: Smithies, Vaulks, Murphy, Tomlin.
Referee: Andy Madley