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Saturday, 18th March 2017 Kick-off 15:00
Roll on Next Season, With Warnock Working His Magic Again – Notes for Cardiff
Friday, 17th Mar 2017 11:45 by HarryFromBath

HarryfromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Saturday’s game at the Cardiff City Stadium by delving into their forums.


“Neil Warnock is a Taffy”, “The reality is we were staring League One in the face not that long ago. Warnock has saved us on a shoestring”, “For the first time in four years the club is heading in the right direction”, “We have our Cardiff City back. Next season could be something really special.”

“Rotherham are gone, Wigan pretty much and there are quite a number of teams worse than us in the league. We will be fine”, “We are 10 points clear of the bottom three with nine games to go. It would take an incredible run of results for us to go down”, “It’s all about next season now.”

“Nothing to play for now.” Bluebirds head into Saturday’s game three places and three points above Town and most fans now believe they are preparing for next season. Many blame their current run of three draws and one defeat on battle fatigue with injuries now taking a toll on their small squad.

“We are struggling to get over the line”, “I really don’t hope this season does not peter out after all but securing Championship status”, “Three points from the last possible 12, I hoped for a flourish up to the end of the season”, “We have finished out of trouble but are clearly running out of steam.”

“We play like a team who are good enough for this division but nothing more”, “Time to relax and enjoy Neil Warnock trying out new ideas over our last nine games”, “I want to see some exciting and entertaining football by City in the remaining games”, “The Warnock factor has been the difference.”

Neil Warnock

“I can’t believe how lucky our club is to have a proven manager like Warnock. He has saved us from certain relegation with virtually no money available”, “Every time I read something ‘the boss’ says it fills me with more enthusiasm. No wonder the majority of our players have improved under him.”

Neil Warnock image

The 68-year-old took charge of his 15th club last October with City second bottom in the table and on two wins from 11 games. Bluebirds have welcomed his infectious enthusiasm, his tactical awareness, his straight-talking manner but above all the way his coaching has improved the players he inherited.

“You just won’t get another manager with his qualities to take on this quite impossible job with little backing”, “I didn’t realise he was quite as tactically astute as he is”, “He gets the best out of average players”, “If he has an inkling there is a player there somewhere he can get the best out of them.”

“We are finally getting the passion and feeling back thanks to Warnock”, “He’s honest and speaks his mind”, “A proper manager and a real football man”, “The best signing the club has made in many a year”, “I never trusted a manager as much as I support Warnock in all my years supporting a club.”

Next Season

“Next year should be interesting”, “Warnock has a massive job to clear out the big wages so it may not be realistic talking of promotion next year”, “I fully expect the silly season in the summer will be more of a roller-coaster ride than usual from us”, “It’s going to be a very interesting summer.”

Warnock has been using recent games to assess his current squad ahead of a widely expected major overhaul this summer, with many of City’s higher-earning players expected to leave. The wage bill was trimmed in January with four players departing on loan including Emyr Huws’s move to Town.

“It has been a massive gamble leaving our squad depth this thin”, “Few managers know this division as well as Neil. He knows exactly what he is doing by cutting the wage bill in January. It’s all about next season and the summer window. He’s saving money and keeping his powder dry until then.”

Blood and Guts Football

“Warnock wants players who can run through brick walls and be consistent over many games”, “The blood and guts stuff is great and it is brilliant that we have genuine pace up front”, “The first ball is irrelevant. It’s battling for the second ball and then creating unbalance which is the point of it.”

“Warnock will give people a chance to save their Cardiff City careers over the next few weeks”, “I wonder if he is testing some players to see how far they will go for the team”, “He is looking to see who the leaders are”, “It’s telling which players have that winning mentality and those who don’t.”

McGregorRichardsMorrisonBambaBennettHalfordGunnarssonRallsPilkingtonZohoreHoilett

The starting XI for Saturday’s home game against Birmingham (above) maintained the three central midfielders and one striker shape which Warnock has preferred this using season. Full-back Jazz Richards and centre-half Sol Bamba are widely seen as the stand-out performers in the back four.

Warnock has preferred solidity in central midfield, opting to play a defender in Bamba or Greg Halford to shield the centre-backs in a holding role. The industry and hard running of Joe Ralls and Aron Gunnarsson have regularly been chosen over Peter Whittingham’s more creative ability.

“We lack pace through the middle”, “Gunnarsson and Ralls are a good combination for next season. It would be great to add a pacy, creative and dynamic midfielder to complement them”, “It looks likely that wingers Anthony Pilkington, Craig Noone and Declan John will all depart in the summer.”

Junior Hoilett and Kadeem Harris are seen as the widemen most suited to Warnock’s style of play and additions are expected here in the summer. Kenneth Zohore has been the only first-team squad striker available and he has blossomed under Warnock’s coaching after a shaky start at the club.

Tiredness and Injuries

“We are down to the bare bones.” Fans have put the loss of recent late goals down to fatigue. “You can’t play this kick-and-rush football game after game without taking a toll on energy levels in such a small squad”, “The habit of conceding late goals is due to our defending too deep inviting pressure.”

Strikers Rickie Lambert (back), Rhys Healy (knee) and defenders Lee Peltier (ankle) and Bruno Manga (knee) have all missed games lately through injury. Greg Halford has had to play while carrying an ankle injury and the side could only name six substitutes in last Tuesday week’s draw at Blackburn.

“There was no one else to bring on at Ewood Park other than Craig Noone and Declan John apart from the kids. The squad was a weak as it could be tonight”, “We can’t make changes to control a game and see it out”, “We have no strength in depth but I expect Warnock to right this next season.”

Cardiff 1 – 1 Birmingham

“A late goal again”, “I’m fuming. Why can’t we see games out? That is four points dropped from winning positions in four days”, “We were only 1-0 up but so many players were swanning around, doing flicks and tricks while not tracking their runners”, “A draw was fair but it’s really frustrating.”

“Birmingham were utterly woeful so it was a massive point for them”, “We struggle to get over the line.” Joe Ralls put Cardiff ahead from the penalty spot on 53 after Sean Morrison had been fouled by Ryan Shotton, but Lukas Jutkiewicz levelled for the visitors with a minute of normal time to go.

“Birmingham were awful and were there to be thrashed. We went ahead but the fancy footwork started and the basics went out the window”, “We should have been running the ball into corners instead of trying to get crosses in and going for a second. Poor game management was to blame.”

Blackburn 1 – 1 Cardiff

“That was a scrappy game”, “It was looking ominous at the end. We were hanging in there with a weak team”, “It was disappointing not to win but it’s an away point against a team who had seven points out of their last three games”, “A shame to lose the lead so late but it’s a good away draw.”

Kenneth Zohore gave the Bluebirds the lead on 38 minutes with his fifth goal in four games after the visitors came into the game after Rovers’ bright start. The relegation-threatened hosts turned up the pressure after the break and eventually they levelled through Derrick Williams in the 90th minute.

“It was all Blackburn with five minutes left”, “A pity we couldn’t hold out but Blackburn deserved something from the game”, “An acceptable point when we probably would have had nothing last season”, “It was a good point in the end as we took a defensive battering in the second half.”

McGregorRichardsMorrisonBambaBennettHalfordWhittinghamRallsHarrisZohoreHoilett

“The squad was a weak as it could be tonight.” Aron Gunnarsson cried off with illness before the match and was replaced by Peter Whittingham. The starting line-up (above) was otherwise that preferred by most Bluebirds. “Oh! Kenneth Zohore!” The striker was praised for his latest “fantastic finish”.

QPR 2 – 1 Cardiff

“Fine margins”, “We were unlucky to leave Loftus Road with nothing”, “It looked like two mid-table teams with little to play for, all three goals came from poor defending”, “Whether we deserved to be in the lead at half-time was a separate matter but it was a solid counter-attacking display from us.”

Sol Bamba headed the visitors in front just before the break, but Yeni Ngbakoto levelled for Rangers on 62 minutes after linking well with Jamie Mackie. Ngbakoto’s corner found Matt Smith on 83 and the target man’s header was turned into his own goal by Jazz Richards to win the game for the hosts.

“QPR wore a special all white kit to mark the anniversary of their 1967 League Cup triumph”, “Both sides were poor with a lot of mishit aerial stuff. We were better trying to keep the ball on the deck”, “We had a big wobble after their equaliser. They were jubilant and flooded forward time and again.”

McGregorConnollyMorrisonBambaRichardsGunnarssonRallsNooneHarrisZohoreHoilett

“We started with all our impact players at QPR.” Warnock kept the same XI (above) which had drawn at home to Fulham in their previous game. Bluebirds felt that they had few options to change things on the bench while in contrast Rangers’ substitute Ngbakoto was able to make a telling difference.

Goalkeepers and Defenders

“Allan McGregor has been nothing but solid.” The 35-year-old former Glasgow Rangers and Besiktas goalkeeper arrived on loan from Hull in January. “He lacked match sharpness when he first arrived and didn’t look to be the answer to our keeping problems”, “He comes with a very good pedigree.”

Allan McGregor imageAllan McGregor

“McGregor is probably as good as any we might sign this summer although I doubt if we can afford his wages”, “It was fantastic bravery from him at QPR to put his body on the line to push a freekick clear”, “He was rooted to the spot for Birmingham’s goal when he should have been more positive.”

“Joe Bennett is a very classy footballer. I worry about him defensively but he’s by far the best left-back we have had in the last few years.” The 26-year-old August arrival from Aston Villa “is without doubt very comfortable on the ball but I’m not at all convinced about his defensive capabilities.”

“Bennett is a defender whose strength isn’t defending”, “He was at fault for Birmingham’s equaliser when he lost his man. I could see it coming. He was showboating while letting people run off him”, “He totally lacks intensity but you don’t see many full-backs who can strike a football like this lad.”

“After a rocky start, Jazz Richards has turned out to be an important player for us.” The 25-year-old former Fulham right-back has been voted man of the match on forum polls in City’s last two games. “It’s really difficult to find a full-back who can not only play football but more importantly defend.”

“Richards is really improving under Warnock. He gets on with the job with minimal fuss. He doesn’t scream or shout but just quietly goes about his business. He tackles and gets forward, a nice solid player”, “Classy on the ball and a defensive rock, you can’t fault his commitment to the team ethos.”

“Matthew Connolly tries to play the ball on the ground and is far more skilful with the ball at his feet.” The 29-year-old former QPR man was substituted for Joe Bennett against his former club “He is not a full-back and it has been that way for years although he is a very competent centre-back.”

“Connolly used to be decent bringing the ball out of defence but his confidence seems low. He’s too slow for a full-back and his positioning is poor when he plays out wide”, “He often gets caught out of position”, “He can get turned inside out and lets players straight through into the penalty area.”

“Sean Morrison is excellent in the air, especially in the opposition box but very slow and definitely not captain material.” The 26-year-old ex-Reading centre-half “is solid but very unspectacular”, “He’s OK if crosses come straight to him otherwise his positioning is poor and he gets muscled off the ball.”

“You won’t get many centre-backs who can win as many headers as Morrison”, “On the plus side he makes excellent blocks and tackles and is a threat at set pieces. On the down side, he is ponderous, gets turned easily, his distribution is poor and surprisingly he gets beaten in the air when defending.”

Sol Bamba

“How the hell did we manage to sign arguably the best centre-half in the Championship?” The 32-year-old, who was memorably sent off at Portman Road earlier in the season, arrived in October as a free agent to be reunited with his former Leeds boss. “He has been a breath of fresh air at centre-back and we also look very solid when he sat in front of the back four.”

Sol Bamba imageSol Bamba gets sent off against Town

“Bamba is a great reader of the game, he senses danger and charges in totally committed to win the ball and almost always does. Despite his strength, he gives away very few freekicks”, “A great header for his goal at QPR and he was crucial at the back”, “His no nonsense defending is inspirational.”

Central Midfielders

“As much as we all love free-flowing Champagne football, there are times when efficiency is more important. Greg Halford is here for just those times.” The 32-year-old ex-Rotherham man “is looking a shrewd signing with 10 years of invaluable experience. He plays a holding role or in the back four”.

“When Halford came off, we completely lost our shape against a woeful Birmingham side”, “He did a good marking job in midfield on Marvin Emnes, the Blackburn number 10”, “Greg has found his feet deployed in front of the centre-backs. Teams seem unable to play through the middle against us.”

“I think Warnock has seen Peter Whittingham for a few games and he has had his day here.” The 32-year-old former Villa player and club stalwart “went back to his old game of passing to another player and wanting it back against Birmingham. We don’t do that any more”, “He is not the player he was.”

“Whittingham doesn’t fit in the combative midfield Warnock is playing”, “Our midfield without him is much more mobile and effective”, “Sadly his days are numbered. The facts don’t lie, we win more games without him playing”, “His lack of pace and Warnock’s style mean he doesn’t suit the team.”

“Joe Ralls has benefited from the absence of Whittingham.” The 23-year-old youth product “always makes himself available and is quick to move the ball. He works hard, is technically sound and is also fairly strong in the tackle”, “I like how he puts in 100 per cent and does a lot of the scrappy work.”

“Ralls is a class player, he doesn’t stop running, breaks up play and is good on the ball”, “It’s good to see him pressing and getting in people’s faces. He makes some neat touches”, “His game is simple, he has plenty of energy and will give you everything”, “Warnock’s style of play really suits him.”

Aron Gunnarsson

“Gunnarsson gives us more legs than any of our current central midfielders.” The 27-year-old former Coventry midefielder and Iceland international “is our only central player who is capable of either breaking forward or ghosting into the opposition box to penetrate their defence or get on the end of a cross”.

Aron Gunnarsson imageGunnarsson scores after Bartosz Bialkowski error

“Aron has been unreal since Warnock took over”, “He had to drop deep against Birmingham when Halford was injured leaving Zohore isolated”, “His bristling intent, prowling presence, desire, sheer will and determination have become a flagpole around which the whole team rally, a proper player.”

Wide Midfielders

“Declan John could be unspectacular doing his bit in a 4-4-2 but he isn’t attacking enough in a three-man midfield.” The 21-year-old youth product “isn’t good enough defensively as a full-back and is no threat as a winger. We have enough full-backs and Warnock wants to sign a winger so he will leave”.

“We can all see Craig Noone’s class every now and then, unfortunately it is not frequently enough.” The 29-year-old ex-Brighton winger “is not Warnock’s type of player, 100 per cent and rightly so or you are out the door”, “He did not look interested against Blackburn and lost his man for their goal.”

Craig Noone imageCraig Noone

“The comment of the night on Radio Wales was ‘I’m not sure why Noone is on the field, he might as well be wearing a Blackburn shirt’”, “He is so left-footed that he has to cut in when on the right, he’s a one-trick pony”, “We all know how inconsistent he is. One good game in five is not good enough.”

“I’m not sure where Anthony Pilkington is meant to be playing.” The 28-year-old former Canary “will score the odd good goal but delivers little overall. He has not got much pace, isn’t particularly strong and his passing is not great”, “A useless player, he plays for himself and can’t cross for toffee either.”

“Pilkington is not a team player”, “He is our top scorer both this season and last, one of our better players but he’s on big wages and could be one leaving for the right offer”, “He is technically good but he has lost a yard of pace and needs a passing possession-based game to maximise his ability.”

“Kadeem Harris is a great little player.” The 23-year-old ex-Wycombe man “always had the potential and is coming into his own under Warnock’s guidance”, “He was comfortable as a touchline-hugging 4-4-2 winger but Warnock has coached him in how to get into the penalty box”, “His pace is indisputable.”

Jonas Knudsen of Ipswich v Kadeem Harris of Cardiff CityKnudsen v Kadeem Harris

“Harris has bags of ability but no end product. He has improved but still is nowhere near the finished article yet”, “He fails to cross when in good positions or pass to better-placed colleagues”, “He will get there with his decision-making. It goes to show what happens when someone has faith in you.”

Junior Hoilett

“It’s no coincidence that Hoilett confirming he wants to stay happens on the same day that Warnock confirms he is staying at Cardiff too.” The 26-year-old ex-Blackburn and QPR winger “will produce a lot more in a more creative and mobile team next year. His goals and assists will definitely improve”.

Junior Hoillet v Elliot Hewitt imageQPR's Hoillet holds off Elliot Hewitt

“We are a better team with Hoilett playing by a mile. His first touch and ball skill in and around the box are class. He is certainly quick and needs to spend time practicing his finishing”, “We need his pace and if he works on his final ball he will be one hell of a player for us. I’m glad he likes it here.”

Strikers

“We won’t be the first or the last team to panic buy a player.” One-time Southampton striker Rickie Lambert has not featured lately with a back injury but the 35-year-old has not been missed. “These types of players have a decent touch and show glimpses of class but are too slow and injury-prone.”

Kenneth Zohore

“I am eating humble pie”, “Along with the rest of us but it tastes great”, “In all my years of watching football I have honestly never seen such a transformation. His next challenge will be maintaining it as he will have dips in form and games where he is a marked man and defences start to drop deep.”

Kenneth Zohore image

The 23-year-old one-time OB Odense striker “is our most exciting striker since the Chopra/Bothroyd era”, “He is turning into a monster, not just his goals but his all-round play”, “Great link-up play, pace and power and an eye for goal, he causes defences problems”, “He sticks it in the goal like a bullet.”

“Zohore’s goal at Blackburn was excellent, laying the ball off and then bombing into space to receive it perfectly”, “Seven goals in nine games, he had scored one in 18 before that”, “The change in his attitude and work-rate has been first class. He is now a goal machine”, “We have to thank Warnock.”

Bluebirds’ Views on ITFC, the Game, Tom Lawrence and Emyr Huws

“Hmm, we might lose this 1-2, a tricky game.” City fans have had little to say specifically about us or Saturday’s game. The small number of predictions are split evenly between 2-1 wins either way or a 1-1 stalemate. They have been much less apathetic in their views on Tom Lawrence and Emyr Huws.

“Tom Lawrence and Kenneth Zohore running at defenders would terrify the life out of them”, “Was he that good when he played for us last season? Nobody seemed that concerned when we didn’t try to re-sign him for this season”, “A Premier League player and Wales international won’t be cheap.”

“Lawrence went missing too often when he played for us”, “A lot of players went missing under our previous managers”, “He did well for us but then Russell Slade left him out”, “He has shown what he can do under Mick McCarthy and would be guaranteed to be as good if not better under Warnock.”

“Lawrence has been the messiah at Ipswich, the Huws and Lawrence double there is excellent. If it wasn't for Lawrence's goals Ipswich would be in the bottom five. His movement is first class, and his finishing is now looking natural”, “Lawrence has elevated his value beyond our price range now.”

Bluebirds felt that Lawrence wasn’t given enough of a chance to blossom on loan last season. They have also been keeping a close eye on the progress of Emyr Huws’s loan spell at Portman Road.

“Huws scores for Ipswich against Brentford”, “I’m just waiting for the ‘Get Huws back’ thread”, “He seems to be doing well for Ipswich and I don’t see anyone else taking his wages on”, “He is just not a Warnock player. Hopefully he will look world class at Ipswich and we will get a decent fee for him.”

“Ipswich are a big traditional club, they could not even afford Emyr Huws’s wages and he’s probably not even one of our big earners here. That speaks volumes about our wage structure”, “It looks like Huws isn’t fancied by Warnock. Huws isn’t that aggressive central midfield-type that he prefers.”

“With Tom Lawrence saving Ipswich’s otherwise dour season and Huws's winner today [at Aston Villa] maybe they will be thinking about their own Welsh way”, “Hopefully Huws smashes it at Ipswich”, “I would like him back but McCarthy thinks he will be surplus to requirements at Cardiff next season.”

Jordan Hugill imageEmyr Huws celebrates after scoring for Town

“I watched the East Anglia derby. Huws had little impact on the game. He doesn't work hard enough for me and I can see why Warnock doesn't fancy him”, “There was a touch of the midfield stroller about him”, “I don’t hold out much hope of him getting a chance for us next year under Warnock.”

“It seems likely that Ipswich will sign Huws in the summer. That instinctive goal against Brentford shows his natural ability. Nice link-up with Tom Lawrence for the goal but apparently, he's rubbish too”, “I wish him well whatever happens this summer”, “Hopefully Ipswich will pay up for Huws.”

Websites

The busiest Bluebirds’ forum is the Cardiff City Forum which also contains threads linking to media coverage of the club. Cardiff City Mad also has some lively and informative discussions.

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HennersITFC added 12:18 - Mar 17
Thanks Harry, could be a bit of a slog of a game tomorrow - two 'old-school' managers battling to see this season out in relative comfort. Hopefully we can take advantage of their apparent fatigue issues and push for a late goal like we have the ability to do when we go for it.
2

Pencilpete added 12:34 - Mar 17
here's my prediction - 0-0 with both managers happy with another point each to edge their respective clubs a bit further to safety.

Nobody will bother trying to attack, nobody will bother having a shot. Both keepers will replaced at half time by their mums and 85% of the crowd will be woken up by the final whistle, the other 15% will be woken up by either Warnock or Big Mick calling the linesman a tosser.
3

Bluebell added 14:27 - Mar 17
Great as always Harry.

Funny how not long ago Cardiff were a team we could always beat! I struggle to see that happening tomorrow with no Huws and the number of games we have drawn recently. I would at least hope for another draw.

We need a win though!
2

therein61 added 16:46 - Mar 17
Another in depth and informative read Harry,welldone
2

cat added 18:08 - Mar 17
Thanks Harry, good work.
2

Gforce added 18:50 - Mar 17
Seven or eight at the back again and yet another bore draw.
2

guentchev added 02:32 - Mar 18
Thanks Harry. A great read once again.
2


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