Another promotion contender pushed all of the way, but it’s two defeats in four days for City.

For the second consecutive game, I was unable to even listen to the radio commentary of yesterday’s 2-1 loss at Reading and, with it being broadcast live online as well, there seems little point me pontificating at any length about an encounter that I’ve seen very little of while many of those who read what I have to say have watched the whole ninety minutes!

So, here are a few quick thoughts/observations based on the online highlights package I’ve watched, some of Neil Warnock’s post match comments and one or two opinions I formed before and after the final whistle.

1. A lot of the “old guard” are becoming marginalised under Neil Warnock. The starting line up yesterday was interesting as much for who wasn’t involved as who was. For example, Rickie Lambert, Joe Bennett and Stuart O’Keefe were all missing from the match day eighteen, while Craig Noone remained on the bench in a match where we were looking for an equalising goal and Peter Whittingham was only introduced very late on. Tellingly, it was Kadeem Harris who Warnock turned to first when he made a change. With Rhys Healey in from the start and Declan John an unused sub, the fact that there is a way into the first team for those used to turning out for the Development team under this manager was re-emphasised.

2. Warnock certainly has a lot of faith in Greg Halford who he selected in front of another one of that “old guard” I mentioned earlier, Matt Connolly, to be part of a back three.

3. By mentioning twice that Allan McGregor was beaten on his near post for Brighton’s goal last Tuesday, Warnock rather gave away the fact that he thought his keeper could have done better with it and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was thinking the same about both of the goals we conceded yesterday. For my part, I wouldn’t be too critical of McGregor for his part in the first goal (I know plenty who will be though}, but the second one just looked wrong to me. Credit to Kermogant for his free kick, but, at the height it went in, you would have thought that one of, or both, out of the lining up of the wall or the goalkeeper’s positioning was at fault.

4. Seventeen goal attempts to eight in our favour rather tells a story on how the game panned out. As at Brighton, we seem to have competed well on the ground of an opponent at the top end of the league, but just came up short. For the first of these matches, it’s probably fair to say that our narrow defeat was down to Brighton being a bit better than us, but those attempts at goal figures suggest that this wasn’t the case yesterday.

5. That said, the fact that we only matched Reading when it came to attempts on target efforts (both sides managed four) rather makes Neil Warnock’s post match point about us lacking strikers who will get on the end of things when the ball is close to our opponent’s goal – although I do maintain that if Rhys Healey is given enough first team opportunities, he will score his fair share of “tap ins” like the one he got to secure the win over Burton last weekend.

6. Maybe Neil Warnock had the Burton game in mind when he said that he would rather his team play rubbish and win, than lose narrowly with a degree of credit like we have done in our last two games. All managers would probably say the same thing, but his words do betray that he recognises how easy it would be for us to drop back into the sort of precarious position we were in when he came here in the next few weeks. With a solid Preston side, who are proving hard to beat this season, and then a Norwich outfit capable of comfortably seeing off any team in this league on their day, coming here in the next seven days before successive away trips to Leeds and Derby, it’s certainly not beyond the bounds of possibility for us to lose our next four matches.

7. Our manager said that there seemed little chance of any transfer activity before the window closes on Tuesday, but, perhaps it is more accurate to say that there needs to be movement out before there can be movement in? If circumstances allow, I would not be surprised to see us go back to Aberdeen to try and get Jonny Hayes.

8. On that subject, maybe some of the players I mentioned earlier who were absent yesterday were injured (Warnock usually provides a straight answer to a straight question, but often gives very little away when discussing possible absentees through injury in his pre match press conferences), but it also could be that signals were being sent out to prospective buyers with some players.

9. Was anyone else a bit surprised to see us given that penalty? I thought it was probably a correct decision, but it struck me as the sort of decision an away side wouldn’t normally get.

10. Finally, it was Joe Ralls who took on the responsibility of taking the spot kick and he, just about, managed to beat a keeper who I believe has a good recent record when it comes to saving penalties. Although Ralls is thought of as something of a midfield grafter these days, I think he is someone who might, under different circumstances, give us some of the vision we could be accused of lacking these days. Ralls can be a creative and incisive passer of the ball, but the fact that Whittingham, Lambert, Noone and the absent though injury Pilkington would have, almost certainly, been ahead of him in the queue to take the penalty says something about where we are now as a squad. Healey and, to a lesser extent as Championship teams get familiar with his game, Zohore will have the capacity to surprise opponents for a while, but one of the things which make me think we could still be a relegation team is that we seem to have less and less players capable of doing something the opposition aren’t expecting.

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11 Responses to Another promotion contender pushed all of the way, but it’s two defeats in four days for City.

  1. Barry Cole says:

    On my way back from holiday and during that time we have suffered two defeats which is quite clear from the Cardiff city player we deserved more.
    But and that is a big but, we are still in need of the two players I had suggested right from the slade days. A forward who can score goals regularly and a midfielder who can create those chances. I am sure that Warnock knows that too and it could and maybe should have been sorted to some extend this January.
    This man will get us where we want to be and he’s straight talking and maybe not tans cup of tea.
    But no matter how well we are playing a couple of more defeats and problems will start to surface. I am keen to stress that we are 100% improved from the last three managers and every penny spent is worth it for me these days.
    But eventually the losses will tell on the players confidence. My assumptions this week on the team are such that although Warnock is saying lambert wont go he may be playing a price up game by cotton wrapping him in case of any problems. A quick sale and a unwanted striker in his place ( you know who I mean) and that’s a start. Add to that the Aberdeen man and the two requirements are in hand till the end of the season.
    It’s tongue in cheek but I don’t think we are far from that.
    We need to avenge that PNE defeat big style as I took a lot of stick up here but with the two additional players who’s not to say we cannot still get into the top six.

  2. Colin Phillips says:

    Nice post, Paul.

    Without seeing any of the game it is difficult to add much more, let’s hope for a few goals and a clean sheet on Tuesday.

  3. Russell says:

    Thanks Paul , I managed to listen to our local radio coverage , eeeeek , I was spoilt with the quality of Tuesday’s radio 5 commentary, Radio Wales reminds me of the City , average performance never reaching Premiership heights.

    It appeared to make a good fist of the game ,as we did against Brighton , in both games we had chances and shots on target, more shots tand corners , underly our strikers , are never going to set this league on fire.

    Not being able to call upon Lambert for Zohore was telling, I do wonder if Lamberts injury report, is as reported ?? . A lot of managers use the injury exuse to disguise issues, and save face for bith parties i.e. Jose and Rooney . I feel since NW tennership Lamberts absence has been interesting ,he played more full games for Trollope and some back to back (excuse the pun)

    I always felt we would go up and down the league from 15th to 20th always looking nervously over our shoulder at the relegation slots and that iS combng true, however still being 16th after two away loses does offer some releif ,those wins onntye bounce are goingbto be very telling come the season end .

    Even 4 points from the next 4 games would be appreciated looking at the opposition, and as you rightly point out PNE and the Canaries are no mugs. The two aways after that will be interesting , let’s prey Derbys FA cup run keeps going and distracts , and Leeds are to cocky on the day.

    I don’t see any point in spending big money at this late stage, I’m not sure if we can loan in anymore either , so yes lets give the development squad more some chances. Paul you must be at least pleased some players like Healy, Harris are having a chance to showcase themselves , albiet their appearances may be down to new signings ,and NW putting pressure on the older heads , suggesting some are not delivering 90 minutes of NW commitment , which why lesser players are playing as “they are doing whats asked of them ” and have less ego’s , and more energy and commitment.

    I think the fact that as NW and Tan have met /chatted, and instaant money hasnt appeared suggests those meets were more about long term strategy, commecial awareness, FFP and spending plan for next year ,along with a rutheless big clear out to enable NW to build a new team in his way , instead of utilising a group of players who are handsomely paid ,and under delivering , and importantly in my view, have been togther too long in a loosing /struggling mindset.

  4. Dai Woosnam says:

    Thanks Paul for a thoughtful look at the Bluebirds’ status quo. I still reckon it is 50/50 on whether we go down, but we have a very decent manager for our hugely underwhelming squad…and there is no better firefighter than Neil Warnock. And it is great to see him giving Rhys Healey his chance…I was calling for it several months ago when he was starting to do things at Rodney Parade.

    I feel fairly certain that he would not – in a million years – have signed at least half the current first team squad, even on free transfers. But we are where we are…albeit ruefully reflecting on the wisdom of those words the rural Irishman famously uttered when asked for directions: “If I was you, I would not start from here!”

    Talking of directions, in this case football tactical directions, let me commend you on your recent words on Wing Commander Charles Reep. My hero Charles Hughes sat at his feet and refined his thinking somewhat. (No strike the word “refined” – that will never do for the tiki-taka merchants – and insert the word “crystallised”…with his POMO). But Reep was certainly an amazing pioneer, even if one holds that he arrived at the wrong conclusion…which of course I largely do not.

    And now to the present. And yesterday, at both The Madejski …and at Sincil Bank.

    My poor opinion of Joe Bennett has been challenged by a philatelist hiding in the undergrowth of anonymity.
    Nothing will make me happier than if Mr Bennett becomes our Player of the Year next season.
    And equally, nothing will make me more surprised.
    And I rather think that Mr Warnock has now succeeded in “getting his number”, but who knows…even Neil may still be seduced by JB’s style over substance

    Do I know the game of football? You be the judge.
    Take this contribution from me in these very pages last season. I am talking about a largely unknown manager of a team of non-league part timers…

    If you want a 10,000-1 choice for the next Brian Clough, here is his name.
    Danny Cowley, of Braintree Town.
    If Mr Slade departs, he would be the choice that could get some punter a massive payday.
    And the good news for you is that he has more YOUR footballing philosophy, than mine.
    But what is incontrovertible, is that this fellow gets results…and has done astonishing things in recent seasons with no money.
    I think Danny Cowley might well lose the two legged affair against my local team…after all, Grimsby are a fully professional outfit, at least two divisions below what their support base would warrant. And Grimsby still hold the record attendance for any match at Old Trafford…alas, that Trivial Pursuit answer to beat them all (one that everyone gets wrong!), will not be valid any more when their new stand extension fully opens.
    Braintree Town, by contrast to Grimsby, are a bunch of part timers, punching way above their weight.
    But try and see Danny interviewed. He has that “je ne sais quoi”…in SPADES.
    Such an appointment would be too “left field” for those of our Cardiff fans who feel that the new boss should be someone with a top CV that shows recent success at at least Championship level, and not success “back in the day”…these same fans would have not even have accepted Claudio Ranieri a year ago, claiming – no doubt – that he was the laughing stock of Greece!!

    To which Paul you had the good grace to respond with…

    Dai, I’m embarrassed to say that I’d never heard of Danny Cowley, but I’m due to start getting BT Sport in a day or two, so, hopefully, I’ll be able to watch Braintree in the Play Offs.

    Thanks for that, Paul.

    And now at Lincoln City, Cowley has taken a team who flirted with relegation last season, to the very top of the National League, by the end if January. And trust me, even if their FA Cup exploits make the players take their eye off the big picture of promotion this season, and they fail at the death, Danny Cowley and his brother will not be there next season.
    A big team will swoop.

    I am reminded of another very young Lincoln City manager. It is 1977 and Elton John asks Don Revie if he could recommend a young manager who might perform wonders for his beloved Watford.

    Revie told him to go to Lincoln City, as they had a young boss who had lit up the whole city and brought fans and club together as one.

    And what was to follow?
    Oh my goodness me …!!

    Can lightning strike twice?
    Normally, no. But d’ya know…in this case, I would be reluctant to bet against it.

    But Sir Vincent did not hear me last season, and doubtless will not hear me now. But on the off-chance one of his minions is reading this, let me tell him that Danny Cowley’s price has just rocketed…but the duo would still be cheap at double the price…!!

    And he plays our Blogmeister’s type of football, slightly more than he plays mine.

  5. BJA says:

    Good morning Paul and all of your other followers. I have just learnt of our interest in another ageing winger in Liam Feeney of Blackburn. Is NW really interested or is that just paper talk? If he is, then I really am beginning to trust his judgement on his dealings to date on those that he has brought to the City in the last few months.
    In my opinion, only Bamba has been a success.
    Of the others, are Hoillett, Halford and McGregor any better than those already than say Kennedy, Noone as wingers, Connolly as a defender ( not to mention Ajayi who has not been given a chance ) and Murphy as a goalkeeper?
    And complete failures were of course Messrs Chamack and Richardson.
    Those youngsters who have departed may well yet flourish as they become involved in first team football in the lower leagues, and I suspect that like many of our supporters, wish that one or two had been given a chance in our first team.
    I have mentioned before in my other responses of my disappointment in NW’s lack of support in a few of the Development squad ( and I accept that Healey has now actually started a game ) but why leave Kennedy out on Saturday when he was infinitely better than Hoillett for the 35 minutes he played against Burton, and Harris should be one of the first names on the team sheet.
    I regret to state that to date, the transfer activities of NW and his committee leave me far from convinced that this is the Manager to see us flourish in the remaining months of the season, never mind next.
    Sadly, four points from the next four matches look doubtful to me. I’m in a ‘half empty’ mode!

  6. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Barry, hope you enjoyed your holiday – I’ve got to inform you that Neil Warnock is now saying that we’ve no chance of making the Play Offs, but I suppose he would say that as a way to keep pressure off himself wouldn’t he – either way, I think our chance of a top six finish, if we ever had one, has gone after two losses in the last week.
    Colin, I’ll be very happy with a win tomorrow, but I can see it ending up as a draw.
    Some good points made there Russell – I wasn’t aware of Lambert’s injury when I wrote my piece, but I agree with you that it might have been a “tactical” one to keep him free from injury – I suspect mind that Lambert wouldn’t have come on when Zohore went off if he had been on the bench. Although there is an element of risk involved in soldiering on with what we’ve got when our next four games look pretty testing (my understanding is that, apart from emergency loan goalkeepers, we will not be able to sign any loan players after tomorrow), I agree that it’s probably for the best if it means Warnock having more backing in the summer to put together the squad he wants – it wouldn’t surprise me if our manager was of the same opinion as you when it comes to the squad of players he currently has.
    Dai, the possibility that Bennett was injured on Saturday should not be ignored, but I have a feeling that he is one who Warnock would sell without too much regret in the next two days if the opportunity arose.
    Yes, you were certainly right about the Cowley brothers – Lincoln did struggle last season, but, from memory, they’ve never really threatened to get their league place back since losing their Football League in 2011, so their achievements this season become more impressive. If their current career trajectory is maintained, the brothers are headed for the Premier League (even though I wonder if people who have never played the game professionally, as I believe is the case with the Cowley brothers, would struggle to be accepted by top footballers unless they have the top trophy wins that a Mourinho has behind them), but I’d say their next move will be to a Championship club if they manage to get Lincoln promoted – a club like Brentford say.

  7. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Hello BJA. You may have read this before from me, but I can remember a QPR fan being asked what we could expect from Neil Warnock after we had appointed him. The answers he gave were largely supportive of him, with the one on his transfer policy being very interesting – he said to expect “underwhelming” signings that, despite supporter expectation, have a habit of working. Regarding the three players you mention, I’d pick Hoilett over Noone, Connolly over Halford and the career records of McGregor and Murphy strongly suggest that the former is the better keeper – he may not have had the best of starts for us, but I’d say McGregor will prove to be a decent signing. I agree with you about the young players that have left the club recently – Russell Slade missed a great chance to give some of those players a chance in the first team when we had two months of meaningless games at the end of the 2014/15 season.
    I’d be surprised if the transfer committee had much say in the choices of incoming players since Warnock was appointed – my view is if they don’t work it is Warnock who should get the blame!

  8. BJA says:

    Paul – Just read that Ajayi is off to Rotherham on loan for the rest of the season. What with Bruno out probably for the rest of the year, not sure that decision is particularly clever. What more awaits?

  9. Russell says:

    BJA, perhaps he sees Halford as a solution at the back and if he switches to a back 3 he finds himsekf in surplus, and to be honest would he/us risk Ajayi
    in the next few months as it will be a dogfight and he lacks experience.

    It could be in the fine print we can recall Ajayi anyway.

    The other option with out going players perhaps we may see some incoming ,before the window closes.

  10. The other Bob Wilson says:

    It does make you think that one or two may come in today doesn’t it Russell. As for Semi Ajayi BJA, I think any request to loan one of our players who is unlikely to feature in the first team should be granted if that club is in the Championship. Reading the Rotherham manager’s comments, it appears as if Ajayi will go straight into the team and you would have thought he will get plenty of opportunities to prove himself defensively in such a struggling side – the challenge for him is to still be in the first team when his loan is coming to an end.
    I know Warnock said last week that City would know more about the extent of Manga’s injury on Monday, so I suppose there is a possibility that it isn’t as bad as first feared and so we could let Ajayi leave, thereby doing our manager’s last club a bit of a favour.

  11. Dai Woosnam says:

    Just had a note from a MAYA regular to welcome me back.
    Thanks, but…
    There used to be a North Country comedian on Workers’ Playtime called – I think – Ken Platt. His catchphrase was always “I’ll not take my coat off…I’m not stopping”.

    And that is my mantra too these days, as philately is not my game. But once philatelists put down their pens, I will again pick up mine.

    So that said, let me retreat to my Grimbarian heartland with these two observations. First Paul, you say that NW might well choose to sell Joe Bennett if a last minute offer comes in.
    No such luck. Nobody is daft enough to shell out serious money there. Perhaps somebody could introduce JB to the Happy Gathering in Cowbridge Road (if that Chinese restaurant is still there …!!) and he can become so besotted with Chinese cuisine that he will decide to make the journey to the Far East. (The Chinese apparently will buy anyone.)
    More seriously, it is a crying shame that Ollie has just snapped up Matt Smith from Fulham.
    How MUCH an NW team would thrive with him up,front…!!
    Adios…at least for now.

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