By Tom Walker
Coming out of the enforced suspension of the Championship season, Cardiff City have been one of the best performing sides across the country. Prior to their tie with Fulham last night, the Bluebirds had picked up 10 points from a possible 15 that helped propel them into playoff contention.
Neil Harris’ side had the chance to put the pressure on the collection of teams behind them currently in pursuit of a top six finish, including welsh rivals Swansea, with what would be a huge result against title chasers Fulham.
However, it was not to be for Cardiff, as they were defeated 2-0 thanks to goals from Championship top-scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic and Josh Onomah.
Despite being on the losing side, Harris was not displeased by what he saw from his team. “We got into some good areas but didn’t win any second balls… that is the frustration.
“I will never be happy with a defeat, but the performance was strong.”
A home loss to Blackburn in midweek felt like a missed opportunity for Cardiff, as they lead the visitors by two goals to one at the break. A sloppy second-half performance was punished by Blackburn, a team also hot on Cardiff’s heals, as they scored two unanswered to complete the comeback.
This felt extremely out of character for this Cardiff team, as in the four games previous to the Blackburn defeat, the Bluebirds’ had thrived in the second halves of games, with five out of six of their goals coming in the second period.
This success is due in large part due to Harris’ substitutions. Danny Ward and Robert Glatzel have both come off the bench in various games to get on the score sheet, and fan favourite Lee Tomlin has had a similar positive impact in the latter parts of games, coming on to assist the winner against Bristol City and Preston.
A common theme since their return has been the active rotation of strikers. The minutes have been divided between the formerly mentioned Danny Ward and Robert Glatzel, as well as Callum Paterson, who despite not scoring since the restart has been Harris’ preference to start games.
Another shining light for Cardiff has been Dion Sanderson, who has started every game since returning. The man on loan from Premier League side Wolves, came off a good performance just before the nationwide lockdown against Barnsley in a 2-0 win, where along with a clean sheet, assisted the goal for Paterson that secured the win.
Despite being given a tough time of it last night against Fulham, where the 20-year old brought down Mitrovic for an indisputable penalty, he has been a breath of fresh air for the Bluebirds. His tenacious style of defending and willingness to bomb up and down the right flank has offered Cardiff something different to the defensive-minded Jazz Richards and Lee Peltier.
Cardiff has three games remaining in their league campaign, including a massive game against Derby County on Tuesday at the Cardiff City Stadium. Swansea, who are in good form themselves, have a game in hand over Cardiff, so the Bluebirds will need to rely on Swansea to slip up in at least one of their remaining fixtures if they have any chance of sneaking into the last playoff spot, with Nottingham Forest looking just about secure in 5th place.
Almost every Championship team has something to play for in these final few fixtures, so expect many twists and turns as the season comes to a finale on July 22nd. For Cardiff, the road is relatively simple and the narrative that they have embraced ever since their existence endures: ‘Win and pray Swansea lose.’