By Reece Chambers
What a difference one game can make. Six goals and 90 minutes later, the Bluebirds finally had their first win in the Premier League this season after nine matches.
Neil Warnock’s men faced Fulham last Saturday in what was billed as a ‘six-pointer’, even this early in the season. The fact that it was deemed such an important game this early in the season probably says a lot about both sides’ current form in the league.
It has been made quite clear that Cardiff have struggled this season, with a serious lack of goals seemingly curbing their chances of winning games. However, quite the opposite problem could be said for Slavisa Jokanovic’s Fulham.
The Cottagers had conceded a league-high of 21 goals in their opening nine games of the season whiilst Aleksandar Mitrovic impresses at the other end of the pitch. And, whilst the likes of Bobby Reid and Callum Paterson hadn’t fully showcased their abilities in the league before Saturday, there was a strong feeling going into the game that this was their chance; not only to prove themselves to manager Neil Warnock, but also to their countless critics.
True, it would be easy to sit here and label Cardiff’s four goals against Fulham as a defensive calamity that saw Tim Ream produce one of the worst Premier League performances of all time.
However, that would be totally ignoring any positives that Warnock’s men can take from the 4-2 win. Scoring four goals against any side in the Premier League is impressive and there should be full appraisal of Cardiff’s performance.
As a team in the lower echelons of the world’s most lucrative domestic footballing league, you might well expect Warnock’s men to be cautious and lack ambition.
No chance. The Bluebirds, led by Warnock and his trusty backroom staff, not only showed the grit and determination that every relegation-threatened team needs to show, but they also showed a level of ruthlessness and ambition that they have struggled with thus far.
Bobby Reid, Callum Paterson and Josh Murphy led the line for the Bluebirds against a disorganised Fulham back line and took full advantage of defensive mishaps.
Murphy, a lover of hugging the left touchline, stretched the Fulham defence and ensured that Reid and Paterson were allowed channels to run into. His pace and power from the left wing caused Calum Chambers nightmares, leading to Cardiff’s first goal in the 15th minute which set Warnock’s men on their way.
It was the first time the front three of Murphy, Paterson and Reid had started this season but – from what unfolded on Saturday – there is no reason why Warnock would start a different front three in their next league game.
All three showed just why Warnock believes his side can stay in the league this season.
Their power through Paterson, pace from Murphy and Reid’s intricacy provides a variety of threats in a front three that is willing to work had for the team but also, as Saturday indicated, capable of finding the back of the net too.
Warnock prides himself on his solid foundations at the back, and people have rarely questioned that so far this season.
Therefore, the key to Cardiff surviving will be finding that balance in attack that not only epitomises the work ethic of a relegation-threatened side, but more importantly adds goals.
Could the trio of Murphy, Paterson and Reid be that answer? Only time will tell on whether Warnock sticks with those three but last weekend’s evidence suggests he has limited reasons to choose otherwise.