McPhail's Cardiff City Return A Disappointment
Cardiff City`s former midfield lynchpin and captain made a return to the starting line-up on Sunday following a frustrating few months on the sidelines for the Irishman. His inclusion in the starting XI to face Bristol City meant that Gavin Rae was relegated to the bench - tough luck for the Scotsman who has done well of late.
However, that meant that Dave Jones opted to field a Joe Ledley/Stephen McPhail partnership against a Brsitol City side who play three across the centre of midfield. Without the tenacity, work-rate and bite that Gavin Rae brings - we were lacking. We desperately hoped that McPhail would have been hurt by his lack of games, and that we would see a new hunger and attacking instinct borne of the competition he faces - it just didn`t happen.
Not only was the hesitant, negative passing back on show - McPhail frequently neglected his defensive duties - sometimes sitting directly in front of the back four, nowhere near an opposing midfield player! He didn`t track back well and will surely have been disappointed with his comeback game, failing to create one meaningful attack or get involved to any great extent. For a central midfield player, the number of touches he had was bitterly disappointing and the impact even more so.
In defence of McPhail, he has hardly played recently and needs gametime to re-discover his match sharpness and form. I really do think he can play an important role for us in the run-in but suimply must play alongside Gavin Rae - able to run his socks off and compensate for the shortfalls in McPhail`s game. Of course that means shifting Ledley out wide, a move I also agree with wholeheartedly. We have little to lose by reverting to this formation, and Peter Whittingham would be extremely fortunate to keep his place after a string of ineffective performances.
For me McPhail needs to want the ball more, his first touch should see him moving forward, causing gaps to appear. The dinked killer ball of which he is so fond is useless against a static back-four - you have to turn them. The return was a disappointment and did not have the desired effect on our away form - I urge Dave Jones to think again and re-address the balance. Perhaps there is no place for McPhail, if that`s true so be it. Chris Burke, Quincy, Parry, Rae and Ledley all make a convincing case to start ahead of him…