For Cardiff City: Number 10 Stephen McPhail...
Cardiff City manager Dave Jones made the unpopular decision to name former captain Stephen McPhail in the starting line-up for Sunday's crunch encounter vs Swansea City. The team-sheets were greeted by an audible groan by fans as McPhail was named while Gavin Rae dropped to the bench.
First and foremost, I think Gavin Rae was desperately unlucky to be dropped. I think he's been in good form of late, worked tirelessly against Sheffield United and to name a lightweight duo of Ledley and McPhail against Swansea's three man unit seemed laughable.
I believe Jones' reasoning was that Rae was involved with Scotland in midweek (though he barely featured). He wanted to use McPhail as an experienced, calming influence and hopefully unlock the Swans slow back four to release Chopra. I feel sure also that Jones wanted to give the midfielder a chance to redeem himself for being dismissed in each of the last two meetings between the clubs.
McPhail had a decent game by all accounts, though did little of real quality and is not the player of last season by any means. At times, he showed some excellent touches and intricate skill but for long periods he was outfought and largely ineffective as the game passed him by.
He is adept as receiving the ball from our back four, but that means he must sit deep. It does reduce the number of lofted balls forward but there was little space around Pratley, Gomez and Brittain so we ended up chipping the ball forward anyway.
I know some fans to be of the opinion that McPhail was much improved yesterday and began to look the class act of old. I can't bring myself to agree with that and although he let no-one down, I still feel Gavin Rae would have contributed more and that McPhail would be incredibly lucky to retain his place on Wednesday when Derby County are the visitors.