'Adaptive' Cardiff City Played Out-of-Character
Cardiff City gained a morale-boosting and crucial win over rivals Swansea City on Sunday. The Bluebirds fans know we have the quality to beat any team in this league, it was the manner of the victory that was the most surprising, and very welcome.
Swansea City are a very good side, build round a workmanlike team with a miserly defensive record and a couple of stand-out players (Pratley, Sinclair, Dyer). Their midfield trio, defensive mentality and passing ability have always caused us problems - and their victory over us back in November was a prime example. We missed Bothroyd, lost composure and had no ideas to break down their formation and stubborn defence. The Swans created few chances, but it only took a weak Marvin Emnes effort to decide the game.
This time round was a complete contrast. The Bluebirds arrived with a clear gameplan, not only to play to our considerable strengths, but also to restrict Swansea. That was a clear statement of respect for the Jacks, I can`t think of many occasions where we set out to do that - but thankfully it worked very nicely indeed.
Cardiff looked to press Swansea at all times, denying them the space and time they usually enjoy to pass their way all over the park. That started from the front with Michael Chopra showing exemplary work-rate and harrying, ably supported by Bothroyd. Olofinjana sat deep, but timed his interceptions and interventions very well while Whittingham curbed his natural attacking instincts to help Paul Quinn shackle the dangerous Sinclair.
On the other flank, Kevin McNaughton was once again brilliant, adapting to a left-sided role with ease and keeping dangerman Dyer quiet until his withdrawal from injury - Darcy Blake taking up the gauntlet impressively.
Swansea City looked rattled, and lost their usual patience and poise. Usually so frustrating to play against, the Swans tried too hard and I`ve rarely seen them try to move the ball back-to-front so quickly - playing into the hands of debutant Keinan, and Mark 'the Rock` Hudson.
Cardiff City were equally positive, forcing numerous corners and creating excellent chances for Bothroyd and Darcy Blake. We looked to stay solid, but break decisively - a tactic that worked well, orchestrated by the classy Ramsey - who is not fit, but dictated play to great effect and influenced the game throughout. It was left to captain Craig Bellamy to fire the winner, producing a moment of sublime quality despite being well marked by Angel Rangel throughout.
This was a victory for the fans, the players but especially the manager. Dave Jones is a good manager, but has struggled tactically in the past. We, as a team, have been too predictable, too easy to bully and lacked the balance and ability the effectively shut teams out, and ensure we stay positive. For once, there was a clear and determined strategy which worked. From front to back, it was a very astute performance and one that will, hopefully, inspire a good run of results as we approach the business end of the season.