Date:Monday May 9 2011
Cardiff City manager Dave Jones took the unusual decision to drop Republic of Ireland midfielder Stephen McPhail for the final day trip to Burnley with Peter Whittingham featuring in a central role and the enigmatic Jason Koumas on the left.
The central midfield area has not been right of late, and many would suggest over the entire season. Seyi Olofinjana has mixed some excellent performances with the sloppy but remains the number one choice so with former loanee Danny Drinkwater sent back to Manchester United and Solomon Taiwo sent back to the Daggers - we have relatively few options. Gavin Rae and Steve McPhail are the only natural options, with Whittingham, Koumas and Darcy Blake able to adapt if required.
McPhail`s own form has been mediocre all season. At his best, he is slick, creative and integral to our team. With the likes of Bothroyd, Bellamy and natural wideman Chris Burke to aim for, McPhail should be contributing more. Recently, he has remained neat and compact but that simply isn`t enough for the top of the Championship and our attacks have been slow, laboured and lacking precision. It`s a team problem, but one that is epitomised by McPhail as he slows down attacks, before passing sideways or backwards. He also looks a yard slower than previously, and he never had much pace!
As one of our longest serving players, vastly experienced and having played in the Premiership - we're looking for McPhail to dominate midfield and be a key performer and driving force for the Bluebirds - that just hasn't happened.
In fairness to McPhail, he did OK coming on as a substitute and created our two best chances. A well worked backheel created an opening for Paul Quinn after patient build-up, unfortunately the chance to shoot from 20 yards fell to the right-back rather than Whittingham / Bothroyd. The other chance ended up being an assist for 'Macca` as his chipped ball over the top was met by Bellamy and poked past Jensen for the equaliser. There have been too few assists from McPhail this season so it was nice to see him make a telling contribution.
It seems plausible that McPhail could be returned to the starting line-up to face Reading away. His inclusion is more conservative than incorporating Bellamy, Koumas (didn't excel vs Burnley) or Emmanuel-Thomas on the left wing so for an important away fixture so McPhail`s substitute cameo could well earn him a recall. If that`s the case, we need a positive and confident McPhail providing the quality of service he is capable of, and our strikers will thrive off.
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Date:Monday May 9 2011
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