A Big Ask Of Darcy Blake
Cardiff City manager Dave Jones is not one for utilising his young players with a number of youngsters always around the squad, but rarely used in first team action.
Chris Gunter, Cameron Jerome and Joe Ledley were early signs that the Bluebirds were looking to rely on the younger players and academy graduates, though those selections were under pressure of a small squad and as Jones' tenure extended, our reliance on suce players has dimished.
Aaron Ramsey played far less here than he might have done elsewhere while the likes of Wildig, Magennis and latterly Adam Matthews and Darcy Blake have only even made is as fringe players at best. Of those, Darcy Blake is the most established and after being selected as emergency cover last season, he did win his place in the first team on merit.
The high profile captures of the likes of Olofinjana and Koumas, coupled with the recruitment of Lee Naylor and re-emergence of Paul Quinn have scuppered any thoughts Blake had of forcing his way in. While his record of 30 appearances this season is admirable, the vast majority have been from the substitutes bench.
However, Blake was given the nod last week to start in the biggest game of the season after being selected ahead of Lee Naylor and J'Lloyd Samuel at left-back. A position in which he is in-experienced yet the alternatives are experienced naturals. Blake's previous start was in the FA Cup back in January.
He has performed well in his regular substitute outings, most notably when called upon to mark the dangerous Nathan Dyer during a 1-0 away victory away at Swansea City. That said, it was certainly unusual for Jones to choose Blake for such an important fixture.
Friday's performance was solid enough from Blake, though he will surely ask for more support from his winger (previously Jay Emmanuel-Thomas) as he was left exposed at times and may even be marking Reading dangerman Jimmy Kebe if passed fit tonight. He did waste possession on a couple of occasions, putting his side under pressure, and was outfoxed late on when beaten too easily on the City left. Nevertheless, a clean sheet at Reading is no mean feat and Blake played a part in keeping Hunt & Long quiet.
Blake may again line up at left-back tonight if McNaughton is called upon to deputise at centre-half. Alternatively, an injury to Paul Quinn could see Blake switched to a more familiar right-back berth. Either way, his gritty and determined attitude could be a positive for Cardiff City tonight - it will certainly call for big performances all round and Blake is still searching fopr his first ever CCFC goal, going so close in other big games e.g. when hitting the post after a dazzling run at Swansea, or having 2 goals ruled offside - including one in the play-off final defeat at Wembley. Could it be Darcy Blake's time tonight?!?