Tinker, Taylor, Naylor - Why ?!?
Cardiff City fielded a different defensive back four for the first time this season when Andrew Taylor's hamstring tear prompted Malky Mackay to include left back Lee Naylor in the starting XI.
It was a decision that surprised many, and worried plenty of fans when the teamsheets were announced. The concern was founded on Naylor's past form for Cardiff City and it's fair to say his debut season was desperately disappointing.
Although he is the only other left-back available to Mackay, the adaptable Kevin McNaughton is more than adequate on the left side in defence and has operated there on numerous occasions for the Bluebirds. A switch for Super Kev would have allowed the inclusion of either Darcy Blake or Paul Quinn on the right.
You would have to say that Sunday's 0-0 draw against Leicester City has vindicated Mackay's decision to opt for Naylor. He was part of a defensive unit that kept big-spending Leicester City out for the full 90 minutes and all the defenders deserve credit for keeping the likes of Beckford, Vassell and Andy King out.
However, there were some serious issues for concern and Naylor is still very hesitant with forwards attacking him. One such occasion saw Foxes full-back Lee Peltier charging up the right. Naylor stayed a full 5 yard ahead of him, backtracking and allowing the surprised Peltier to advance un-challenged, before cutting back inside and crossing. Through all this time, Naylor got no closer than 2 yards away. Peltier and Yuki Abe did cause problems and the old frailties were unfortunately still on show.
Thankfully, such instances were limited though that is certainly in part due to Leicester's narrow formation with Abe pushed inside leaving Peltier as the only real width. An out-and-out winger would have reveled in the extra space.
As usual, Naylor was willing going forward and showed a few glimpses of his cultured left foot. This was his first league appearance of the season, and he is obviously going to be lacking match sharpness. Save for Darcy Blake's excellent second half performance, Naylor has probably done enough to retain his place when Southampton visit on Wednesday.
Hopefully, the confidence and matchtime Naylor picked up on Saturday will help him and he can get a bit tighter to his man. Southampton will provide a difficult test and we can't afford to give them space to exploit or counter attack. Naylor and the rest of the injury hit Bluebirds will need our full support.