Cardiff City Left Exposed Once More
Cardiff City were brought crashing down to earth by Middlesbrough last weekend who broke through a previously rock solid defense to net three goals. The first a result of a sloppy pass followed by a deflected effort. The second was well worked to take advantage of a gaping hole on the Bluebirds left while the third also exploited space in the left back area though it was big centre-half Ben Turner who mis-judged the flight.
The left back position has been a worry for Cardiff City for many seasons now, with only Mark Kennedy making the shirt his own. His experience was valuable, but Kennedy was only ever a stop gap - dependable and consistent though he was. Aside from that, Kevin McNaughton operated there to good effect but is primarily a right back. Tony Capaldi and Lee Naylor were the previous specialist incumbents in that position - neither was a success, and both quickly became unpopular with Bluebirds fans while Miguel Comminges, Quinn and even Joe Ledley also covered in emergencies.
This season, Mackay rebuild his squad and immediately brought in Andrew Taylor on a free transfer from Middlesbrough having previously managed him while on loan at Watford. Taylor is young, highly rated and a very reliable defender who can also get forward to good effect having also operated in midfield. He has proved solid and consistent so far, but old fears came back to haunt us on Saturday as the left flank was once again badly exposed.
The early signs were there are a number of dangerous crosses came in from the Boro right, only a clash of heads seemed to prevent Ogbeche scoring. The gaps continued to appear throughout the game, with Taylor often being isolated and occasionally looking hesitant and unwilling to commit - allowing the Boro forwards to advance unheeded. I certainly felt Taylor deserved more support from his left midfielder Conway but in truth it was Taylor`s poorest showing so far - and against his former club. Hopefully, just a one-off for the talented young full-back.
Conway is not a defensive player, but fails to offer good protection when the opposition midfield pushes on. On the slippery surface, he was found wanting on several occasions after committing too soon and allowing the attacker to skip past or inside. Peter Whittingham also showed this trait earlier in his career - but while he will never be known as a tackler, his awareness allows him to position himself in the right place and slow or cut-out opponent attacks.
Taylor has only recently been re-instated to the side after missing out on the 1-0 Birmingham City win with a hamstring injury. That day saw Lee Naylor return and enjoy an excellent performance, keeping former team-mate Chris Burke under wraps and helping us to a welcome clean sheet. He was therefore unlucky to lose his place for the trip to Millwall and will be pushing to force his way back in. It seems strange to be talking like that about Naylor, who at this time last season was about to endure surely his toughest two games after being targeted by Watford and Bristol City over the Christmas period leading to embarrassment, two shockers and two heavy defeats for City.
To concede three at home is not acceptable, and the weaknesses were there for all to see - and future opponents to exploit. Malky and the staff will need to work on positioning and movement this week to avoid repeats of the worrying gaps and opportunities presented to Boro. Hopefully, the showing was just a blip and we can now return to the miserly defensive displays of Ben Turner, McNaughton and co lately.