Were the Reading game to be taken in isolation, then there were lots of positives from a Cardiff City perspective.
The trouble is, the Bluebirds’ greatly improved characterize against the Royals must be considered in the context that it was their fifth subsequent league defeat. They’ve lost seven of the last eight in all competitions.
That, of course, was that sort of form that cost Neil Harris his job back at the start of this calendar year, with Cardiff then wallowing in 14th place in the table.
Cardiff currently sit in 20th with a frankly embarrassing defensive record – only Peterborough have conceded more goals than them this season.
So there is no doubt it leaves Cardiff City’s higher-ups with a big decision to make over the coming days and weeks. Mick McCarthy himself has said that he spoke with the board after the West Brom defeat and they were supportive and behind him in wanting to turn this woeful run around.
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After the defeat by Reading, he matter-of-factly claimed that the decision over his future at the club was out of his hands.
McCarthy’s incredible early run as manager – he went undefeated in his first 11 games in charge – seems a distant memory now and the feeling of pressure and, consequently, negativity has grown steadily with each passing consequence over recent weeks.
Since those first 11 games, Cardiff have won only seven of their later 24 in all competitions. While it was going to be nigh-on impossible to continue that early form, the drop-off has been hugely disappointing and frustrating for supporters.
What will be already more frustrating, of course, is that on Saturday, against Reading, they showed what they were capable of. They were capable of changing system, shape, personnel and producing a far more exciting and eye-pleasing brand of football.
Cardiff on Saturday employed an extremely effective alchemy of building by the middle and bombarding the Royals’ box with crosses.
That, largely was due to the change in shape. At long last, McCarthy did away with the back five and two thorough-lying midfielders, which has caused them so many issues this season.
The midfield three of Marlon Pack, Joe Ralls and Sam Bowen looked far more effective and City truly had control of the ball for large portions of the game. When was the last time Cardiff had an equal proportion of possession in a Championship match?
Pack himself summed it up best with his post on Instagram after the match: “A much better performance all round but football can really kick you when you’re down.”
No truer information can be said pertaining to Cardiff’s current plight.
Despite City taking 25 shots – another metric we are not used to seeing next to Cardiff’s name – against Reading, the Bluebirds nevertheless couldn’t find the back of the net. It method they have scored one goal in their last five matches.
Reading, by contrast, scored with their only shot on target – the other shot they took in the match went out for a throw-in – compounding Cardiff’s own sense of persecution.
Two particularly eye-catching statistics are that Cardiff are in addition to score a goal in the first half this season and Rubin Colwill is the only player to net a league goal with his feet.
With 11 games gone this term, that is a rather telling sentence. But, it is fair to say, if Cardiff had played like they did on Saturday for larger portions of the season, that would certainly not be the case.
“We didn’t create too many chances in other games,” McCarthy said of his team’s changed style.
“We didn’t against Blackburn and certainly not against West Brom. So not creating the chances or giving the strikers any chance [was why we haven’t been scoring].
“But today’s game was different. We put good crosses in, got on the end of them, had some shots go wide and one off the inside of the post.
“If we play like that every week and can’t score then we’ve definitely got a problem.”
The point is, typically, heading into an international break on the back of a performance like that serve as some form of encouragement, despite the fact the match was lost.
However, with two weeks to stew on what is now a hugely concerning losing streak and the small prospect of a South Wales derby waiting for them on the horizon, Cardiff fans are restless and eager about what is to come.
“Every club has its derby, a big derby, and this is ours coming up,” McCarthy said of the next match.
“It’s vitally important that in any case the positives we did in this game, we take into the next game.
“That will be vital for us.”
With fans frustrated and results simply not good enough at the minute, though, whether McCarthy will be afforded the chance to build on those positives is certainly a hotly-debated topic among supporters.
McCarthy continues to insist, however, that as long as he is in the hot-seat, he will work tirelessly to get this season on track.
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