Matty Hayward – @MattyHayward96
Fresh from a summer of supporting Colombia, Sweden and Croatia, Cardiff fans will return to South Wales feeling underwhelmed at their side’s unimpressive draw against a resilient but clearly less talented Torquay. A well-earned but unjustly given Josh Murphy goal was cancelled out by Ruairi Keating’s cool finish with his first touch of the game. Overall, the gulf in technical and physical strength between the two teams was evident throughout the friendly, but United gave a very good account of themselves: proving difficult to break down, full of perseverance and up to the test.
Pic courtesy of Rachel Malloch
United lined up in a 5-3-2 formation. The back six were unchanged from the Plymouth game, and looked particularly assured. The three centre backs and the goalkeeper in particular looked solid – albeit not Guardiolan in possession – with Koue Niate providing the combination of brutal physicality and no-nonsense-mentality we wanted from Exodus and Gerring (and, in reality, have lacked since Guy Branston). Special mention must also go to Cameron who looked the most composed of the three on the ball and is certainly the best player with his surname I’ve seen in a Torquay shirt.
The wing-backs were hard-working and well-intentioned, but I maintain that Davis is slightly overrated and Wynter is functional without being a league winning right-back. Hall, Nabi and Dickson made up the midfield three. Although he was clearly tired (possibly carrying a knock?) by the end of it, Dickson’s first half performance was excellent. I think the inside-left channel of Cameron, Dickson and Williams (or Reid or Keating) is our strongest area by far, and with Davis bombing down the outside I think we’ll have a lot of joy down that side if Owers sticks to 5 at the back.
Hall looks another decent acquisition. Despite being occasionally sloppy in possession, his physicality and experience should prove valuable this season. Nabi, however, seemed very laboured. I wasn’t impressed with him in the Plymouth game and today I was equally unimpressed. If we go to a 4-4-2 – which I hope we will – Hall and Dickson are definitely my choices.
In the first half, Williams was undoubtedly the pick of the front two. Reid – despite being Torquay United’s greatest ever attacker – lacked a cutting edge, while Brett created a couple of chances out of nothing in his trademark bustling style.
He’ll remember this game, however, as the one where he should have been awarded a penalty but instead watched his side concede while he was kneeling with head in hands. Murphy’s close range effort came seconds after Williams was bundled over in the box after beating Paterson with relative ease.
That goal was neutralised by Williams’ replacement – Ruairi Keating – who snuck in behind Cardiff’s somewhat equine back four, sat the ‘keeper down and slotted it past him with his first touch. The Irishman went on to be the best player on the pitch in the second half: spinning in behind Sol Bamba with his pace, giving the big man genuine physical problems when needed, and winning free-kicks with his quick feet. It bemuses me that Keating and Williams have never been given a proper chance to start up front together, I think they’d reap havoc in the NLS.
The other substitute was James Roberts, who we’ve had on trial for the last two games. If we are to be successful next season we’ll need to acquire some creativity and, if I’m honest, I’m not sure this lad has got it in him. A keen runner with decent feet, for sure, but what he adds more than Sam Chaney did: I’m unsure.
Neil Warnock (or Colin as he’s sometimes known*) will take more questions than answers back to Cardiff this evening after being defied by a gutsy Gulls team. Questions like: “why was my defence opened up by a goal kick?”; “How much will it cost me to sign Ruairi Keating?”; and “why can’t Cardiff fans sing about Cardiff rather than about how much they love Croatia?”
Pic courtesy of Ryan Darby