Mick McCarthy has turned PNE’s opponents Cardiff City into real contenders
There was a lot expected of Cardiff City when they came into this Championship campaign, and despite not being far from the play-off places they have not lived up to their billing.
After a fine season last time out, which was punctuated by a 3-0 win at Deepdale to all but seal their post-season, Bluebirds fans came into this term full of expectation.
They were eliminated from the play-offs last season at the semi-final stage but added to their squad in the summer.
They took advantage of Wigan Athletic’s plight to bring in their main man Kieffer Moore.
On top of their new star striker, they made moves for Liverpool wingers Harry Wilson and Sheyi Ojo.
Neil Harris was the man in charge last season and at the start of this campaign but the Welsh side removed him towards the end of January, replacing him with Mick McCarthy.
He inherited the Championship’s best player this season, according to the average rating stats on WhoScored.
Moore’s 7.7 is not bested by any other individual and he has been in fine form of late too.
The towering striker is a very effective targetman but is also very mobile and a deft finisher – a complete package in a forward who also attracted interest from Preston North End.
In Wilson too he has a dead-ball specialist, be that a corner or a free-kick – direct or not.
The Welsh international was expected to take the league by storm after a late switch to the Cardiff City Stadium in the summer but getting a tune out of him could prove to be all the difference for McCarthy.
Wilson opened the scoring in a 2-0 win over Luton Town on Tuesday, with Will Vaulks also finding the net just a couple of minutes later.
“It wasn’t a particularly pretty game of free-flowing football,” McCarthy said.
“We didn’t start the second half well but Harry got a bit of space and punished them with a wonderful goal.
“There wasn’t long between the two goals and they had an uphill battle after that.
“It has been a big bounce. I have had a really good response from the squad and let’s hope it continues. I just know this league, it can turn around very quickly, so there will be nobody getting their feet off the ground.”
The former Republic of Ireland boss has hit the ground running since taking over and has propelled City back into play-off contention, the win over the Hatters their fourth on the spin.
There has been a change in the shape too, a three at the back often used. Bringing Aden Flint back from his loan at Sheffield Wednesday means the Welsh side boast a rather large back three, alongside captain Sean Morrison – star man at Deepdale earlier this season – and Curtis Nelson.
It was a strong enough foundation that enabled City to take all three points at Deepdale in the reverse fixture.