It was a new look team that took to the Ninian Park pich amid heightened optimism, but it was a sickeningly familiar scenario that unfolded as Cardiff started brightly, were afforded plenty of possession that was soaked up until the visitors scored, and saw out the game.
We were promised that this year’s squad would be stronger. In my eyes, it is but we don’t seem to address any of the specific problems that haunted us last year. Do we really beleive it was just a lack of depth? Of course not, even when we had our strongest team back out, we were still poor.
Despite signing a number of strikers, we are still lightweight and inadequate up-front. We have many forwards, but none on the bench to back-up two players new to the club and who are similar in stature. A strange decision. OK so Fowler was not available, and Chopra is gone – but we knew that was always a possibility and surely planned accordingly.
We still show a chronic lack of ideas going forward. When Stoke pressed us, as we must have known they would, we showed no adaptation and looked bereft of ideas. As such, McNaughton was forced to chip down the wing on numerous occasions, which Feeney chased and ultimately lost every time. Passes still went backwards from good positions and there was no other option such as runners pulling defenders wide, or a ‘battering ram’ forward to create space.
And then there’s defending. Johnson was unusually poor, but still made some timely interceptions but it was the set-piece defending that worries the most. A brief look at the Stoke team shows they will like set-pieces, a gigantic defence with Sidebe and Parkin also to challenge. Shawcross found space on other occasions aside from his goal and our defending simply must improve. It was all too easy for Shawcross to turn and volley home, when such a calamity would not have occured in the other penalty area.
In short, we still have many of the problems that haunted us last season. There is plenty of time to put it right, and the addition of a striker to hold the ball up will prove important. It was a disappointing result, but we deserved a draw and came up against a big, well organised team with an inspired goalkeeper.
We can work on all these things, I just pray that come next week – we aren’t talking of lack of squad depth and inadequate training pitches. That would be too much.
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