DESTINY BACK IN THE HANDS OF THE BLUEBIRDS
CARDIFF City boss Neil Warnock says he has no regrets in opting for Gary Madine ahead of goalscoring hero Kenneth Zohore in Saturday’s dramatic 2-0 win over Norwich City, and insists he’s happy with the former Bolton striker’s recent showings.
A first goal in the blue of Cardiff continues to elude Madine, whose inclusion ahead of Zohore raised plenty of eyebrows ahead of the victory at Carrow Road.
Zohore himself did his best to prove a point to his boss, coming off the bench to net Cardiff ’s breakthrough goal four minutes from time, before Junior Hoilett wrapped up the points with a sensational volley deep into stoppage time.
However, Warnock believes the foundations of Zohore’s ninth goal of the season were firmly laid by Madine’s performance, particularly his handling of Canaries centre-backs Grant Hanley and Timm Klose, although he admits that the Bluebirds lacked a cutting edge up until the Dane’s inclusion.
“I thought Madine was fabulous,” he said. “I thought if Kenneth had started the game today he would’ve been bullied and that the two centrehalves would have had him in their pocket.
“I think Madine did all the work and then Ken got the cream!”
“I still thought we had the best chances, even in the first half when Norwich probably played the better stuff, and if we’d had a little bit more clinical finishing we could have taken two or three opportunities.”
After Fulham were held at home to local rivals Brentford, the win in Norfolk carries a great deal more significance for Cardiff’s bid for automatic promotion, with the Bluebirds now a point clear of the Cottagers with a game in hand.
But while happy to see his side back in the driving seat for automatic promotion, it was the level of effort and desire shown during what was a bruising battle at Carrow Road that pleased Warnock, who labelled the win in East Anglia as the best he’s seen from his team this season.
“Even if we’d drawn 0-0 today I couldn’t have faulted anything,” added Warnock.
“You see what my team is, they’ve got big hearts.
“We might not be technically as good as some other teams but it’s not through lack of effort.
“That’s what I love about the Championship, you get lads like this who’ll die for you and it makes you feel so proud as a manager.
“The last three games we’ve gone right to the end of 90 minutes but this does feel like the best result of the season.”
He continued: “I’m as delighted as I was deflated in the last two games. You don’t always get what you deserve. How we didn’t get four points out of those last two games I’ll never know. It’s been difficult to pick them up this week. We had a bit of a sluggish start and they’re a good side, Norwich. I watched them batter Aston Villa a few weeks ago and they’ve got some good players.
“We had to hang on in there. We knew they’d have a lot of possession. I thought we really defended well. I thought (Sean) Morrison was a 12/10 today. A colossus. We had (Sol) Bamba to start with then (Bruno) Manga. I thought Bruno did well when he came on, the two full-backs and the goalkeeper.
“I still thought we had the best chances in the first half when Norwich played the better stuff.”
Warnock also revealed the extent of Sol Bamba’s injury, saying he had words with the defender as he made his half-time departure.
He said: “I had a bit of an argument with him at half-time because if he’d played a simple ball to (Nathaniel) Mendez-Laing on the right instead of being (Franz) Beckenbauer, he wouldn’t have got hurt because then he had to run 70 yards back to goal and hurt himself in a challenge. It’s an injury he’s had all season.
“We had words at half-time and he threw his bat and ball out and that’s great. It’s lovely to have that passion.
“He’ll probably play next weekend knowing him. With four games to go, he’ll want to play anyway.
“It was great we had Bruno Manga to come on. Manga would get into any team I’d have in the Championship.
“He played against (Josh) Murphy at our place at right-back, and he kept looking at his number on the back of his shirt as he went past him so I couldn’t put him through that. I thought (Lee) Peltier did really well again and (Joe) Bennett.
“And the goalkeeper Neil Etheridge was safe, so it’s been a great result for us.”
Gary Madine tangles with Norwich defender Grant Hanley during Saturday’s win at Carrow Road PICTURE: Huw Evans Agency