WARNOCK’S LOV­ING VIEW FROM THE TOP

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Alex By­wa­ter

CARDIFF CITY re­main on top of the Cham­pi­onship de­spite be­ing held to a goal­less draw by Derby.

Neil Warnock’s Blue­birds have been sen­sa­tional so far this sea­son and even though they weren’t at their best in what was their third game in a week, they still man­aged to gather a point.

Veteran boss Warnock cel­e­brates a year in charge of the Welsh side on Thurs­day and it’s been one to re­mem­ber for the 68-year-old, who is a mas­ter at this level.

Cardiff were sec­ond bot­tom when Warnock took over last Oc­to­ber, but since then the turnaround has been re­mark­able and they re­main the team the rest must catch go­ing into this sea­son’s sec­ond in­ter­na­tional break.

“It’s been a re­mark­able year be­cause we were talk­ing about avoid­ing rel­e­ga­tion when I came in,” Warnock said. “I’m only partly dis­ap­pointed. The game was there to be won, but we kept our home record in­tact and to get seven points in a week is a tremen­dous ef­fort.

“I can’t fault the play­ers at all and I’m de­lighted to keep the run go­ing. The Cham­pi­onship is not a league to get too eu­phoric when you do well or too down when you don’t.

“We tried to win but couldn’t, so I’m pleased with a clean sheet. That’s what keeps you at the top of the league and it’s been a great start. I’m looking for­ward to the break now.”

A shock­ing first pe­riod saw both teams strug­gle to cre­ate clear-cut chances. Ju­nior Hoi­lett went close for Cardiff, but his 25-yard rocket was tipped over by Scott Car­son. Loic Damour also dragged wide for the hosts, but oth­er­wise for­mer Eng­land stop­per Car­son was un­worked.

The sec­ond half, thank­fully, was much bet­ter. Cardiff’s fans were in­censed by the de­ci­sion­mak­ing of ref­eree James Lin­ing­ton, and their anger made for a rau­cous at­mos­phere in the Welsh cap­i­tal.

And Derby gave as good as they got, the ar­rival of striker Chris Martin after the break mak­ing the world of dif­fer­ence to their at­tack.

Craig Forsyth – who had ear­lier given Damour his op­por­tu­nity when slip­ping on the edge of the box – struck the cross­bar with a crossed ef­fort and Tom Hud­dle­stone’s shot was de­flected wide.

The im­pres­sive Tom Lawrence had set up Hud­dle­stone, the Wales mid­fielder join­ing for­mer Blue­bird Joe Led­ley in ap­pear­ing on fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory at Cardiff City Sta­dium.

Warnock in­tro­duced Lee Tom­lin to the fray in search of a goal and Cardiff had fur­ther chances.

Richard Keogh did bril­liantly to block Nathaniel Men­dezLaing’s ef­fort, but it was Derby who fin­ished the stronger and they should re­ally have se­cured all three points.

Bradley John­son couldn’t find the tar­get with two ef­forts, but when sub­sti­tute David Nu­gent was put through on goal, it looked like we’d fi­nally get a goal.

Cardiff stop­per Neil Etheridge had other ideas though and pro­duced a fine save as the game ended as a stale­mate.

Derby boss Gary Rowett said: “If you’d told me be­fore the game we’d have had a clean sheet and limited Cardiff to just one real chance then I’d have been happy.

“But we were the bet­ter side in the sec­ond half and de­served to win the game. We had two or three great chances after the break, but we just couldn’t make the most of them.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

AT FULL STRETCH: Derby’s Tom Hud­dle­stone bat­tles with Cardiff City’s Ju­nior Hoi­lett

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