THINGS WE LEARNED...
TOP OF THE LEAGUE ‘WE are top of the league,’ came the chants from the Canton End at full-time. Warnock was repeatedly asked to do the Ayatollah and he duly obliged with a beaming grin, facing the grandstand and fistpumping. It beautifully illustrated the swell of good feeling around Cardiff City right now.
And though this victory was hard-fought at times, it was also aesthetically pleasing too. That sums it up really, Cardiff have got to the top of the Championship through grit and good football - it simply can’t be achieved without the two together.
The Bluebirds now head into the international break sitting pretty. They know there are 41 games to go, they know they’ll face hardships over the coming season, but they can perhaps suffer a blip in form following this blistering start.
Warnock knows the importance of such a start. That’s why his smile is as wide as the Taff right now. With Ipswich’s 2-0 defeat to Fulham leaving Cardiff three points clear at the top, you can’t really blame him. HOILETT ENJOYS RULE OF EX JUNIOR Hoilett arguably played his best football at Loftus Road between 2012 and 2016. After bursting onto the scene with Blackburn Rovers he became a proven Premier League performer, yet the latter part of his QPR career saw the winger lose form.
Thankfully he’s since been revived by Neil Warnock at Cardiff City, with the boss admitting we’re watching a vintage Hoilett right now.
The Canadian was sublime against Villa, solid against Sheffield United and scintillating at Wolves.
And against his old side the Rs, he was even better.
Did the booing from QPR’s away support spur on Hoilett even further? It looked as much, especially after Hoilett’s charge down flew into the net to level the scores on 22 minutes. His ‘shush’ gesture to the visiting fans certainly raised a smile among the Cardiff faithful, and you couldn’t deny he deserved the moment, even though a second Hoilett goal was strangely chalked off by referee Simon Hooper just after the break.
Meanwhile, it was a tough day for former Bluebird Steven Caulker, ran ragged by the Cardiff forwards but given a warm ovation by the home crowd. FITTER, STRONGER, FASTER GREG Halford gave a fascinating insight into Cardiff’s gruelling pre-season schedule after scoring the winner in the 2-1 Carabao Cup triumph against Portsmouth earlier this month.
And while the versatile former Rotherham man didn’t feature against the Rs, it’s clear to see the work he has spoken about is paying off
Cardiff’s front three of Hoilett, Mendez-Laing and Zohore wreaked havoc with their running, most notably for the second goal of the game as the former charged down Alex Smithies’ clearance.
Rumour has it that when the Duracell bunny grows up he wants to be Loic Damour. The Frenchman put in another tremendous shift as did the likes of Aron Gunnarsson and Joe Ralls in the centre of the park.It’s safe to say the Bluebirds are reaping the rewards of their summer work. DO CARDIFF DESERVE BIGGER CROWDS? CARDIFF’S 3-0 victory over Aston Villa felt like an enormous game, with 23,899 packed inside Cardiff City Stadium, helped by a strong travelling contingent from the West Midlands of course.
Yet that figure dropped to 18,520 against QPR despite the Bluebirds having won four from four in the Championship so far this season. The attendance wasn’t helped by a meagre away following for Ian Holloway’s team, but Cardiff’s current performances probably deserve to be watched by more.
Former player Nathan Blake has reiterated his desire to see crowds of 24,000 at every game with Warnock’s side playing in this fashion. If it continues they will surely. keep flooding back to CCS The 18,000 home fans who attended this one were treated to a breakneck start and a cracking game throughout. It’s entertainment like that which will hopefully see the numbers increase. GOALKEEPING BLUNDERS THE debate as to who would be Cardiff first choice goalkeeper this season was somewhat taken out of Warnock’s hands following Lee Camp’s injury.
And up to now, Neil Etheridge has looked a reliable option between the sticks, making some superb saves to deny Wolves last week.
But even the former Walsall man’s biggest advocate would have to admit he was at fault 15 minutes into this one. Luke Freeman’s teasing cross was a good one, but it should have been claimed. Etheridge and Sol Bamba got their bearings wrong and the colossal Matt Smith nodded into an empty goal.
Yet Etheridge wasn’t the only gloveman blushing in South Wales on Saturday afternoon. Opposite number Alex Smithies was equally embarrassed when he fired Nedum Onuoha’s under-hit backpass into Junior Hoilett whose charge down flew in. It made for a shaky afternoon for both ‘keepers.