WHAT WE LEARNED FROM THE BLUE­BIRDS’ STALE­MATE WITH LIONS

Wales On Sunday - - SPORT SUNDAY -

WHY ZO­HORE IS SUCH A BIG MISS WHILE Ken­neth Zo­hore’s form this sea­son hasn’t quite hit the heights of early 2017 when he was sub­lime as a lone striker, this game was a stark re­minder of why he is so cru­cial to Cardiff City.

Zo­hore hasn’t found the net with such reg­u­lar­ity this term but his hold-up play is ab­so­lutely in­te­gral to Cardiff’s style.

Danny Ward, though he tried his best, isn’t so con­ducive to that ap­proach.

Ward is a tal­ented player with pace and a deft touch at times, but he prefers run­ning onto the ball, he likes it into feet and he en­joys stretch­ing de­fend­ers. It rarely hap­pened for him against Millwall’s back two, it must be said.

Zo­hore can­not re­turn soon enough from an an­kle lig­a­ment in­jury be­cause, with­out many of us re­al­is­ing it, he’s be­come a vi­tal cog in Neil Warnock’s Blue­birds ma­chine.

If he’s un­avail­able, it could be worth the man­ager con­sid­er­ing Lee Tom­lin in be­hind Ward to thread in those through-balls that the ex-Rotherham striker clear craves.

CARDIFF START SLOWLY PER­HAPS it wasn’t a shock given this game didn’t have the ‘big match’ billing of a Leeds or an Aston Villa, but Cardiff started slowly – and slop­pily.

Millwall, buoyed by a small but vo­cal away sup­port, made all the early run­ning – most of it com­ing through com­bat­ive front­man Steve Mori­son.

Bruno Manga was shaky, to put it mildly, and Cardiff didn’t have an es­cape route as Ward strug­gled to hold it up. Cen­tre-backs Jake Cooper and Shaun Hutchin­son were not tested nearly enough in the first half hour.

Manga (twice), Ralls, Mor­ri­son and Hoi­lett were also guilty of sloppy mis­takes to al­low the Lions to grap­ple early con­trol.

Thank good­ness for Sol Bamba then, who mar­shalled Cardiff through a sticky open­ing pe­riod with some trade­mark tack­les.

Two de­cent chances for Ward seemed to turn the tide, but Warnock would have been ir­ri­tated to see his troops so slug­gish out of the start­ing blocks. On a cold day, be­fore which he’d im­plored the Cardiff fans to gen­er­ate some noise, it was all rather flat.

PATER­SON PRESSES HIS CASE PATER­SON’S in­tro­duc­tion on 37 min­utes cer­tainly wasn’t pre­planned, as Joe Ben­nett hob­bled off, but it seemed to give Cardiff the prover­bial shot in the arm.

The Scot’s first act in front of the Cardiff fans was to drive his side for­ward and pro­duce a pin­point cross onto Hoi­lett’s chest.

His sec­ond act was a dan­ger­ous long-throw that al­most fell for Bamba and after the break there was a back post header that flew wide.

After im­press­ing count­less times for the Un­der-23s on his re­cov­ery trail, it was great to see the much­vaunted sum­mer sign­ing get a run in the team and look­ing the part.

And in the right wing-back role, he looked an ideal fit.

“I thought he was a big plus, Pater­son to­day, it was good for him to get a game un­der his belt,” said Warnock after the game. Good signs, then, for the for­mer Hearts man.

NOT MUCH FOR VIN­CENT TAN TO EN­JOY THE Malaysian owner made his first ap­pear­ance at a Cardiff game since 2015 when he watched the 3-0 de­mo­li­tion of Aston Villa in Au­gust.

And it was good to see him back again, clearly en­thused by the Blue­birds’ su­perb early sea­son form, a show of his faith in man­ager Warnock.

This was a very dif­fer­ent kind of game to that Villa clash how­ever, a more at­tri­tional con­test and one that the Blue­birds strug­gled to gain con­trol of.

No alarm bells for Tan of course, but a dis­ap­point­ment that he wasn’t treated to a bet­ter at­tack­ing dis­play from the men in blue.

THE FOR­GOT­TEN MAN IS NOT... FOR­GOT­TEN IT is no slight against Rhys Healey to sug­gest some Cardiff City fans may have for­got­ten all about him.

It is, after all, eight months since he last fea­tured in a blue shirt, car­ried off on a stretcher with a hor­ren­dous lig­a­ment in­jury in a Fe­bru­ary 5-0 thrash­ing of Rotherham.

Be­fore that, how­ever, the for­mer Newport County loa­nee had shone briefly and proved he has the po­ten­tial to play a part for the Blue­birds.

He has clearly re­mained in the minds of the Cardiff pow­ers-thatbe, who have of­fered him a con­tract ex­ten­sion un­til 2020.

Healey was pa­raded on the pitch at half time with owner Tan, to show the fu­ture is bright for the for­ward.

Cou­ple the fresh deal with the fact his in­jury re­cov­ery is go­ing well and the fu­ture is bright for the 22-year-old. He could add an ex­tra di­men­sion to the Cardiff front­line in the months to come.

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