Rother­ham spell rekin­dled Warnock’s pas­sion as Cardiff ex­tend Town’s wait

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FRONT PAGE - RICHARD SUT­CLIFFE

NEIL WARNOCK has re­vealed how a short stint in charge of Rother­ham United saw him fall back in love with foot­ball and make pos­si­ble a re­turn to the Premier League.

The Cardiff City man­ager was back in his na­tive York­shire this week­end, as his side shared a goal­less draw with Hud­der­s­field Town.

With the Ter­ri­ers down to ten men for the fi­nal half-hour fol­low­ing Jonathan Hogg’s dis­missal, the Blue­birds were left to rue a big missed op­por­tu­nity but the 68-year-old is adamant that he is lov­ing life back among the elite.

“I would have re­tired with­out my time at Rother­ham,” said Warnock, about his three-month stint in the New York Sta­dium that saw the Millers beat the drop from the Cham­pi­onship against all the odds. “I bloody loved it at Rother­ham.

“Be­ing back in York­shire got me back in love with it. We had an amaz­ing time.

“Ev­ery­one wrote us off be­cause we were six points adrift with all the top teams to play. It was just amaz­ing to do what we did with the play­ers that we had and some of the places we were get­ting re­sults.

“It was one of the best things in my ca­reer. It re­ally got me go­ing.”

Warnock left the Millers in the wake of that suc­cess­ful fight against rel­e­ga­tion in May, 2016. He joined Cardiff a few months later and a record-break­ing eighth pro­mo­tion fol­lowed in May.

“Tony (Ste­wart), the chair­man, was bril­liant and I got that zest back,” he added. “If I had stayed, it would have been for the wrong rea­sons. It would have been for the money.

“What that time at Rother­ham did do is get me think­ing about my eighth pro­mo­tion. I thought I’ve got to try and get a club where I have a chance of pro­mo­tion and this was the only one who would take me!”

As for Cardiff ’s goal­less draw against the Ter­ri­ers, Warnock added: “Ev­ery­one thought Hud­der­s­field were go­ing to beat us, lambs to the slaugh­ter.

“I thought the way Hud­der­s­field played was down to us. We closed ev­ery­thing down and they weren’t al­lowed to dic­tate.

“We play more foot­ball than peo­ple give us credit for. Mind, I did laugh last week when they said (on TV) that we had 53 per cent pos­ses­sion (against New­cas­tle).

“I thought to my­self, ‘I will change that, I have a rep­u­ta­tion to up­hold’.”

IN the end, a point gained for Hud­der­s­field Town from a game that, by rights, they should have lost.

That much ex­plains the re­lieved faces all around the John Smith’s Sta­dium when ref­eree Michael Oliver blew the fi­nal whis­tle to bring to a close what had been a largely for­get­table Premier League game.

David Wag­ner’s Ter­ri­ers had sur­vived the fi­nal half-hour un­scathed de­spite be­ing down to 10 men fol­low­ing the dis­missal of Jonathan Hogg and the sigh of re­lief among the lo­cals was pal­pa­ble.

Speak­ing to The York­shire Post half-an-hour or so later, Jonas Lossl, af­ter much pon­der­ing on his part, set­tled on “moral vic­tory” as the best way to sum up a con­test that had only splut­tered into life once Hogg had been shown the red card.

It was as good a de­scrip­tion as any, not least be­cause the ter­ri­tory con­ceded by those 10 men meant the Blue­birds were ef­fec­tively able to set up camp in the Town half when at­tempt­ing to cap­i­talise on their numer­i­cal su­pe­ri­or­ity.

Lossl, an early sub­sti­tute for the in­jured Ben Hamer, played a big role in that rear­guard ac­tion prov­ing suc­cess­ful.

So, too, did the out­stand­ing Ter­ence Kon­golo, while Christo­pher Schindler and Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jor­gensen pro­vided use­ful sup­port and a suc­ces­sion of vi­tal in­ter­cep­tions to grind out a point that Lossl be­lieves means Town’s sea­son is now up and run­ning.

“The coach said it very well af­ter the game,” added the Dan­ish in­ter­na­tional. “Af­ter 60 min­utes, all of us felt this was a game to win three points.

“We all hoped that the sea­son was go­ing to start for real. But the red card meant we had to do things a lit­tle dif­fer­ently.

“In the end, I am stand­ing here happy to have one point. It was a moral vic­tory. Let’s go with that.”

Moral vic­to­ries, of course, do not keep teams in the Premier League. But an abil­ity to grind out points when the odds are against you does. Or, at least, it goes a long way to­wards en­sur­ing sur­vival.

What was con­cern­ing from a Town per­spec­tive, how­ever, was the lack of qual­ity from those in the fa­mous blue and white stripes when go­ing for­ward, even when both teams had the full com­ple­ment of play­ers on the pitch.

Not only did Hud­der­s­field in­sist on pump­ing long balls or aim­less crosses into the Cardiff penalty area, an ap­proach that played right into the hands of Sol Bamba and Sean Mor­ri­son.

But the lack of fi­nesse on those rare oc­ca­sions when Town did find them­selves deep in op­po­si­tion ter­ri­tory sug­gests the cre­ativ­ity prob­lems of last sea­son are far from solved af­ter a sum­mer that has seen an­other £40m or so spent in the trans­fer mar­ket.

If the 2017-18 cam­paign taught us any­thing, it is that the Ter­ri­ers look one-di­men­sional when Alex Pritchard is not in the side. Steve Mounie, as a con­se­quence, then be­comes hor­ri­bly iso­lated up front.

His­tory re­peated it­self against Cardiff, Pritchard left on the bench as Wag­ner handed Ra­jiv Van la Parra a sur­prise re­call and brought Adama Di­akhaby in for his full de­but.

Nei­ther im­pressed ei­ther side of a cen­tral mid­field that had Aaron Mooy pushed fur­ther for­ward, leav­ing Philip Billing to an­chor mid­field with Hogg.

Ra­madan Sobhi, the most im­pres­sive of the sum­mer sign­ings dur­ing pre-sea­son, be­ing ruled out by in­jury did not help Town.

But, even so, the lack of cre­ativ­ity from the hosts was such that, on this ev­i­dence, Hud­der­s­field may even strug­gle to beat last sea­son’s pal­try tally of 28 goals.

Never was this more ap­par­ent than in a truly turgid first half. Kon­golo’s shot into the side net­ting apart, Hud­der­s­field cre­ated noth­ing de­spite en­joy­ing 72 per cent pos­ses­sion.

Mat­ters im­proved slightly af­ter the break and Mounie was de­nied by a fly­ing save from Neil Etheridge af­ter Kon­golo had found the striker with a search­ing cross from the left wing.

Any hopes, how­ever, that Town might build on this rare foray for- ward were dashed when Hogg and Harry Arter locked heads just af­ter the hour mark.

Oliver’s view had been poor but his as­sis­tant in­formed the ref­eree that the Town man had hit the turf as the clear ag­gres­sor. Out came the yel­low card for Arter, a mo­ment or so be­fore Hogg was given his march­ing or­ders.

“They are two ag­gres­sive play­ers and one was much more clever than the other,” said Wag­ner af­ter­wards. “Un­for­tu­nately, the clever one was not my player.”

Sud­denly, Cardiff sensed a first Premier League vic­tory un­der former Town man­ager Neil Warnock. Danny Ward, also once of this parish, came off the bench along with Bobby Reid and be­fore long Hud­der­s­field were strug­gling to es­cape their own half.

Chances came and went, the best fall­ing to Mor­ri­son but the Ter­ri­ers old boy’s header from a cor­ner flew just wide.

Ward was then de­nied by Lossl, who was later re­lieved to see Josh Mur­phy blaze wide af- ter Van la Parra had got him­self in a tan­gle.

Lossl, hav­ing been dropped for the first two games due to Wag­ner be­liev­ing he re­turned to pre-sea­son out of shape, then un­der­lined his value to Town by deny­ing Reid in the third minute of stop­page time to en­sure hon­ours ended even.

“I feel great and I feel ready to stay in the team,” said the Dane, who played in all 38 league games last term as Hud­der­s­field beat the drop.

“It kills me I can­not be (an ever-present) in the team again this sea­son. But I loved be­ing back. I hope I have shown the man­ager that I am ready.”

PICTURES: RICHARD SELL­ERS/PA

OLD BOY: Former Hud­der­s­field Town de­fender Sean Mor­ri­son wins an aerial chal­lenge, top; in­jured goal­keeper Ben Hamer, left, is re­placed by Jonas Lossl and Hud­der­s­field mid­field man Jonathan Hogg is given his march­ing or­ders by Michael Oliver.

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