Written for WalesOnline, find original article here
Cardiff City will look to arrest their recent dip in form when they welcome Ipswich Town on Saturday afternoon. Neil Warnock’s side have gathered an underwhelming two points from a possible nine in their last three outings, having suffered from late goals in each of those matches.
Here’s all you need to know about The Tractor Boys.
Style of play
Ipswich are not exactly enthralling to watch, setting out to stifle and thwart the opposition. The Blues’ form does not speak for a team who seek to entertain – six consecutive draws and just two wins in 15 games show a team who are lacking in attacking ambition. City can very much expect Ipswich to travel to the capital with a concentrated game-plan: sit back, absorb pressure, disrupt rhythm and dare Cardiff to break them down.
They have only conceded two more goals than play-off chasing Fulham and cut a discipline and organised structure when not in possession.
It could be an incredibly frustrating day for Warnock’s men and they must be careful to keep their shape and not throw all caution to the wind; if they do, they will be playing right into Mick McCarthy’s hands and be punished on the counter-attack.
Warnock will be no stranger to the fine margins upon which the Championship is balanced – such margins have cost the Bluebirds dearly recently – and will be wary of how a game dominated by his men might turn on its head with one slip-up.
Such margins have cost the Bluebirds dearly
He showed signs of promise at Cardiff, but it wasn’t enough for the City hierarchy to bring him to Wales permanently. In just a few months, however, the young Welshman has converted his precocious abilities into moments of eye-catching brilliance. Dazzling runs have been combined with composed finishes; shots from distance have rocketed into the top-corner; games have been decided by his contributions.
Without Lawrence’s presence Ipswich would be in an utterly dire situation. The loaned-Leicester man has been so important to the Blues that without his goals they would be 10 points worse off and finding themselves in the relegation zone.
The ex-Manchester United man looks to finally be fulfilling his immense potential and has the ability to win games with a moment of magic.
McGoldrick will spear-head McCarthy’s attack and is a foil for Lawrence. The 6ft striker is the target man and will be immersed in a constant battle with Sean Morrison and Sol Bamba. With Ipswich prone to playing direct football, McGoldrick is a favourite for McCarthy because of his physical presence and assured hold-up play.
However, for a man of such stock, McGoldrick is surprisingly adept with his footwork and will look to work opportunities if given the chance.
Manager – Mick McCarthy
Mick McCarthy has been at the helm for five seasons, and outlasted 88 other Championship managers during his tenure. McCarthy had led Ipswich to a play-off place two seasons ago, and pipped Cardiff to 7th place last time out. Discernible improvements had been made since his arrival, as he steadied a ship that was sinking under Paul Jewell.
However, as Ipswich’s season begins to fade into irrelevancy, patience is thinning and frustrations are growing. McCarthy’s side look to be ending the season in a state of inertia. The Tractor Boys have plateaued and with fans now worried about what is happening behind their shoulders – the side sit seven points above the relegation zone – some are beginning to call for his dismissal at the end of the season.
McCarthy has been in management for 25 years and such dissenters won’t faze him, but he will be increasingly concerned should his side continue to stagnate.
Although the East-Anglian club will set up in two banks of four and seek to oppress Cardiff’s attacking play, they are considerably weak at man-marking and allowing runs in behind. Various occasions have seen Ipswich concede because of poor marking and a refusal to follow one’s man Kenneth Zohore is not a player who naturally looks to get in-behind a defence, so Warnock might be tempted to pair him with a returning Anthony Pilkington who has the spatial intelligence and awareness to find and receive the ball in threatening spaces.
McCarthy’s men find the net an awful lot, failing to score more than one goal in their last seven matches. This attacking mediocrity means that should City go ahead, they need to capitalise. A Cardiff lead would see Ipswich become more adventurous, and this is when Warnock’s men need learn from their recent mistakes and not rest on their laurels. A second goal would all-but kill the game and secure three points for the Bluebirds.
If Cardiff do score first, it is very likely they’ll get at least a point. Ipswich have failed to win an away match in which the home team has scored first in 35 consecutive games – this astonishing fact demonstrates not only an inability to turn over a deficit, but suggests a lack of belief that can be exploited if City adopt an edge of arrogance and go for the kill on Saturday.
Even if Ipswich are short of confidence, they won’t simply roll over. McCarthy will demand his men fight and repress City’s play. It will not be the most aesthetically pleasing match you’ll ever attend, and City players and fans will have to exercise patience in the face of an austere opposition.
The result will likely be a close one, but with Ipswich’s season grinding to a frustrating halt and Warnock intent on finishing the season in a good vein of form, it is a game that Cardiff should be winning. A tight and combative affair should be expected, but we’ll give Cardiff the edge and go for 1-0.