After we registered an impressive third consecutive league win away at Blackburn on Wednesday night, Anthony Patterson signed a new contract, and a formidable collective effort saw hundreds of Lads’ fans join together to wreak organised havoc on the Google review section of a Mag-supporting restaurant, we headed into Sunday’s clash with Cardiff looking to add the icing on the cake at the end of a fruitful week.
To nobody’s surprise, we went into the game unchanged, with Abdoullah Ba’s recent displays earning him a starting berth ahead of Patrick Roberts, while Chelsea loanee Mason Burstow was also given the nod despite being replaced just after the hour mark in midweek.
The first half was an uneventful affair.
Neither side fashioned many chances and there was a toothlessness that seemed to leave both teams in a perpetually inoffensive state.
That said, we were by far the better side, and certainly in possession, with Alex Pritchard, Jobe, and Dan Neil pulling the strings in midfield. After some shaky recent appearances, Niall Huggins was terrific down the left flank, linking up nicely with Jack Clarke.
However, for all of our apparent zip and patience, we were lacking in the final third and we just couldn’t quite tap into the potency that saw us net three against Blackburn and QPR, and five against Southampton.
Burstow’s enthusiasm to press was refreshing, although his clumsy touch and end product left a lot to be desired. The opening forty five minutes ended all square at 0-0, with it all still to play for come the second half.
On a brief side note, is Cardiff right back Perry Ng the only player in the football pyramid without a vowel in his surname?
The second half followed the same frustrating pattern as the first.
We huffed and puffed but couldn’t find a way through a resilient Cardiff defence, who were exceptional for the entire game. Pritchard’s low drive was the closest we came to breaking the deadlock, but he was denied by the outstretched arms of Jak Alnwick.
Eventually, Jobe, Ba and Burstow made way for Patrick Roberts, Hemir and Adil Aouchiche, who were equally unable to make an impact.
There was an air of inevitability about Cardiff going for the smash-and-grab, despite only recording 34% possession and registering just two shots on target.
As the game seemed to be fizzling out, Trai Hume was pressed by their left winger and an appallingly sloppy back pass saw us concede a corner.
We all know what came thereafter, and suddenly it was 1-0 to Cardiff as the ball was bundled in by Mark McGuinness, putting the visitors undeservedly in front and on course for the three points.
Unfortunately, a late cameo from the lively Nazariy Rusyn didn’t inspire a spirited fightback, meaning the usually dependable Hume’s blushes couldn’t be spared.
For the first time in what seemed like an eternity, we’d ‘done a Sunderland’ and shot ourselves in the foot.
Although it was frustrating that we couldn’t record a fourth consecutive league win for the first time since 2013, this will serve as a lesson to our buoyant and exciting side, as well as the fans, who have to accept that championing young talent will result in a mistake or two along the way.
On to Friday night’s game away at Sheffield Wednesday. Haway the Lads!