A first goalless draw of the season for North End, but it was one where we should have taken all three points. It did put an end to three straight away defeats, but despite the good performance, there was a lot of frustration with the lack of cutting edge up-front.
Other results did go in our favour over the weekend and we head into the game against Leeds United on Boxing Day knowing a win will see us just 6 points behind them.
Here are 5 things we learned from the Cardiff City game:
Paul Huntington has arguably been our best player this month. Even with Patrick Bauer back in the side, it could be said that the Cumbrian Cannavaro has outshone him.
Another strong defensive display restricting Cardiff’s forward line to limited chances. With Ben Davies close to full fitness it would be tough for Alex Neil to leave him out. However, when it looked at the start of the season that Hunts was effectively the fifth choice centre back behind Tom Clarke and Jordan Storey as well, he’s now found himself well in the manager’s plans.
The fan favourite’s leadership was clear to see against Cardiff, constantly barking out instructions to the rest of the team and ensuring concentration levels didn’t drop.
Maguire and Bodin Need to up Their Games
On Saturday Seani Maguire had numerous openings and had a few good efforts at goal. It needs to be better though if we want to be serious about getting promoted. We had so many chances in the game but Maguire and Bodin wasted a lot of them. Bodin especially just lost the ball on so many occasions when there were better options for him.
Tom Barkhuizen is the best winger at the club and after that, we’re lacking genuine quality in my opinion. We could do with a few more options but it astounds me how Josh Ginnelly and Andre Green don’t get a look in at all when our current options seem to have stagnated a little.
Josh Harrop played well out wide at the start of the season and I think he deserves another chance but I would be surprised if we don’t see a wide player coming into the club in January.
One player who we here at From the Finney understand the club are interested in bringing in on loan is Conor Gallagher. He could play anywhere in the 3 behind the frontman and would certainly add a bit of quality.
North End are interested in signing Conor Gallagher on loan from Chelsea. Currently on loan at Charlton. Interest from a Premier League club as well. Would be a coup. #pnefc
— From the Finney (@fromthefinney) December 22, 2019
The Subs Came too Late Again
We needed some fresh legs up-front and when Barkhuizen got a slight knock it looked as if Harrop would come on which was probably what we needed. He didn’t feature though and instead, the late introductions of David Nugent, Brad Potts and Jayden Stockley did little to alter the game.
Bringing Stockley on earlier I think could have altered the dynamic of the game and unsettled the Cardiff defence if we got in and around him and played off the second balls and knockdowns, like the Rovers game.
Neil has too much faith in the starting eleven sometimes and despite us enjoying a lot of the possession on a Saturday we weren’t making the most of it and it needed an earlier change.
Decision Making Needs to be Better
So many times we were in great positions in the game and made the wrong choice. Most often it was greed from a player going for a shot when a pass was on.
The main one was when Alan Browne was gifted the ball by the Cardiff defence and running through on goal he had two great options either side of him. Seani on the left and Barky on the right. Either option would have probably led to a goal but instead, Browne went for a shot himself and it was a very tame effort.
The build-up play from us is great, we wait patiently passing it around but then when we do get a chance we seem to panic. Six goals away from home all season and none from open play since Harrop’s against Middlesbrough in early October, it’s a worrying trend.
Pearson is a Class Act
When playing in front of the cameras, Sky are always quick to mention Ben Pearson’s disciplinary record – the most yellow cards in the league since August 2016, 48.
Yet on Saturday, his performance was a joy to watch and he showed why he is about so much more than a strong challenge. He covered so much ground in the match and was always available to receive the ball.
He played some beautiful passes, the one over the top of the defence onto Maguire’s chest in particular caught the eye. He even had a couple of decent efforts on goal which is unlike him.
He’s crucial to our chances this season, he dictates the way we play and his interceptions, last-ditch tackles and then the way he drives us forward again allows us to control games. He’s simply superb.