Previously, the Bluebirds hadn’t won a league match since November, in a dismal spell stretching to 12 games.
The team looked to be spiralling out of control, but have they managed to right the ship in time for the business end of the season?
Lucky number 13
It might have taken a run of 13 games, but Cardiff were finally able to grab all three points from a Championship tie in 2023. In truth, it ended up being a fairly routine win, even if the side waited until the last 10 minutes to do something meaningful against fellow strugglers Birmingham City. (The Blues had actually won their last two games.)
Cardiff went for a tactical shift to a more direct style of play, but a late Perry Ng free-kick was what it took to break the deadlock. Callum Robinson nabbed a second in the final minutes, opting to take the ball past three players before rifling it into the roof of the net, rather than shepherding it towards the corner flag.
Was the result a flash in the pan, or is it indicative of a change in fortunes for the Welsh side?
It’s only been a few years since Cardiff City were last in the Premier League, relegated by two points at the expense of Brighton. Since then, the team finished fifth in 2019-20, only to be knocked out in the play-offs by Fulham. The Bluebirds were unlucky to finish eighth last season as Kieffer Moore bagged 20 goals, but it’s all fallen apart in 2022/23.
Former captain Mark Hudson was at the helm until January, and was let go after 118 days with the club 21st in the table. It’s all the more disappointing considering they had decent promotion odds at the start of the season.
Academy graduates Joel Bagan and Oliver Denham have seen appearances limited during this campaign, which makes sense as the club needs results. Still, it’s a world away from pre-season in August, when chairman Mehmet Dalman talked up their hopes for a play-off spot:
"If I didn't say top six I would get killed, our objective is to fight for the top six. I genuinely don't see us in the top two, far from it. It's a young team, so many new faces, it will take time for them to gel together. The fans need to be patient and understanding as those players all gel into a team. So, if we are in the top six, I would be over the moon."
Striker Conor Wickham joined the club in the last few days, aiming to add some firepower to an attack that has scored the fewest goals in the Championship this season. He was on the bench against Birmingham, and was soon thrown into action. He came on after 73 minutes, and bagged an assist for the second goal.
It was a first win for former France international Sabri Lamouchi, rushed in as the new manager in January. The ex Nottingham Forest boss had yet to see his side score, or earn a point after three losses in a row. However, the Birmingham match was his first home game in charge.
He was quick to point to any positive signs when speaking to BBC Wales after the game:
"It feels incredible. I'm so happy for my players, happy for the fans, but especially for the players. What a win, what a game, what a performance. I'm happy for them as they didn't deserve to be in this situation. They lost confidence but what we're doing in training with the quality, I know I have a good squad.”
"At the same time, I know it's just one victory but the last one was in November which was a long time ago. They deserve to enjoy it with the fans, to be happy in the dressing room, but we now need to think about Reading in the next game."
As of now, Cardiff are 15 points off the pace, while they’ve played two more games than the three teams below them. It’s tight at the bottom of the table, and it’s going to be tough to escape a potential dogfight unscathed.
In and of itself, a single win isn’t going to change the Bluebirds’ fortunes, but it’s a decent place to start on the road to recovery. A lot will depend on the game against Reading, as we’ll see whether the result was just a flash in the pan.
A silver lining is that the team picked up a few draws during their winless spell, and they’re now a bit further away from the relegation zone. Another positive is that the side earned a clean sheet for the first time since December.
Despite the firepower added in January, another poor run would be dangerous for the Welsh side. They’re still in survival mode, and goals haven’t come easy. Even with the brace against Birmingham, only League Two’s Gillingham have scored fewer goals in the EFL.
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