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Who were the three stand-out performers in Cardiff’s cup win over Portsmouth?

Philip Marsh

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Cardiff

Cardiff City booked their place in the second round of the Carabao Cup with an extra-time win over League One outfit Portsmouth.

The Bluebirds didn’t make things easy and found themselves a goal down at the break after captain Steve Morrison turned the ball into his own net.

In the second half, the home side were much improved and it took them less than five minutes to draw level.

Portsmouth did not drop their heads though. Kenny Jackett’s side matched the Championship outfit but could not find the same openings their opponents did.

Greg Halford’s late goal was enough to secure safe passage for the much-changed Cardiff side and avoid a penalty shootout.

Neil Warnock will have been disappointed it took extra-time to see off lower league opposition. First-team players Steve Morrison, Bruno Manga and Lee Tomlin will all need that little bit more recovery time as a result.

However, he will not be disappointed with the performances shown by some of the Bluebirds’ fringe players.

Matthew Kennedy

Matthew Kennedy was the game’s best player. His top-class performance will make Warnock think twice about sending the midfielder out on loan again.

Since his arrival in South Wales, the former Everton player has not had many chances to impress. Last season he was loaned out to Plymouth where he helped the Pilgrims secure promotion, alongside Portsmouth and Doncaster.

From the left, Kennedy caused Portsmouth’s defenders a whole host of problems, especially in the second half as he and Jazz Richards linked up beautifully.

His determination was epitomised by his run which led to Cardiff’s first goal. A loose ball looked destined to go out for a throw-in but Kennedy had other plans.

Not only did he keep the ball in play but he beat two defenders before squaring the ball to Nathaniel Mendez-Laing for the simplest of finishes.

He could have added his name to the scoresheet as well if it weren’t for a great save for Luke McGee in the Portsmouth goal and a missed header.

With extra-time looming, Warnock replaced Kennedy with Junior Hoilett, the standing ovation from the Cardiff fans said everything about the youngster’s performance.

It won’t come as a surprise to Bluebirds fans to see his name in the squad for upcoming matches, and if he continues to impress he could find himself in the starting eleven before long.

Loic Damour

Summer signing Loic Damour was unknown to the vast majority of Cardiff City fans, and his arrival raised a few questions marks.

Those doubts were well and truly put to bed after Tuesday night. Damour, whose style of play is likened to N’golo Kante, dominated the midfield from start to finish.

The Frenchman looked as comfortable going forward as he did when defending. His vision helped create numerous chances whilst his ability to read the game cut out attack after attack.

What was perhaps most impressive about his performance was how visibly comfortable he was with the ball at his feet.

Damour never rushed a decision and at times, it seemed, every single pass found its target. That surety in possession is something few players at Cardiff currently possess.

Joe Ralls and Aron Gunnarsson appear to be Warnock’s first choice centre-midfielder partnership this season. However, Damour, as he proved with his assist against Burton, will be extremely important from the bench.

Against Portsmouth, if it weren’t for Kennedy’s performance, Damour would have been man of the match.

Nathaniel Mendez-Laing

Another new recruit, Mendez-Laing, was the touch of inspiration Cardiff needed on Tuesday night.

Warnock opted to start Anthony Pilkington ahead of the former Rochdale player but substituted the Irishman at half time.

Mendez-Laing’s impact was almost instant. Within five minutes he had leveled the score and was a handful for the Pompey defence all night.

Despite his height and powerful physique, the winger has blistering acceleration and made the opposition look snail-paced at times.

On another day he could have had a hat-trick in the second half alone but good last-ditch defender prevented him from taking home the match ball.

Like Kennedy and Damour, Mendez-Laing will have a role to play for Cardiff this season. If the Bluebirds are to challenge for a play-off spot, all three will need to continue to impress throughout the next ten months.

Philip is a Computer Science graduate with a Masters in Journalism. He supports his home-town club Cardiff City but enjoys watching any game he can. You can find Philip on Twitter @PhilipTSMarsh.

Cardiff City

Neil Etheridge will want to best Fulham more than most Cardiff City players

The Philippines international was never given a chance at Fulham.

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This week saw Fulham leapfrog Cardiff City into second place in the Championship. The Cottagers defeated struggling Reading 1-0 whilst the Bluebirds suffered defeat at the hands of fellow promotion chasers Aston Villa.

Cardiff, however, do have a game in hand over their West London rivals and, if they can pick up the victory in that game, they will return to the automatic promotion spots.

One man who will hope they can beat Fulham to promotion more than others is Cardiff City goalkeeper Neil Etheridge.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

The Philippines international has been a revelation for Neil Warnock’s side this season since arriving from Walsall in the summer.

But his career has been something of a struggle up to this point, including a difficult spell with Cardiff’s biggest promotion rivals. The 28-year-old headed to Fulham from Chelsea in 2006. He spent eight years with the Cottagers but played just once for the club in his time at Craven Cottage, in a Europa League clash with Odense Boldklub which saw Martin Jol’s side dumped out the competition.

Instead, he spent much of his time at Fulham out on loan with the likes of Leatherhead, Charlton, Bristol Rovers and Crewe Alexandra.

(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Then, in the summer of 2014, Fulham released him.

Since then he has rebuilt his career with spells at Oldham Athletic, Charlton and, eventually, excelling at Walsall.

Etheridge signed initially as a back-up to Lee Camp, has now established himself as the number one at Cardiff City. For him, ensuring that Cardiff get one over on Fulham would be a massive personal boost against a side who never gave him the chances, it seems, he could have taken.

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Cardiff City

Despite Wolves loss, Cardiff City supporters should be confident of promotion

The Bluebirds’ promotion hopes took a hit against Wolves on Friday evening.

Jake Jackman

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Cardiff
Photo: Getty Images

Cardiff City have been in the automatic promotion places for a number of weeks now, but their gap to Fulham is narrowing after a couple of poor results.

Earlier this week, they had to rely on a late goal from Anthony Pilkington to take a point from their away match against Sheffield United.

They then dropped points to top-of-the-table Wolverhampton Wanderers, despite being awarded two penalties in stoppage time.

If they had scored one, they would have earned another point, but neither found the back of the net.

At this time of the season, every disappointment is felt more harshly as it could be the missed opportunity that costs a club promotion or relegation.

Cardiff remain in second position and have a five-point cushion to Fulham in third.

However, the Cottagers have been in rampant form, with their last loss in the league coming back in December. They have won six of their last seven matches.

There will be a lot of nerves among Cardiff supporters heading into the final six matches of the campaign, but they should remain confident that their team can win promotion to the Premier League for only the second time.

The loss against Wolves was only their second Championship defeat in 2018 and it came against the only team above them in the league table.

The players will be more affected due to missing two penalties in stoppage time, but if they reflect on what the result represents, it shouldn’t hit their confidence too hard.

Prior to the Wolves defeat, Cardiff were unbeaten in 13 matches in the Championship and had won ten of those. That is the form of a team destined for promotion.

(Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

That run of wins came after four successive defeats in the league that momentarily derailed their season.

There will be fears that a similar run could be incoming, but Neil Warnock is an experienced manager who regularly delivers success. He will have made sure the players learned from that period and their form since suggests that they did.

Another reason for optimism is the defensive record sustained by the club.

The Bluebirds may not have the attacking talent possessed by either Wolves or Fulham, but Warnock has made sure they are difficult to break down at the back.

They have conceded only 34 times, which is the best defensive record of any team in the division.

It is often said that defences win championships and the solid foundations that have been built at the Cardiff City Stadium give them a great chance of maintaining their five-point lead.

Last season, Brighton, who finished in second, earned 93 points over the course of the season. That number will only be reached by Fulham if they win their remaining six matches.

Despite their good form, that remains unlikely as the Championship is a very competitive division. It is much more likely that 90 will be enough to reach the Premier League without going through the play-offs.

(Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

That means that Cardiff need to be targeting at least three wins and one draw from their remaining six matches.

They have some difficult matches against Aston Villa, Norwich City and Derby County, but this season has shown that the Bluebirds should go into each match with confidence of winning.

The other fixtures will see them face Nottingham Forest, Hull City and Reading.

The past week has shown that promotion is far from secured yet, but with a five-point cushion and four matches to play against teams in the bottom half, Cardiff should remain confident that they will finish in the automatic promotion places.

Warnock has a good promotion record and it would be a surprise if they are surpassed by an in-form Fulham team.

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Cardiff City

How Fulham can still topple Cardiff for automatic promotion

Hopes of automatic promotion remain alive for the Cottagers.

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Fulham
Photo: Getty Images

It speaks volumes about Fulham’s tremendous revival that the conversation around Craven Cottage has shifted entirely from a top-six finish to the automatic promotion places.

At this stage last season, the Whites were a point outside of the top-six, while they entered 2018’s international break in third position, a massive eight points clear of sixth spot.

The change comes on the back of a tremendous unbeaten run that began all the way in late December and shows no signs of stopping.

Last weekend’s draw against Queens Park Rangers marked Fulham’s 16th unbeaten match in a row, breaking the previous club record of 15 matches without a loss.

Although the Fulham players should justly be delighted with the accolades, the records will mean little to the club unless promotion is secured.

It seems certain that the Whites will at minimum make the play-offs, but is it too fanciful to dream of automatic promotion in SW6?

For Fulham’s part, they simply must keep their unbeaten run alive to stand any chance of grabbing second spot.

Their impressive spell has been admirably equalled by Cardiff City, who have engineered an 11-match unbeaten run while winning their last seven.

As a result, despite Fulham’s scorching-hot form, the gap to second has been relatively constant at around seven points.

The Whites’ run-in is comparatively favourable to that of the Bluebirds, and may offer a glimmer of hope for their second-place ambitions.

Fulham play Norwich City, Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday, Reading, Brentford, Millwall, Sunderland, and Birmingham City in their last eight. Out of these eight clubs, three are in the bottom five, and none are occupy the top nine.

Cardiff, on the other hand, face a far tougher run of things in their last nine matches (Cardiff crucially has a game in hand over Fulham).

Winnable matches against Burton, Norwich City, Nottingham Forest, Reading, and Hull are offset by grueling games versus the likes of Wolves, Aston Villa, Sheffield United, and Derby.

If Fulham can pull off the improbable and finish the season without another loss, then it would not only mark a stunning 2018 turn-around, but could provide ammunition for automatic promotion.

(Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Seven points is a large gap to make up with only eight matches remaining, but Cardiff’s substantially harder schedule could allow Fulham to tighten the gap.

Second-place could be a long-shot for the Whites, but Fulham are right to dream of automatic promotion; last season’s play-off heartbreak is still fresh in the memory.

A late, frantic push for the top-two will provide the closing months of the season with fresh drama – nothing less than Premier League status is at stake.

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