Warnock’s Toughest Test Ahead

Cardiff city aim to bounce back after a first defeat of the Warnock era as they travel to league leaders Newcastle tomorrow

After a dream start gaining 7 of a possible 9 points, Cardiff were brought back to reality with a home defeat against managerless Wigan Athletic last weekend. The lacklustre game, in which Cardiff did enjoy the majority in a game of few chances, was sealed by a late strike from former Swansea midfielder Jordi Gomez.

Cardiff came close to drawing level in the 95th minute with a Bennett shot forcing a save from Adam Bogdan, but it was too little too late. Cardiff came close on a few occasions, with a Sol Bamba header cleared off the line, but the lack of a natural striker was evident with “talisman” Lambert injured.

The Bluebirds now travel to St. James’ Park aiming to get back to winning ways against a Benitez side in scintillating form having won their last 6 games on the bounce. The last encounter between the two was under very different circumstances, at the tail end of a debut Premier League season for Cardiff. Newcastle condemned Solskjaers men to the Championship that day with a 3-0 scoreline.

Since then the two teams have gone through a combined 5 managers, now both sides sitting in the second tier, aiming to get back to the bright lights of the Premier League.

Their attempts this season could not have been more different. Cardiff, now looking more stable, sit a tender point above the relegation zone, and Newcastle contrastingly enjoying a four-point lead at the top of the table.

The £15 million acquisition of Dwight Gayle in the summer seemingly proving good value with him leading the Newcastle line as top goalscorer in the division with 11 in 12. The former Crystal Palace man’s form not lost on Warnock, with his comments today of Gayle being the “best finisher I’ve ever had”.

Sol Bamba and Sean Morrison’s partnership has sured-up the defence somewhat, but Cardiff will do well to keep out a Newcastle side averaging 2 goals a game. This will no doubt be Cardiff’s toughest test, performances have improved under Warnock, but a question mark over a proven attacking option still looms.

A lack of pace and tenacity in front of goal cost Cardiff against Wigan, with only four of nineteen shots on target. The use of Pilkington as a lone striker has not been effective this season, echoed in Warnocks comments earlier today; “We haven’t got an awful lot of natural goalscorers so we have to work hard for goals”.

The loss of Rickie Lambert has clearly affected the Bluebirds, with conformation on his availability needed for tomorrow after receiving numerous stitches from a horror injury at Forest.

Faith has yet to be given to strikers Kenneth Zohore or Gougongbe to lead the line, and Warnock signing Chamakh appearing to lack match fitness, meaning Pilkington is likely to start up front in a 4-1-4-1 formation.

Cardiff will need to be at their best to upset a Newcastle side looking for their 7th straight victory.