First things first, and that win was vital. In the circumstances, those three points were priceless, and when I say ‘circumstances’ I mean a relegation battle.
Whatever else is or isn’t going on with our football club at the moment, the need to arrest our freefall down the Championship table has to be everyone’s top priority and in that regard, it was job done,
For that, fair play to the head coach, his staff, and the players.
They have been lambasted from all quarters over the last few weeks – deservedly so I might add – so it is only right to laud a good effort when they produce one. Cardiff, let’s not forget, had only lost once at home this season until yesterday and that was back in early August, so it is not an easy place to go.
Despite there being a few troubling echoes of weeks gone by when conceding those two goals in the space of four first-half minutes, which turned a 1-0 lead into a 2-1 deficit, they responded magnificently, helped by some tactical tweaks for which the head coach deserves credit.
But the biggest winners were the travelling fans who would have made the long trip from east to west in hope rather than expectation. Wagner and the players deserved their moment after all that had gone before – so too Stuart Webber I guess – but those hardy few hundred were every bit as magnificent as anything that happened on the pitch.
If ever a group of people deserved to see a win…
It was not perfect of course – unless you’re Ipswich Town, Championship wins very rarely are – but what Wagner and his group did yesterday was find a way; something that eluded them for six weeks.
In the first half, there were tactical and technical errors abound but once those were addressed at half-time and despite leaving it late to get on level terms and then ahead, the changes in shape and personnel came together to produce 45 minutes of decent football.
For the first time in six weeks, we did look dangerous going forward and had some semblance of control in the game, and in Danny Batth we had a central defender who did not have a mistake in him and who resembled a solid, reliable Championship centre-back. Remember those?
Unfortunately, said half-time personnel changes involved correcting a giant starting-XI wrong in the form of changing both full-backs.
For some reason, for some time now, Wagner has believed that Przemysław Płacheta is a good left-back trapped in the body of a very ordinary left-winger but hopefully, after yesterday’s first half, it is an experiment we will never witness again.
We can all see the theory – that from a deeper position, Placheta can use that electric pace to provide an additional attacking threat – and there are times when it works, but even in the modern world of fullbacks being auxiliary attackers, they still have to be able to do their bread and butter. Defend.
And that I am afraid is where the Wagner plan falls down. The pace of Usain Boult can only get you out of so many positional muddles. There is also a need to understand the position and, within it, your starting position. There is also that old-fashioned thing of being able to spot danger before it is too late.
None of those things happened or looked like happening.
On the other side, Kellen Fisher has taken great strides since joining the club and clearly has something about him to be on the fringes, but giving him and Jaden Warner – joint age of 40 – responsibility for policing that right side of the defence is evidently too much too soon.
Hopefully being hooked at half-time will merely be part of Fisher’s sharp learning curve and not something that will destroy his confidence, and the same with Warner who was replaced just nine minutes into the second half by Adam Idah in a reshuffle that saw Kenny McLean again slot into the back four.
Both Fisher and Warner are the future – yesterday does not change that.
But it was the introduction of Idah that proved decisive and made his non-appearance in last week’s 3-0 home defeat by Blackburn all the more mystifying. The Irishman’s movement, power, and desire added a dynamic to City’s attack that had been missing and it was fitting he was on hand to calmly sidefoot home that 84th-minute winner.
Some argue Idah has had more than enough chances and has not taken them, others believe him to have been harshly treated by Wagner, but no one could deny his impact yesterday and how deserving he was of that moment.
Christian Fassnacht is another who has divided opinion and who, until his recall yesterday, had fallen out of favour with Wagner, But, like Idah, he was able to influence events in Cardiff.
With a goal and an assist, the Swiss international, on his 30th birthday, provided a threat down that right side that was there at the start of the season but which has fizzled in the last month. This was the Christian Fassnacht that we have all been waiting for.
Upon arriving in NR1, it was clear from his YouTube highlights package that here is a wide player who is not going to dazzle with his pace and trickery but rather one who has a knack for arriving in the box at the right time and who, as a result, will chip in with that priceless commodity of goals from midfield.
Here’s hoping that was just a start.
And while on the subject of good things that happened in Cardiff, let’s not forget the save made by George Long early in the second-hand when faced one-on-one with Karlan Grant. If that goes in, City lose the game but the ex-Millwall man stood tall when he was needed most.
A save that equated to three points if ever there was one.
I’ve deliberately steered clear of the bigger picture because it would be wrong to dismiss a win when they have been so hard to come by but, as has been said many times since 5pm last night, that single win must not be used by those in power as a shield to deflect from the very real issues affecting our club.
Wagner was deserving of his moment yesterday but that one win does not suddenly make him the right man for the job.
He clearly is not.
Neither should those in power assume that because we, the fans, are chuffed with the three points earned in Cardiff, we too are, all of a sudden, of the opinion that everything is tickety-boo.
It clearly is not.
With Ben Knapper starting tomorrow, we all hope that his most pressing task will be to decide who will coach this team on the other side of the international break and going forward. Some assume his decision on Wagner’s future has already been made. We will see.
But what I will say is, before he even starts, his job has been made more difficult by Delia Smith and Michael Wynn-Jones.
Unless I have misread it, their phone call last week to reassure Wagner that he has their full support has made it that little bit more difficult for Knapper to make the big call. Unless, of course, Knapper will only be implementing decisions on their behalf.
I suppose we can only wait and see on that one.
But, for now, let’s just enjoy the win. If it is to be a relegation battle, at least yesterday proved there is still some fight in there somewhere. Further down the track, those qualities will be needed.
Finally, it would be remiss not to mention Stuart Webber on his last day at the club.
While the guard of honour he was afforded yesterday felt ridiculously OTT given the torrid state of affairs he leaves behind, he does at least deserve to be remembered for the infrastructural changes he has overseen at Colney and for bringing us Daniel Farke.
Without Farke there would have been no Championship triumphs in 2018-19 and 2020-21 and without Webber, there would have been no Farke. So thank you for that, Stuart.
As for the rest, well, he leaves us in a more lowly league position than which he found us. By his own barometer, that does not equate to success.
On the Ball City.