A midfield of Sam Byram, Rodolph Austin, Aidy White and new arrival Michael Tonge highlighted Leeds United’s injury crisis and lack of quality depth, but the makeshift midfield quartet performed well in difficult circumstances.
The first half was an evenly matched exchange with few clear cut chances. Leeds had been dealt a severe blow in the first 5 minutes when Ross McCormack was taken off with an ankle injury that looks like it’ll keep him sidelined for the next few weeks.
With McCormack off injured and Luke Varney on as his replacement, Leeds had lost their most creative influence and our only hope was to battle hard, keep Cardiff from scoring and hope for a good enough chance to get on the scoresheet ourselves.
A half-time score of 0-0 stands testament to Leeds United’s resolve. The Whites had in no way dominated the first half, but neither had Cardiff City who struggled to create any clear-cut chances.
In an effort to address Leeds’ distinct lack of creativity, Neil Warnock brought El Hadji Diouf on at the interval in place of Adam Drury, but Cardiff started the second half on the front foot with several good chances cleared by Leeds’ back-line.
The biggest difference between Cardiff and Leeds is the quality in depth our Welsh counterparts can boast, this was highlighted by the game-changing substitution of Craig Noone for the formidable Craig Bellamy just after the hour mark.
Only minutes after he entered the pitch, Craig Bellamy was standing over a controversially awarded free-kick in a dangerous position. However questionable the decision to award the free-kick was, there was no doubt about the strike itself, one of pure quality from Cardiff’s prodigal son leaving Paddy Kenny with no chance. 1-0.
Minutes later, Cardiff doubled their advantage from the penalty spot after Tom Lees fouled in the box. This time it was Peter Whittingham who did the honours, putting the game out of reach for an unfortunate Leeds United. 2-0.
But The Whites didn’t let their heads drop and managed to get themselves on the scoresheet thanks to a powerfully struck 30 yard free-kick from Rodolph Austin making it 2-1.
Leeds had a couple of half chances to level the game thereafter, but overall, the narrow Cardiff victory was a fair reflection of the game. For all Leeds United’s hard work and determination, Cardiff City have a strong squad with plenty of depth, and it was their depth that ultimately determined the result.
Meanwhile, injuries forced Leeds United in to playing two youth players (Byram and Poleon), a recently acquired loanee (Michael Tonge) and where Cardiff City had Craig Bellamy as back-up to replace one of their most important players (Noone), we had Luke Varney. No disrespect to any of them, but the contrast is alarming.
The quality of our first choice XI is probably good enough to make the play-offs, but injuries are inevitable and without the strength in depth to overcome the kind of crisis we’re currently experiencing, it’s unrealistic to expect anything better than mid-table – no matter how hard Neil Warnock and his side work to defy the odds.