Malky Mackay praised the spirit of his squad in the way they responded to Derby's 75th minute opener on Tuesday night, while admitting his players were annoyed at the needless mistakes that led to Connor Sammon's strike.
“I have to start praising the resilience of my squad over the last fifteen minutes tonight,” he said after the game. “Derby are known for being a very hard working team and were certainly that tonight. It wasn’t exactly a free flowing game tonight, but it’s something that we had to deal with.
“On another day we could have had the winner, but Rudy unfortunately missed the goal a few yards out. But the rule is that you start off with a point and work hard so you don’t have to settle with anything less - and on tonight’s standing we have to take the positives that we’re better off overall than we were this afternoon.
“Our focus is mainly on what we do, but on looking at how results went tonight we’ve also extended our lead to a point more over third place Hull with one less game to play. I’m pleased with the resilience of my team.”
Most would agree that the match against the Rams lacked fluidity and certainly won’t be in contention for performance of the season. But Cardiff were good value for the point earned on a night when quality finishing was lacking for both teams.
The Cardiff City squad however were annoyed with the way in which they opened up to allow Derby to score, with Malky explaining, “We talked through the goal we conceded, citing two or three individual errors that culminated in Connor Sammon scoring. At any point if one of those errors not occurred, then Derby wouldn’t have scored.
“My players know that and are disappointed, knowing that there’s not much that can be done if the opposition score a fantastic goal as you can hold your hands up to that. But when you know that you’re the architect of conceding an unnecessary goal, that’s when it’s that much more frustrating. Thankfully, there haven’t been many occasions that we can say that’s happened this year, certainly not at home.”
Positives came, albeit late from the introduction of three eager subs.
“Craig Noone did well for us tonight from the bench, just as all of my substitutes in Joe Mason and Rudy Gestede did,” Malky said. “They all came on showing how desperate they are to contribute to the team, showing everyone how together the squad are as a unit. When they get their chance they have to take it and for Craig he did that with a great header, coming in at the back post. It was a fantastic cross and a quality header from the lad to bring us back into the game.”
Questions also came on the missing skipper Mark Hudson, a player who has won plaudits this season for his assured performances. Craig Bellamy was also a notable absentee against the Rams.
“Mark is our captain who brings leadership, experience, professionalism and an overall calmness to the way we defend as a team,” Malky said. “So in that sense, he’s a player that you’ll always miss if he’s out of contention.
“But on the flipside I thought that once again Ben Nugent stepped in and did very well, remembering of course that he’s playing on what is his wrong side, on his weaker foot. That said Ben has two great feet and came in tonight to put in another solid performance, taking in another great experience that will only help his development.
“Craig took a little knick recently and we didn’t want to risk him tonight as it could have caused further issues. But it’s nothing that will take him out of contention next week against Leicester.
“We now look to the game next Tuesday and will have a week to prepare, doing our usual routines as if it were a Saturday, Saturday situation. Not having a game this weekend will be a help to us, especially ahead of a gruelling April, as is the case for many teams. We’ll have a recovery day on Wednesday, a rest day after that and then get down to work to prepared for another big home game.”