This article is part of Football League World’s ‘Comment’ series, this content strand is where the author of the article issues their personal opinion on the topic at hand….
Cardiff City have quietly gone about their business in recent weeks to see themselves move within two points of the Championship play-off spots following their 2-0 win over Barnsley on Saturday.
It was certainly not a perfect display from Cardiff as they struggled to get going during the opening period, but a strong second-half display saw Will Vaulks and Callum Paterson find the net as they sealed an important three points against the relegation-threatened Tykes.
The result means Cardiff have climbed to ninth in the second-tier table as they now trail sixth-placed Preston by just two points heading into the final nine matches, with Neil Harris having significantly improved the Bluebirds’ fortunes since taking over from Neil Warnock.
A big factor behind Harris’ improvement of Cardiff’s results has been his use of some players who were not heavily used by Warnock, with Lee Tomlin having been a prime example given he has become the club’s key man after playing a more bit-part role previously.
Tomlin’s current injury lay-off means Cardiff have been unable to depend on his creative brilliance over the last four matches, but there are still a number of resurgent players within the Bluebirds’ side that have really blossomed through Harris’ trust and guidance.
Vaulks and Paterson, who were both on the score sheet at Oakwell, have been transformed from sparsely-used squad players to key cogs in Harris’ side since the turn of the year, with both players typifying the Bluebirds’ physical and industrious approach to matches.
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Paterson’s versatility means he can operate in a number of attacking roles for Cardiff, and while he does not guarantee a goal every single game, he can more often than not deliver a highly productive and hard-working performance for the Bluebirds at the tip of their attack.
The 25-year-old has established himself as Cardiff’s first-choice striking option ahead of the likes of Robert Glatzel and Danny Ward in recent weeks, with Paterson’s relentless approach meaning he is capable of causing problems for any Championship defence on his day.
Vaulks has enjoyed a similar resurgence in the side after barely featuring under Warnock during the first half of the season, and the former Rotherman man os now one of the first names on Harris team sheets as a result of the energy and aggression he brings to the midfield.
The trust that Harris has placed in Vaulks means the Wales international is also becoming increasingly vocal on the pitch, and it now seems difficult to imagine a Cardiff side without him even though he had been overlooked for much of the campaign.
Harris deserves plenty of credit for the way he has transformed Cardiff from a mid-table side into clear promotion contenders this season, and his ability to maximise his full use of the Bluebirds’ playing squad has been absolutely integral to this upturn in fortunes.