WHILE the point Sunderland took from Cardiff on Saturday was undoubtedly significant, it may not prove quite as significant as the two points the Bluebirds dropped in the same game.
The 2-2 draw extended Sunderland’s unbeaten run to five games and sets them up nicely for their New Year’s Day game against fellow strugglers Aston Villa.
But how damaging the result proves to be to Cardiff – already torn apart by civil war and still reeling from the controversial sacking of manager Malky Mackay on the eve of the game – remains to be seen.
For 80 minutes, the ongoing problems at the club were largely put to one side as Cardiff led and their fans lapped up the prospect of their team reaching the 20-point mark before the turn of the year.
Then it all went wrong, with two late goals conceded and the Bluebirds today find themselves only two points away from the bottom three and only four points above bottom-of-the table Sunderland.
With a trip to Arsenal on New Year’s Day and games against both Manchester clubs by the end of January, Cardiff could desperately have done with the three points they were so close to getting from the Black Cats.
And Mackay’s former assistant, and caretaker for the game, David Kerslake, revealed his team knew just how important the match was in the context of their season.
“The players were devastated in the dressing room afterwards, especially given the start we’d had,” he said. “It was a big opportunity for us and a game we should have seen out.
“There was a lot of talk before the game about the impact of the manager’s departure.
“But the players were unaffected by the managerial situation in terms of training because we’d got all the preparation out of the way before the sacking.
“The players got the news from the TV and they’re only human – they would have been on the phone talking about it. But the way they came out of the traps against Sunderland, they showed their worth.
“The first half hour, they blew Sunderland away and then we got ourselves into a fabulous position and expected to see the game out.
“But credit to Gus Poyet, his players showed resilience, kept going, and we dropped and dropped and almost invited them on.”
Kerslake says he does not want to be considered for the post of Mackay’s successor – he prefers to go back to coaching – but he will still be in charge on New Year’s Day and appreciates he has a job to lift a squad with a lot on their plates.
“Whoever does take over here will inherit a wonderful group of players who are together and whole-hearted and who I believe have enough to stay up,” he said.
“It feels like two points dropped against Sunderland because of the position we were in earlier in the game.
“But we have picked up a point from the match, we’re not in the bottom three going into the New Year, and the fact is that we are making a real go of our first season back in the top flight.”
Kerslake’s successor however might find himself fighting the toughest of rearguards in the New Year.
And it’s no exaggeration to say the importance of those two points dropped ahead of a testing January might prove to be a turning point in their season – and not for the better.
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