Dean Whitehead before Cardiff City's game against Leeds United. Credit: @CardiffCity

Defiant Whitehead focused on Championship survival after Bluebirds’ FA Cup mauling

“We will go after Millwall,” said the current Cardiff City caretaker

DEAN Whitehead is keen to make amends following Wednesday’s 5-2 loss to Leeds United as his tenure as Cardiff City’s Interim Manager extends its second game.

A positive result on Saturday against Millwall may keep his name in the frame for the manager’s job on a permanent basis.

He knows that the result against Millwall at the Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday will have a huge bearing on both the identity of the next manager as well as the club’s fight for survival.

“We are in a precarious position but there is only one way to get out of it and that is winning games,” said Whitehead.

“We will throw everything at them [Millwall] and hopefully that will get us what we want in the end.”

What system can we expect on Saturday?

Against Leeds Whitehead started with an aggressive 4-1-4-1 formation aimed at countering Leeds high-intensity pressing game.

The aim was for Cardiff to pin their opponents high up the pitch to force a mistake, but the Premier League team were able to break through with relative ease. Their first and third goals, both scored by Wilfriend Gnonto, came from a weak Cardiff press allowing Leeds to play up to Cardiff’s defensive line with ease.

“It was a difficult start for us [on Wednesday],” said Whitehead.

“We made a mistake in the first 20 seconds, we lose the ball in the middle of the pitch. We had to regroup and get more solid, but we couldn’t quite hold out for the rest of the first half.”

At half time, Cedric Kipre and Ryan Wintle were brought on for Mark Harris and Ruben Colwill. The formation changed to 3-5-2 with more success; the returning Callum Robinson coming on to score two goals. However, they were little more than consolation goals.

Whitehead spoke before the Leeds match about their counter-press and so was set up to counter it. If he continues conforming to the opponent’s system, then The Bluebirds would come up against the 4-2-3-1 formation Millwall have consistently used this system.

The opponents

Millwall currently lie eighth in The Championship, three points off of a play off position.

Their loss against Middlesbrough last week was their first in four league matches. However, with a game in hand on those above, a spot in the promotion race is well within their reach.

Dutchman Zian Flemming has been their star this season since joining the club in the summer. He has scored 10 goals playing off the striker.

Manager Gary Rowett has been in charge since 2019 and has overseen a turnaround in fortunes. The club were battling relegation at the time and Rowett has transformed them into genuine promotion contenders.

The match

In the last 17 meetings between the sides, Cardiff have won four, Millwall have won three, and there have been 10 draws.

Despite the difference in league position, the only real difference in the sides is in attacking prowess. Millwall have scored an average of 1.23 goals per game whereas The Bluebirds have only managed 0.78.

Defensively, the sides have been similar. Cardiff’s 1.11 goals conceded compared to Millwall’s 1.04 show defensive stability. It is at the other end of the pitch that Whitehead needs to make a difference.

Mark McGuinness is back with the squad after a successful loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday and top scorer Callum Robinson is expected to be fit following his cameo in the FA Cup defeat.

With a two week break after the match, Cardiff have enough space to put a permanent manager in place before they play Hull on February 4.