Jazz Richards and Joe Bennett have really come to the fore in recent weeks
By Chris Wathan
Monday 20th March 2017
Both Jazz Richards and Joe Bennett were outstanding against Ipswich Town and both bring a new dimension that's making an almighty difference to the Bluebirds' style of football.
On form, both could prove integral members of Warnock's promotion push next season.
However, there was a time a few months ago when neither could break into the Cardiff team — as a more circumspect Warnock preferred more defensive options at full-back.
Now, it's hard to imagine Cardiff's starting lineup without Richards and Bennett. The pair are adventurous and purposeful in attack, diligent and committed in defence.
What the Bluebirds have really lacked is a 'Premier League style' full-back: fit enough to bomb up and down the flanks, offering an option to the likes of Hoilett, Harris and Craig Noone on the overlap.
It would be unfair to compare Richards and Bennett to Kyle Walker and Danny Rose, but they're in that modern mode of full-back, verging on wing-back.
Warnock 'gambled' with his team selection against Ipswich, but it soon became clear the presence of Richards and Bennett was troubling the Tractor Boys' defence. Cardiff's wingers weren't the isolated lone rangers they once were earlier this season.
That's not to decry the abilities of Lee Peltier and Matt Connolly, Warnock's choices at full back for the bulk of this campaign. Both are dutiful, resolute players — but both see defence as their primary function.
Dynamic duo Richards and Bennett are the all-round options and this is how they've been developed...
Richards couldn't have had a more difficult start to life in a Cardiff shirt.
First there was his Swansea City history, then the furore when he was first asked to do the 'Ayatollah' — then injury set back his development and he was rarely seen in the early part of Warnock's tenure.
Fortune favours the brave though and the resilient Richards stormed back into the side, at the expense of the injured (and equally unfortunate) Peltier.
It's hard to see the former Huddersfield man usurping Richards now.
There was a brief lapse in form, albeit when another slice of bad luck saw the ball ricochet off Richards into the back of the net in Cardiff's 2-1 defeat at QPR.
But otherwise the Welshman has looked like a player capable of playing in a promotion-winning side.
' JOE BENNETT '
Like his full back partner in crime Richards, the former Aston Villa man endured a tough start to his Cardiff career.
Injury kept him away from Paul Trollope's first team and it looked unlikely Bennett would feature in Warnock's plans.
But timing was crucial, as Bennett's return to fitness coincided with Warnock's first game in charge against Bristol City.
The Mancunian-born left back has had the odd hairy moment — he was below-par in the FA Cup defeat to Fulham — but his consistency stems from his fitness, an attribute highly valued by Warnock.
Rarely is Bennett found out of position, usually because he's quick enough to track back and overt the danger. His forward adventure, like Richards', is being rewarded — and he richly deserved his first Bluebirds goal against Ipswich.
Tacticians say the history of football's tactics is the history of the full back. It now looks like the Bluebirds are stepping into a new age, with two full backs fit to grace the top end of the Championship.
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