Hayden Mullins celebrates his match-winning goal against Leeds.
Image by: Roy Smiljanic
Blues’ weekend match-winner Hayden Mullins revealed an overriding sense of frustration amongst the squad as the 2012/13 season draws to a close.
Lee Clark’s side struggled to find any consistency during the opening half of the campaign, during which they languished towards the lower reaches of the npower Championship table. However, it has been a very different story since the turn of the year with just three defeats in their last 18 league outings seeing Blues rise to a seasonal high position of tenth.
Mullins fired home the goal that saw off Leeds United on Saturday and sealed only the seventh home win of the term – a stark contrast to 2011/12 when St. Andrew’s was very much a fortress and the team won 13 games and lost just once on their own turf. Blues have actually picked up three more points on their travels than last season, with this weekend's trip to Ipswich still to come, but it’s the return from home fixtures that has cost them dearly this time around.
“It’s very frustrating and we know it's our home form,” commented Mullins after the 1-0 success over Brian McDermott’s Elland Road outfit. “It's something we have to try and rectify for next season. The division this year has been a very, very funny one. Cardiff have earned their title but the rest of the division, especially in the play-offs as well, it's been up and down. It’s disappointing from us that our home form has let us down.”
The victory over The Whites mathematically secured the club’s place in the second tier of English football. Blues now sit just six points adrift of the play-off positions but with only two games remaining it’s just that little bit too late to break into the top six. Players and fans alike have been left to rue the dropped points earlier in the campaign and wonder what might have been.
Speaking of the upturn in fortunes in recent months, experienced midfielder Mullins said: "It's settled down and what we are trying to do on the training field is coming out in games now. I think the momentum we have got, the confidence in the camp, the players we have got, the belief; we're definitely disappointed there are only two games to go. If there were four or five games, I think we'd definitely be that team that comes late into the play-offs.”
But Blues’ performances and results during 2013 to date does at least give rise to optimism as the club looks for a platform on which to build for next season. Mullins believes that the youth and experience in the squad has now been moulded into a side that can be successful.
"I think the mix is brilliant,” he said. "You have got the young legs there with Nath (Nathan Redmond), Fergie (Shane Ferguson), Ravel (Morrison) and Mitch (Hancox) bombing up the left. Robbo (Paul Robinson) does well at the back. Being an experienced left-back himself he talks Mitch through games. I am sure if you ask Mitch then he will tell you Robbo has been a great help for him. Curtis (Davies) is experienced as well, Steven Caldwell on the bench, Peter Lovenkrands and big Ziggy (Nikola Zigic).
“This is a big football club. Every time you go out there, there is an expectancy. If things are not going well at home then it can be intimidating for the young lads. But once they get that experience, they learn, they know, they play week in, week out; then you will start seeing the best of them.”
The 34-year-old made his first start for Blues in almost fours months and marked it with the 71st minute winner. Looking back on the goal, he admitted: “I shouldn't have been that far forward - I was a deep-lying midfielder! But it was nice to get it. I saw Nathan Redmond square the guy up, I knew he was going to hit it, so I just gambled and it paid off. The keeper spilled it - job done.”
Mullins added: "It was nice to get a game. Morgaro (Gomis) picked up a knock in training and the manager opted for the same system that had done so well down in Bristol. The threat that Nathan Redmond poses, Shane Ferguson, Ravel Morrison and Wade Elliott sort of roams about, I think it's a good system for us.”