By Rob Cole
Of all the statistics about Cardiff City this season, the one that takes the biscuit so far concerns Sean Morrison and his long throws.
A proven attacking weapon for the Bluebirds ever since Aron Gunnarsson started the trend shortly after his arrival in the Welsh capital in 2011, the Icelandic midfielder’s absence through injury this season has allowed the skipper to take over the role.
Last weekend he launched 20 throws into the Burnley box in an attempt to cause mayhem and grab a few goals. There was plenty of the former, but none of the latter.
City’s 2-1 home defeat led to the football analysts going into overdrive with their stop watches as they timed Morrison’s every throw. No matter that it was City’s worst start to the season for 54 years, the eight minutes lost those 20 throw-ins became the biggest stick with which to beat the boys in blue.
If the analysts were surprised by what they found, then so, too, was the Bluebirds’ skipper. He also admitted to being “knackered” as a result by the end of the game.
“I’d like to see the guy who was sat there with the stop watch timing those throws. I knew there were a lot of throw-ins during the game, and that I took more than 20 of them, but eight minutes did surprise me,” said Morrison.
“Last Sunday was excessive in terms of throw-ins and it was a lot more than I’ve taken in a long, long time. It was just the way the game panned out.
“We know that in certain areas we have to play quicker, but it is a weapon we have and it is something we will use the further we get up the pitch and have a chance of getting the ball into the box.
“Further back in our own half we know we’ve got to work things quicker and get the ball down and play. It has been everywhere this week, but in a different game it wouldn’t have happened.
“The gaffer has been speaking this week about getting the ball in quickly and trying to control play, so I don’t think it will happen too much at Wembley.
“The long throw is a weapon we use to get the ball in the box and we had a little bit of success early on against Burnley. They were panicking and the balls were dropping down in the box.
“We couldn’t quite get on the end of them, but because we had a bit of success we continued throughout the game. I was knackered by the end.”
The fact last weekend’s game saw the ball in play for just 42 mins, 02 sec, the shortest amount of actual playing time in a top-flight fixture since the 40 min, 50 sec when Stoke City met Aston Villas in December, 2013, played right into the hands of the game’s law-makers at the International Football Association Board in Zurich.
What the notational analysts also found was that of the 48 minutes lost to delays and time-wasting, eight of them came when Morrison was called-up to launch the ball into the Burnley box. Is there a law change in the offing?
“I don’t see anything we are doing that isn’t within the laws of the game. If they want to change it, that’s up to them, but it won’t affect me,” said Cardiff City boss, Neil Warnock.
“You know what these people are like, it will be five years in discussions, another five years at the meetings and then they will come out in 2030. I’ve got enough on my plate without bothering about it and I think there are a few more rules they ought to change before they get to that one.”
Warnock’s biggest concern, along with holding onto his job, is trying to find a way to end a seven match run without a win. To do that he has to tighten up his leaky defence and find a way to score more goals at the other end of the pitch.
The long throw-in, however, will remain a part of the offensive armoury, especially with Gunnarsson set to be fit enough to be involved from next week’s game against Fulham.
“At the moment it looks like if Sean gets an injury to his arm we might have to cancel the game,” quipped Warnock. “But, if anything, I’ve told our lads off for not taking quick throw-ins.
“Burnley took one quick throw-in and they won the game. We’ve got to do more of that and what happened last weekend has given us a bit of a jolt because we’ve got to do things a bit quicker.”
Ironically, Morrison might not have been in the firing line quite as much had Gunnarsson been fit from the start of the season. Morrison throws a good long ball, but the Icelandic midfielder has been known to send some of his into orbit.
“I’m coming from deep on the field to take the throws, whereas if Aron was playing it would be slightly different. Sometimes I was running half a pitch to take a throw in and then trying to find the towel on the side of the pitch,” added Morrison.
“I’m not sure how much we are going to use it at Wembley due to the width of the pitch. As good a weapon as it is, we have other ways of playing in our team and we know we’ve got to get the ball back on the pitch quicker and try to control play.”