By Jack Cook
The Bluebirds turnaround under McCarthy has been phenomenal, going from being nine points off relegation and 13 points off the turn-six to having realistic promotion ambitions once again.
A seven-game unbeaten spell under the 62-year-old – including winning the last five games – has given them plenty of confidence going into Wednesday’s match at rivals Bournemouth.
“I wouldn’t comment on that, that’s always unfair,” said McCarthy when asked what the players were doing differently now than under Neil Harris.
Mick's reaction! 😍
— Cardiff City FC (@CardiffCityFC) February 22, 2021
“I only know that from day one they have worked hard. They have played the way they play and that system, they have bought into everything that’s asked of them. They’ve had to graft.
“Not too long ago they were 2-0 down at Barnsley, they showed great character and carried that on. Just a great togetherness and the willingness to work hard.”
City’s 4-0 win over Preston last Saturday was one of their best performances of the season and saw four different scorers including in-form forward duo Kieffer Moore and Josh Murphy.
“It also helps when four of them contribute,” added McCarthy. “It’s all well and good having that one goal scorer. But you need the rest of them contributing, that was great on Saturday.”
Cardiff travel to sixth-placed Bournemouth knowing victory would see them leapfrog their opponents into sixth spot and that final play-off spot.
Bournemouth have recently appointed a new manager in former centre-back Jonathan Woodgate on a contract that sees him there until the end of the season.
“He is a vastly experienced player at a number of good clubs. Apart from tomorrow, good luck to him,” added McCarthy.
“I’ve got the team in front of me here. It’s a very, very good squad of players they have got.
“They started really well and just had a bit of a blip. Jonathan has had some good results. Apparently not played well, who is bothered?
“Being in the top six that brings pressure because you don’t want to drop out of it. When you get in there the pressure comes. But that’s a really good squad of players.”
McCarthy will have a selection headache ahead of the Bournemouth due to the return of Alex Smithies after his mysterious illness which allowed Dillon Phillips to come in an make his mark.
Phillips has taken his chance with that double penalty save in two minutes against Preston game and keeping three clean sheets.
McCarthy added: “Great, isn’t it?! That’s the best dilemma for a coach. Two players fit and well who want to play.
“Alex understands, I told Dibs I wasn’t changing the team. Dillon has been great, that’s just the way it is. One of them has got the shirt at the minute.
“Alex has been great, very supportive. He will understand. I haven’t asked him, I know he doesn’t like being left out. I haven’t got any favourites. Why on earth would I change it?”
Even though Cardiff are three points off playoffs McCarthy doesn’t believe there isn’t any pressure on the Bluebirds to reach them.
“There has been pressure on every game,” he added. “If we went to Bristol City, if we lost that we could have been 17th, that’s the difference in this league.
“I’m not putting pressure on anybody. If we win more than them, we will catch them.
“Just by playing them tomorrow, we have got 14 after that, it’s what happens at the end of the season, not tomorrow.”
On the injury front, Junior Hoilett will be in contention, but Joe Ralls will miss out as he’s not quite ready for a return.
But Lee Tomlin will again be in action for the under23s against Bristol City on Tuesday while a March date has been set for the comeback of Jordi Osei-Tutu.