By David Parsons
Josh Bowler has been told he needs to have more faith in his ability if he is to build on his stunning winner for Cardiff City at Watford.
The advice was offered by Bluebirds manager Erol Bulut after on-loan winger Bowler proved the difference with the best goal Cardiff have scored this season
Bowler held off one Watford player, cut inside another and sent a delightful curler beyond the outstretched hand of goalkeeper Ben Hamer and into the far corner.
It was enough to end a run of three straight defeats for Cardiff and lifted them back up to 13th place in the Championship, five points off the play-off places.
“Josh has to believe in himself,” Bulut said of the Nottingham Forest player.
“We have spoken to him many times, my assistants, too. He has quality one against one, he has to use it.
“Like today, when he has to shoot, he has to shoot, when he has to pass, he has to pass.
WHAT A GOAL BY CARDIFF CITY’S JOSH BOWLER pic.twitter.com/6J9vvcnCN7
— The 44 ⚽️ (@The_Forty_Four) February 3, 2024
“I speak with him a lot about everyone knowing that he is left-footed. Sometimes he has to go on his right.
“We train it every time, that he has to dribble on the outside, on his right foot, to maybe make the assist or score a goal.”
The result means that in the past 14 meetings between these teams, only two have been won by the home side.
While Bulut’s Cardiff looked assured throughout, Watford are beginning to look like a team lacking the attacking flair to force their way into the Championship play-off positions.
Bulut added: “After a few weeks of not winning points, it was disappointing, but those free days we gave to the team has refreshed the team very well.
“Everyone came back with a clear mind for this game. Everyone could analyse for themselves and what they have to do more for Cardiff City to play much, much better. Me, too.
Erol Bulut feels time off helped Cardiff end rut at Watford https://t.co/ecZUGa6nDa
— じぇいびー (@zakki_soccer) February 3, 2024
“In the past I have spoken about transfers, we went [to Plymouth] with 16 players plus under-21s players, so now we have made quality transfers, four or five, so when we have changes, we can make changes.
“I hope, until the end of the season we don’t have injuries again. I think now we are in a better position than before.
“Before, when we had two injuries that put the team back with creating chances.
“We were fighting, but fighting is not everything. You have to score and we couldn’t do that. Now it looks much, much better.”
Bulut says he did not want to risk Aaron Ramsey’s fitness after leaving him on the bench.
Ramsey, who has been missing for club and country for four months with a knee injury, was an unused substitute at Vicarage Road.
However, Bulut said he was protecting the Wales skipper, who is expected to play a key role in Wales’ Euro 2024 play-off semi-final against Finland on 21 March and a possible final against either Poland or Estonia five days later.
“The game was not exactly for Aaron,” Bulut added.
Erol Bulut on Aaron Ramsey:
— ccfcinsider (@ccfcinsiderr) February 3, 2024
“After four months I didn’t want to give him 10 or 15 minutes where he would be running only behind the ball, maybe that wouldn’t be good for him.
“We will manage to see him in the next weeks I hope.”
The match gathered momentum as the first half progressed. After a quiet opening 20 minutes, 19-year-old full-back Ryan Andrews almost sliced the perfect pass through the Cardiff defence only for Vakoun Bayo to be squeezed out of room.
At the other end, Bowler thudded a shot into the advertising hoardings in what was effectively a sighter for his fine strike later in the half.
Watford manager Valerien Ismael said: “There’s a big frustration tonight.
“I have the feeling that over 90 minutes, we should win the game. Yes, our opponents were disciplined, but they had one shot on target and scored the goal.
“It’s painful to lose at home again because we want to give something to our fans.
“This is a setback for us because we need to use the home games to be strong. So today for me is a tough one to take.
“We said to the players at half-time. ‘You need to step up and believe in yourselves because I believe in you and we believe in you’.
“After the substitutions it was much better. We dominated the ball and we created chances, but in the final third it’s more about desire.
“We need to be nasty in the opponents’ box to get in front of defenders, to make sure you are always there.”