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Plenty to ponder as Slade's men picked off by Cherries.

Byline: Terry Phillips terry.phillips@walesonline.co.uk at GOLDSANDS STADIUM

RUSSELL SLADE shook close pal Eddie Howe by the hand after the final whistle at Dean Court and said: "Good luck against Liverpool."

The Bluebirds manager believes Bournemouth can beat Brendan Rodgers and his Premier League superstars when they too visit the south coast in the Capital One Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday.

His focus, though, will be to right the Cardiff City wrongs. They scored three goals away from home, yet still ended up on the end of a hiding

as Bournemouth rattled up five to soar to the top of the Championship.

Slade was bitterly disappointed that his team conceded so many. He watched on in horror as his team, so defensively solid in the previous four matches, were opened up frequently during the 90 minutes.

"Bournemouth are as good as anybody I have seen going forward in the Championship," said Slade.

"They move the ball well, consistently try to get between you and they create chances. Bournemouth have a balance to their team, can score goals from any area and they showed that against us."

However, given Cardiff are themselves the side most bookies predicted would be topping the Championship table, Slade won't be happy with the manner in which his team were consistently picked off and pulled apart.

The way Cardiff conceded the goals underlined that only 12 matches and a couple of months into the new era, Slade and his coaching regime still have a lot of work to do.

In many ways the Bluebirds have gone back three years in time. Slade faces a similar rebuilding job to that Malky Mackay had to achieve before leading Cardiff to promotion and the Premier League two seasons ago.

Mackay had to change the club philosophy, build fitness levels and make his team difficult to beat. Only then could his squad blossom and start to shine.

After an Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reign which left the club struggling to build a promotion challenge, Slade is almost having to start again too.

Slade and his staff have already achieved big improvement on fitness levels and there were signs that defensive stability was coming before the big setback at Bournemouth.

The key factor is to find consistency in performance - throughout the side - and a game plan which ensures the Bluebirds have a greater share of possession during matches.

According to the stats, they only had 36 per cent of the ball over the course of these 90 minutes. As our columnist Nathan Blake points out, if you keep being over-run in terms of possession you are always going to be put under more pressure.

Slade is focused. He is intent on ensuring Cardiff have a decent festive period in matches against Brentford (home), Charlton (away) and Watford (home).

Then, in January, comes the really hard work when he has to find ways of persuading players who are not in his planning to give up lucrative contracts, find new clubs and kick start their careers elsewhere.

Only at the end of next month will we know how Slade has fared, while he must ensure Cardiff keep BOURNEMOUTH ..... 5 CARDIFF CITY........3 Richie 1, Arter 43, Pugh 45, Kermogant 67, Wilson 89 Jones 45, Morrison 48. 78 REFEREE: James Adcock (Notts) ATTENDANCE: 10,440 picking up points and sustain a play-off challenge, at least, on the way.

In my view, even in defeat against Bournemouth they showed hunger, intensity, spirit. Things Slade can build upon.

But evidently a lot more than that is required if Cardiff are to begin punching their weight more at this level to justify that pre-season billing given to them by the bookmakers and pundits.

The Bluebirds were a goal down within 38 seconds, fell 2-0 behind just before half-time, pulled one back and quickly conceded again. Lapses in defence proved fatal.

Matt Ritchie put the hosts ahead, while Harry Arter's cool finish and Marc Pugh's curling shot either side of a Kenwyne Jones goal for Cardiff saw Slade's men go in at half-time despondent.

Centre-back Sean Morrison scored from two headers following Peter Whittingham crosses to give City hope, but Yann Kermorgant struck from a free-kick, which split those two City replies, and Callum Wilson's 12th goal of the season left the visitors down and out.

"It's like we kept shooting ourselves in the foot throughout the game," said Slade.

"Every time we threatened to make a game of it we shot ourselves in the foot again."

Perhaps, though, Bournemouth's most crucial moment came after Morrison's first goal had hauled Cardiff back to 3-2. Suddenly Bournemouth looked uncertain, it could have been there for the Bluebirds.

Then a Frenchman from Cardiff's past stepped forward and smashed a free-kick high into the corner of David Marshall's goal.

Kermorgant has been ridiculed since, while playing for Leicester, he tried to chip Marshall in a Championship play-off semi-final penalty shoot-out. He failed to score and has never been permitted to forget it.

This time Kermorgant's sublime strike left Marshall helpless. At 4-2 Cardiff's spirit revival was just about over and Bournemouth went on to triumph.

"We warned our players they would come at us hard for the first 15 or 20 minutes and they didn't heed that warning which is disappointing when you've prepped it," said Slade.

"But we will learn the lessons from this and look to move forward.

"Bournemouth are Championship leaders and play Liverpool with a chance to reach the cup semi-finals.

"Liverpool will have to be on top of their game because Bournemouth will play with a real freedom against them.

"There is no doubt in my mind Bournemouth have a chance of winning against Liverpool."

For Cardiff, beating Brentford becomes the priority.

CAPTION(S):

Sean Morrison, centre, celebrates after scoring Cardiff's second goal in the 5-3 defeat to Bournemouth at the Goldsands Stadium <B Sean Morrison, centre, celebrates after scoring Cardiff's second goal in the 5-3 defeat to Bournemouth at the Goldsands Stadium <B
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 15, 2014
Words:999
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