Neil Harris urged his Cardiff side to start translating their good work behind the scenes onto the playing field after Kieffer Moore’s late strike rescued a 1-1 draw at Millwall.
Former Lions player, coach and manager Harris was making his first trip to the Den since leaving 13 months ago, and saw the Bluebirds slip behind 10 minutes before half-time when Matt Smith headed in after a mistake from goalkeeper Alex Smithies.
The goal sparked Cardiff into life, and they almost drew level just before half-time when Bartosz Bialkowski was forced into a fine save, tipping Robert Glatzel’s header over the bar from Junior Hoilett’s cross.
And after Ben Thompson spurned a good chance for the hosts Cardiff finally turned possession into a goal, with Moore showing pace and strength to hold off Jake Cooper and fire past Bialkowski at the near post.
Despite avoiding defeat, Harris was frustrated with the head start Cardiff allowed his old club, and believes they are better than a record of one win in their last seven Sky Bet Championship outings suggests.
“I can see a lot of good in what we do, but I’m wondering if that winning mentality is really there,” the 43-year-old said.
“I’ve seen a massive shift in winning mentality on the training pitch over the last 10 days and that has to translate to a Saturday afternoon.
“Did I see it this afternoon? I did in the second half. But it’s fine looking like a good team on paper, but we need to win games of football.
“We have done research over the last few weeks, based on expected goals, chances created, conceded – in every stat going we are in the top six, apart from the points total.
“We were disappointed to be behind in a game that had nothing in it in the first half. After we made a sub and changed to a 4-2-3-1 in the second half we looked really threatening and I thought we did enough to win the game.”
It could have got worse for Millwall after Moore’s equaliser, Bialkowski pulling off two excellent saves to deny first Harry Wilson and then Moore, and Murray Wallace clearing off the line in stoppage time.
Jon Dadi Bodvarsson missed a wonderful chance on the counter for the home side as a drab game exploded into life in the closing stages, but both teams were ultimately forced to settle for a point.
Millwall manager Gary Rowett added: “It sums up where we are a little bit. We compete in every game, we’ve created some moments, but we can’t seem to find that little bit of quality that the teams above us in the league at the moment have all got.
“It was always going to be a difficult game against Cardiff. With two physical sides, it was hard for any team to really get a grip of the game and create open chances.
“The second-half performance wasn’t as good as I would’ve liked, but we worked incredibly hard and just before their goal we had an opportunity to go 2-0 up that would have killed the game off.
“As it was, we then got into our most comfortable set-up just before the goal, we looked like we’d see the game out, then we make a poor mistake, they score and it opens the game up.”