Cardiff manager Mick McCarthy believes his caring approach has been the key to Josh Murphy rediscovering his form.
The Bluebirds forward played a key role in the Bluebirds’ fifth straight victory, with his second goal in three matches helping to see off Preston.
His goal came 39 seconds into the second half after Kieffer Moore’s early penalty and, after Dillon Phillips saved two North End spot-kicks, late strikes from Marlon Pack and substitute Mark Harris sealed the 4-0 triumph.
Murphy has been a central figure for McCarthy, after playing a bit-part role under previous boss Neil Harris, as Cardiff have surged to within three points of the playoff places.
They can force their way into the top six if they beat Bournemouth by two goals on Wednesday night, and McCarthy believes Murphy will continue to flourish under his guidance.
“I put my arm around him to start with, I felt he needed a bit of loving to be quite honest,” he said.
“He was a £12million player, you don’t become that and then something that’s a bit-part player and can’t play.
“And, do you know what? He has bought into every single thing I have asked of him and tried to help him with. And I’m glad he’s reaping the rewards, he’s a lovely kid.
“This is the best start I’ve ever had at a club. When I came in I looked at the squad and thought we could get a good team together, that we could get a tune out of these guys.
“I think it would have been beyond my wildest dreams or expectations to draw the first two and win the next five. You always hope to do it and plan to do it.”
Preston’s fourth defeat in five matches leaves them 10 points adrift of the playoff places, and manager Alex Neil lamented their error-strewn performance.
Jordan Storey conceded the early spot-kick, Ben Whiteman was caught in possession by Harry Wilson for Murphy’s goal and Paul Gallagher and Ched Evans had penalties saved by Phillips within two minutes of each other before a pair of Liam Lindsay errors saw Cardiff make it four.
“It was bizarre,” Neil said. “We conceded a penalty in the first minute after trying to play short in our own bottom channel and gave away a throw-in, so we gave ourselves a mountain to climb.
“And then to give a goal away within the first 30 seconds of the second half was just incredible, it was naivety on a ridiculous scale.
“Then at 2-0 we gave ourselves an opportunity that we missed and then another one that we missed, which really summed it up.
“The game finished 4-0 but it didn’t feel like a 4-0, not in a million years. I’ve been involved in them where one team is very dominant, but we caused our own problems.
“If you make those mistakes at this level then you won’t give yourself an opportunity to get anything from the game.
“It’s a harsh lesson and a sore one to take, but we’ve only got ourselves to blame.”
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