Cardiff City manager tracking progress of Bristol Rovers ‘excellent’ loanee as Bluebird continues flight

Cardiff City’s manager has put praise onto one of Bristol Rovers’ loan players who has excelled since joining the club.

Steve Morison has been receiving positive dossiers about James Connolly. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Steve Morison has been receiving positive dossiers about James Connolly. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Steve Morison has been receiving positive dossiers about James Connolly. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Cardiff City manager Steve Morison is following the progress of James Connolly, who is excelling in his season-long loan at Bristol Rovers.

Connolly made his debut for the Gas in a baptism of fire, featuring in a heavily rotated side that were knocked out of the FA Cup by Championship strugglers Peterborough United.

The defender was announced on the day of the game, much to the surprise of Rovers fans, and gave a good account of himself given the circumstances.

He has played all but one game since arriving from the Welsh side in January, having been a long-term target of first-team manager Joey Barton.

Connolly’s parent club manager Steve Morison, has revealed that he instructs his staff to produce dossiers of the performances of his loan players, with Connolly’s performances being earmarked.

“James Connolly has been, by the looks and sounds of it, excellent, part of a team that’s flown up the league under Joey Barton,” said the Bluebirds boss.

“I make a couple of the guys, Jenks (Matthew Jenkins, first team data analyst) and Paddy (Patrick Deboys, recruitment analyst), they have to put a document on my desk after every time they play, telling me how they’ve got on, how they’ve done, minutes they’ve played.”

Connolly was brought to Cardiff by Morison during his time as under-23’s manager and was named their captain after joining on a free transfer from Blackburn Rovers.

The 20-year-old is out of contract at the end of the season and a decision has yet to be made on whether his parent club will opt to extend that or whether Rovers could consider a permanent move.

He has since gone from strength to strength, making the most of the absence of Alfie Kilgour, as well as displacing Cian Harries in the team, despite there being cries from the supporters to recruit ‘an experienced’ centre-back.

‘Beefy’, as the Rovers players call him, has formed a formidable partnership with Stoke City loanee Connor Taylor with the pair giving an impression of a wiser head on young shoulders.

At the ages of just 21 and 20, the pair have kept six clean sheets when playing alongside each other, with five of those coming in the last six games.

As well as a good defence, it is also down to a reliable shot-stopper and James Belshaw, who joined from Harrogate last summer, came to the praise of Connolly and his partner.

“I think he was called Beefy as a kid and the manager’s brought it in and it’s stuck,” said Belshaw. “I’ve got Beefy and Biscuit at centre-back, but the two young lads have been great.”

The pair look set to line up alongside each other once again at Rodney Parade this weekend. Newport boast free-scoring Dominic Telford, who has six in his last seven games for County, so it promises to be their toughest challenge yet.

Having recorded shutouts against fellow-promotion chasers Sutton United and Mansfield Town, the Gas will head over the border eyeing up a clean sheet and all three points, but they will need to count on their youthful backline to play their part.