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It’s Crunch Time…

A win or a draw on Saturday will guarantee us a playoff place but will we “do a Cardiff” and bottle it again? Either way we’ve far exceeded my expectations this season and then some.

At the start of this season I expected Cardiff to finish mid-table. Following last season’s collapse in the playoffs we lost quality players such as Bellamy, Chopra and Bothroyd whilst other departures were more welcomed such as Bywater and Emmanuel-Thomas. All in all, 12 players departed in the summer, along with the manager and the majority of his backroom staff. Malky Mackay was named as the new gaffer and had to bring in pretty much a full squad of players.

Cardiff now have to finish in the playoff places in my opinion

Because of this I expected a season of transition, with the team and backroom staff needing time to get used to the club and playing together. However Malky and his men were quick to prove me wrong, and thankfully so. The team have not only been challenging for promotion all season but also reached the Carling Cup final, and against all the odds nearly came out victorious against Liverpool only to lose on penalties.

We now need one point on the final day of the season to claim a playoff spot and despite my pre-season expectations… we now HAVE to finish in the top six. Anything else has suddenly become unacceptable as the strong performances this season have raised the bar. I don’t expect us to win the playoffs, but to at least finish there is an amazing achievement in Mackay’s first season in charge. Having said that, the playoffs are only three games and if we can play at our best for those games then there’s an outside chance that we could gain promotion.

“Doing a Cardiff” is falling at that last hurdle as we have done in the last two seasons. If we lose against Crystal Palace and don’t make the playoffs then we have well and truly done it again. However, if we lose out in the playoffs then for me personally that is not “doing a Cardiff” and the season will ultimately be a success.

Permission for pictures given by Jon Candy
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Cardiff City v Leeds Match Preview

Cardiff host Leeds tomorrow and a win in the early kick off will guarantee us a playoff place. The Bluebirds are currently on an eight game unbeaten run and although we’ve not been scoring too many of late, we have made ourselves very difficult to beat this season.

Three points against the Yorkshire club will give us a playoff spot for the third consecutive year. However if Middlesbrough fail to beat Southampton we will also be ensured of a top six finish.

Leeds are the visitors at the Cardiff City Stadium tomorrow (12.30pm)

The Bluebirds go into the game unbeaten in their last eight matches, although five of those have been draws. Fingers crossed we can get the job done tomorrow to take the pressure off ourselves for the final week, but Leeds are going to be difficult to beat.

The previous meeting between the two sides this season ended in a one-all draw with Joe Mason scoring for the Bluebirds. Let’s hope we can go one better tomorrow and take all three points and secure ourselves a place in the playoffs.

Permission for pictures given by Jon Candy

Cardiff City 2 Derby County 0

Played on: Tuesday 17th April 2012

Mark Hudson take a bow! That is the best Cardiff goal I have probably ever seen. Most definitely from the furthest out! The BBC have said ‘Cardiff’s Hudson scores goal like Beckham’…I’m sorry but Golden Balls has got nothing on Hudson’s 68-yard strike.

Yesterday’s win over Derby coupled with Boro only managing a draw with relegated Doncaster means we’re within touching distance of the playoffs. The win was superb and in case you haven’t heard, Hudson scored from inside his own half! I’ve fallen in love with this goal if you hadn’t already noticed.

The win means the Bluebirds are a step closer to claiming a playoff spot

Malky Mackay told his team to win last night in memory of Eddie May and the former manager’s name was chanted out from the stands. Kenny Miller had the first good chance of the game but Frank Fielding in the Derby goal tipped his 18-yard shot past the post. The visitors thought they had opened the scoring 14 minutes in when Nathan Tyson put the ball in the net, but thankfully the striker was deemed to be in an offside position.

Aron Gunnarsson then tried his luck from distance and his brilliant half-volley was tipped over by Fielding. And the Bluebirds broke the deadlock on 24 minutes through Joe Mason. The youngster scored the rebound after Miller’s shot cannoned back off the post.

Derby refused to lie down and had shots of goal from Jeff Hendrick, Tom Naylor and Jake Buxton before City doubled their advantage in emphatic fashion 63 minutes in with THAT goal. Hudson brought down a poor Fielding kick and with the County keeper off his line and the crowd shouting shoot, the Cardiff skipper audaciously tried his luck. From 68-yards the central-defenders shot flew into the back of the net, evading the backtracking Derby keeper to send fans and players alike wild. This has to be the goal of the season as far as I’m concerned and here’s a link below to the goal which is a must see.

Hudson’s wonder goal

The players pile of goalscorer Hudson after he scores from inside his own half

David Marshall made two great saves late on to maintain Cardiff’s clean-sheet before Robert Earnshaw had a shot blocked at the other end as he looked for a goal against his former club.

Malky, "How the hell did you manage that?"

This was a massive win for the Bluebirds and Boro’s defeat means a place in the playoffs is all but ours. I think two points from a possible six will be enough for us, but all too often we’ve messed things up at the business end of the season.  Here’s hoping we can finish in the playoff places for the third consecutive year. Come on City…

Cardiff City

  • 01 Marshall
  • 02 McNaughton Booked
  • 03 Taylor
  • 05 Hudson
  • 25 Turner
  • 07 Whittingham
  • 13 Lawrence
  • 17 Gunnarsson
  • 37 McPhail (Ralls – 54′ )
  • 09 Miller (Earnshaw – 69′ )
  • 20 Mason (Blake – 79′ )

Substitutes

  • 22 Heaton
  • 23 Blake
  • 27 Harris
  • 52 Ralls
  • 10 Earnshaw

Derby County

  • 01 Fielding
  • 03 Roberts
  • 06 Shackell
  • 17 Buxton
  • 31 Naylor (Brayford – 46′ )
  • 04 Bryson
  • 23 Hendrick
  • 32 Green
  • 09 Tyson Booked
  • 10 Ward (S Davies – 49′ )
  • 21 Robinson (Bailey – 83′ )

Substitutes

  • 13 Legzdins
  • 02 Brayford
  • 16 Bailey
  • 19 Carroll
  • 07 S Davies
Ref: Probert
Att: 21,216
 Permission for pictures given by Jon Candy

Pre Barnsley Press Conference

I went to another Cardiff press conference at the Vale this morning ahead of the trip to Barnsley tomorrow. David Marshall was the player we had this week and Malky Mackay made us wait as he usually does, over an hour in fact.

I think three points are a must tomorrow and looking at recent form I think we’ll get them. Here are the voice notes from the press conference if anyone wants to hear what the keeper and manager had to say.

Cardiff goalkeeper David Marshall:

Cardiff manager Malky Mackay:

Malky Mackay says playoffs are now in Cardiff's own hands

Permission for pictures given by Jon Candy.

Pre Millwall Press Conference

I went to my first Malky Mackay press conference at the Vale today and what a breath of fresh air the guy is. I went to a few Dave Jones conferences before when he was manager and the atmosphere here was completely different. Malky seems more at ease and willing with the media and just a genuinely nice guy who is eager to do well at the club.

Here are the entire quotes from what Malky and Mark Hudson had to say prior to the Millwall game tomorrow:

Malky Mackay:

Mark Hudson:

The whole atmosphere there seemed much calmer than that under the previous manager and Malky has also put his own touch on the training complex itself.

I instantly noticed that there were photos of the team all over the place, blown up onto big canvases and put on the walls. Pictures ranging from a pre-match huddle, to the team celebrating a penalty shootout win. Here are some examples that I took photos of:

This kind of thing was never there under Jones and whether it has any impact on the players I don’t know. But it’s just another little change that either Mackay or someone he’s brought in has made.

There were also a lot of inspirational speeches blown up big on the walls too. This photo I took shows one by Michael Jordan.

Whether having these pictures and speeches around the place makes a difference we’ll never know, but it’s something that can hopefully encourage and inspire the team. Who knows maybe at the end of the season there might be a photo put up of the team celebrating a playoff final win. I can dream anyway.

All photographs taken by myself.