There’s a couple of ifs in this next statement. Both fairly big ones. If the Reds can notch their thirteenth home win on the bounce in the league, and if results elsewhere go our way then we could guarantee a top six finish. Whilst we naturally dared to glance at the top two for a while, and may feel some residual disappointment, this would represent a massive achievement for this season.
A sizeable obstacle in our way is, of course, our visitors. They’re not on a bad run – and will be in a decent mood after beating fierce rivals Swansea City yesterday. They are only three points behind us, and a winning margin for the Bluebirds by two goals or more would actually see them overtake us in the league on goals scored. So there is something immediate to play for, for sure!
The Reds are without, as ever, Julian Bennett and Paul McKenna to long term injuries – and Robbie Earnshaw and Paul Anderson are listed as doubts with back and Achilles injuries respectively. Both missed yesterday’s trip to Bristol City, where Billy shuffled the pack which I expect him to do again. Certainly I expect to see Blackstock start, as for what else he opts for, I wouldn’t like to second-guess. I imagine he will have half an eye on the 13 game unbeaten run, and half an eye on not risking too much for probable playoff appearances.
Our visitors have a few injury concerns too, McNaughton, Hudson and Gypes are unavailable. We will need to watch out for their – and the league’s – leading scorer, and one-time Forest target Peter Whittingham. I hadn’t realised this, but apparently we haven’t beaten Cardiff for 34 years – it was back in 1976 we last did so with a 3-0 win at Ninian Park. So a win over ’em is pretty overdue I’m thinking!
They’re unbeaten in their last six – and five of those were wins, although there’s been a glut of four home games in the mix there. Of their last few away games, wins over Coventry and Crystal Palace are tempered with defeats at Ipswich, Leicester, Preston and Barnsley. Of course, the wins came in the more recent games so they’re unquestionable a side to be taken seriously!
On paper it should be an open free-flowing game between two attack-minded teams – which makes the cynic in me start to predict a scoreless draw. Which wouldn’t be so bad I suppose, although I would like to get that thirteenth home win on the bounce, as I’m sure Billy and the boys will be wanting to – the sooner we can secure our place in the playoff lottery the better our planning can be.