Swansea City Are Back On The Up . . . And Ready To Handle Cardiff Again, Says Russell Martin

Olivier Ntcham of Swansea City. Pic: Getty Images.

Swansea City Are Back On The Up . . . And Ready To Handle Cardiff Again, Says Russell Martin

By David Williams

Russell Martin insists Swansea City have got their mojo back just in time to face bitter rivals Cardiff City.

The two clubs clash in the Welsh derby on April 1 in the capital, with Martin convinced his team’s 2-0 victory over Bristol City on Sunday has altered the outlook.

After ending a run of six matches without a win, Martin is now looking forward to renewing the most heated rivalry in Welsh football after the upcoming international game.

“We’re back to where we want to be and today we got what we deserved,” said Martin.

“I think it would have been much more difficult over the next couple of weeks, if we didn’t win today, with the game that we have next.

“So I am really pleased that they were able to perform with that courage and intensity, the desire to win. I think it will be so important for us moving forward.

“The players are fighting, they’re working so hard. The most important thing is they are showing real belief in what they are doing and courage to carry it out.”

Martin, Swansea’s embattled head coach, earned what could prove his most important result of the season as his team overcame an injury-weakened Bristol City to ease fears of being drawn into a relegation struggle.

Martin gathered all his coaching team into an enlarged huddle at the end of the game, a circling of the wagons after weeks of criticism following a run of just one victory and five points earned in 10 games.

That downward spiral had dropped Swansea from the cusp of the play-off places to the fringes of a possible relegation struggle, but this convincing victory – their first in seven games formed on the spadework of a first clean sheet in three months – has stabilised matters.

They moved up to 16th in the table, 10 points clear of the relegation zone with eight matches remaining.

Liam Cullen scored their opening goal just past the half hour and by the time Olivier Ntcham made it 2-0 with just over 20 minutes remaining, Bristol City already looked destined for their third defeat in five games.

It might have been a different story had referee Jeremy Simpson not waved away appeals for what appeared a clear handball by Swansea defender Ben Cabango in the 67th minute.

But Bristol City manager Nigel Pearson, often a trenchant critic of poor officiating, was in a more generous mood than earlier in the season when he threatened to resign over the issue of officiating standards.

“His arm is in the air and the ball hits him,” said Pearson.

“The assistant’s looking straight at it, the referee is doing what he does, and the fourth official has got his head in his hands. Their bench are laughing as well.

“But we lost 2-0 and we didn’t get it. I’ve spoken more than enough this season about our friends who patrol the pitch in a different colour and it’s becoming a bit boring to be honest.”

Cullen’s goal came after he was played in by the impressive Ntcham, before the Cameroon international – who is on international duty this week – clinched the victory with a low shot after he calmly made space for himself in the penalty area.

For Martin, the break from club football will understandably now feel a lot less anxious, particularly as their next fixture is a trip to Cardiff for a Welsh derby against rivals who are themselves battling to avoid relegation.

“I think it will relax people who have been feeling a certain way about me or the team or the group.

“Maybe it won’t relax them, but it will certainly relax people around the club and I think that will do us the world of good.”

This was a return to the form Swansea had shown earlier in the season, when they stood as high as fourth in the table and looked a decent bet for at least a play-off place.

They were incisive and measured, keeping the Robins at arm’s length before Cullen struck the opener just past the half hour after being well set-up by Ntcham.

The Cameroon midfielder then made sure of the win in the 77th minute when he calmly created space for himself in the box to drill a low shot past Bristol City keeper Max O’Leary.

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