By Gareth James
Joe Ralls still remembers the tension surrounding the last time Cardiff City played Rotherham.
Back in April the Bluebirds were battling against relegation and headed to The New York Stadium for a must win game against a fellow basement team.
It eventually took an 87th minute goal from loan star Cedric Kipre to earn a 2-1 win and three vital points that ultimately kept Cardiff just ahead of Reading, Blackpool and Wigan.
It's time for #AskRallsy! 💙
— Cardiff City FC (@CardiffCityFC) September 29, 2023
Fast forward five months and a new look Cardiff side under Turkish boss Erol Bulut are currently sitting in seventh place and hoping to make The Millers their fourth successive victim in the Championship on Saturday – even without the services of injured Wales skipper Aaron Ramsey.
“We’re in a really good place after a nine-point week. They don’t come around very often and I haven’t seen many of those in my time at the club,” admitted Ralls, who has been a Bluebird since first signing in 2011.
“We just want to try to carry on that form into the Rotherham game. When we went to them last season it was under very different circumstances.
“It was a massive game for us and helped us to get our Championship status over the line. Now we are looking up and trying to carry on what we’ve been doing this season.”
Our captain's turn! 🙌
— Cardiff City FC (@CardiffCityFC) September 27, 2023
Nobody knows Cardiff City better than Ralls having made 358 appearances for the club.
He has become a cult hero in the Welsh capital and had a season in the Premier League in 2018-19 after helping City to gain automatic promotion the previous season.
Even though they once again came straight back down after one season in the top-flight, Ralls helped the side to reach the Championship play-offs in the 2019-20 campaign before bowing out to Fulham.
Since then there has been a steady decline under six different managers.
“The fans have got behind the new manager and the new players this season and they can really feel the team is going in the right direction,” added Ralls.
“We are playing good football under Erol Bulut and we are scoring goals, which is always good for confidence. We struggled in that department last season.
“We are a different team, playing with a different style under a new manager, and it is exciting.”
— Tom Coleman (@tomEcoleman) September 28, 2023
At Swansea, Josh Ginnelly, Joe Allen, and Nathan Wood are all set for lengthy spells on the sidelines after picking up long-term injuries in recent weeks.
The trio won’t figure again in 2023.
Ginnelly is unlikely to feature again this season after he ruptured his Achilles in last Saturday’s victory over Sheffield Wednesday.
Allen – who was withdrawn in the warm-up ahead of the south Wales derby – and Wood – who picked up an injury in the first half against Sheffield Wednesday – are also ruled out until January as they require operations on groin and ankle injuries respectively.
“It’s been bad news for injuries,” admitted Duff, whose team go to south London to face Millwall on Saturday.
“But football being football it’s an opportunity for someone to come in and grab the opportunity.”
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Michael Duff Urges Swansea City To Step Up After Key Trio Wiped Out Of 2023
— Dai Sport (@Dai_Sport_) September 29, 2023
The loss of the three players – and particularly the experience of former Wales midfielder Allen – is a significant blow to Duff, who only has one Championship win under his belt so far this season.
A year and three months after returning to the club, Allen’s influence has been undermined by a succession of injuries.
So far, he has managed just 17 league starts for the club out of the 52 that have been played.
Newport County manager Graham Coughlin has said he is pleased at the arrival of new owner Huw Jenkins, ahead of his team’s visit to Salford City in League Two.
The club’s Supporters Trust voted on Thursday night to push through a takeover by former Swansea City chairman Jenkins, which will give him a 52% controlling interest in the club after a £500,000 investment.
“If the fans have voted him in, the fans obviously wanted it,” said Coughlan.
“The fans are the most important people at the football club. It’s brilliant that we have some positivity and that fans have had their say, but my aim now is to concentrate on the football.”
Huw Jenkins has become the majority owner of Newport County after their trust members voted in favour of the appointment.
A new era has just started for the Amber Army 👀 pic.twitter.com/1bWczpTyej
— Welsh Football Fans (@welshfootball_) September 28, 2023
Newport have also been hit by injuries after losing defender James Clarke for eight weeks with a groin injury.
After seeing his team smashed 5-0 last week at Stockport County, Wrexham manager Phil Parkinson has hinted he will change things up for the visit of League Two rivals Crewe.
“There are players who’ve trained well and are chomping at the bit for an opportunity,” said Parkinson.
“It’s up to us to pick the right team to take on Crewe and get back on track.”
𝗖𝗹𝘂𝗯 𝗦𝘁𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁 | Approval of Huw Jenkins.
— Newport County AFC (@NewportCounty) September 28, 2023