By David Williams
Neil Harris insists worldly-wise wisdom can guide Cardiff City past Blackburn Rovers tonight and move them one step nearer towards clinching their place in the Championship play-offs.
The Bluebirds manager believes the experience of players like Sean Morrison, Joe Ralls, Junior Hoilett and Sol Bamba – who all won promotion with the club two years ago – can provide the foundation for another successful mission in reaching the Premier League again.
Cardiff welcome Rovers, holding a three-point lead over Derby County in seventh and a four point advantage over Swansea City with just five games left.
Since the resumption, Harris has seen his side pick up three wins and draw from four games and the manager feels the benefit of knowledge of this journey will see his team safely to their destination.
“We have boys who have won promotion. We are talking about Mozza, Rallsy, Sol, Junior – there are more, too,” says Harris.
“But the lads who have come in more recently, too, are hungry to feel that. But the lads are realists. They are hungry and have the desire and we push them hard, but they know they have to work hard.”
With 10 points added since coming out of lockdown, Harris’ men have shown a ruthless streak to move three points clear in the fight for the final play-off place.
Last weekend’s 1-0 win at Ashton Gate effectively pushed arch-rivals Bristol City out of the race, and cost manager Lee Johnson his job, and Harris wants more of them same tonight.
“It’s down to us to keep on kicking other teams in the teeth, so to speak, by winning games. They are looking for us to lose to give them a crumb of hope,” he said.
“Every time we win another game a team below us gets seen off. As ruthless as that might sound, that’s how I see it.
“Blackburn have to come and beat us, if not they’ve got no chance. We know teams are chasing us hard and if I’m Derby, Swansea or Millwall, I’m certainly still looking above and thinking four wins from five and we’ve got a chance.”
“When we came back from lockdown we were two points adrift, we are now three points clear with a better goal difference than other teams. With every passing match day we are getting closer to our goal of reaching the play-offs.”
With three games in the space of six days it is going to be a hectic period for Harris and his side. The trip to Fulham on Friday is a fixture against a team they could yet meet in the play-offs, while next week’s home clash with Wayne Rooney’s Derby County will be a play-off six pointer.
“We are trying to build a winning mentality and culture. The club has had it in recent years with two promotions and the players are producing,” added the manager.
Danny Ward came off the bench to notch a 16th goal this season for a Cardiff substitute to grab the win at Bristol.
German striker Rob Glatzel, who missed the match after scoring in the big wins over Leeds and Preston, will be back in contention tonight.
“As soon as you finish a game, you pick out the good and bad bits and then move on to the next game,” said Harris.
“Mindset is so important. You have to have a WNG mentality – Win the Next Game!
“I feel really relaxed and I am really enjoying watching my team playing. When you have a bit of success you only want more and I can see improvement with every game.
“I don’t feel hunted. We just want to keep winning games to improve our position.”
City goalkeeper Alex Smithies, hoping for an 11th clean sheet in 26 games this season, wants to be able to dedicate a successful promotion campaign to the memory of his former Huddersfield Town Town team mate Jordan Sinnott.
Matlock Town’s Sinnott – who played with Smithies and his Cardiff colleague Danny Ward at Huddersfield – was found with a fractured skull in January and subsequently died in hospital aged just 25.
“We used to go on holidays together and we were both at Danny’s wedding last year. It’s been a very tough period for me personally,” said Smithies.
“It was great to see Danny scoring at Bristol and being able to show off his shirt paying tribute to Jordan. He would have wanted us both to go on and do well and I’d love to be able to dedicate a promotion campaign to him.”