Cardiff City’s top ten countdown begins on Saturday at Hillsborough, facing an unpredictable Owls team under the stewardship of Dave Jones.
After a difficult run of games, since the turn of the calendar year Sheffield Wednesday have beaten promotion chasing Hull, Brighton, Crystal Palace and Leicester, helping the Owls climb out of the bottom three to build some daylight on the relegation places.
But for Cardiff City, the preparation ahead of Saturday’s game remains consistent. And despite media focus on a perceived dip in form, Malky Mackay is confident in what his team can achieve. The next ten games will be taken one match at a time, maintaining what the Cardiff boss has dubbed a monotonous consistency that has seen the Bluebirds maintain a promotion push for so long.
“There’s no doubt that it’s going to be a tough game,” Malky admitted. “They had a great win last week against Leicester so I’m sure it’ll be a tough test for us.
“We’ll approach it by staying focused on what we’ve done over the whole season. We’re always looking to improve performance, and that’s something that we analyse on a regular basis – what we did wrong today and what we did well.
“I can look at the consistency of the individuals in my group and realise that they are a talented group of people that have applied themselves to the way I have asked them. When I throw them different challenges, they’ve been open to those challenges, and that’s what I’m really delighted about.
“There is no frustration; there is no feeling of stuttering. To this point we’ve been more consistent than everyone else and, with ten games to go, we’re closer to the finishing line than everyone else. In the last two or three games, I’ve seen some real great qualities in my team in terms of their strength of character in clawing their way back into games, and that gives me great hope.”
The Cardiff City boss was next asked if he felt it was more difficult to stay top, as opposed to being one of the chasing pack, to which Malky responded, saying, “I think so. I think when you’re at the top you’re there to be shot at. There’s much more analysis on you, there’s much more focus and spotlight on you and it’s a pressure that people have to deal with. That’s another reason why I’m delighted that I am in charge of this group of people because they’ve handled that since the fourth of November [when Cardiff reached the league’s summit].
On Thursday City completed the signing of Norwich City defender Leon Barnett on a one-month loan deal. Malky revealed that Leon would be available for the encounter with Wednesday on Saturday.
“Mark [Hudson] has rolled an ankle and will be out for a couple of weeks and Ben [Turner] will be out this weekend too,” he said. “Obviously there’s an international break so we’ll be hoping to get him back for the game after that.
“Two of our centre-backs are going to be out this weekend, and with that being the case I felt that we had to bring in someone with experience and a winning mentality. Leon has that, and I’d like to place on record thanks to Chris Hughton and Norwich City for the professional and quick way that they’ve helped us out in that situation.
“It’s no secret that I was at that club for a period of time. I’ve got a great relationship with them, but at the same time Chris has got to allow that to happen. In terms of loan players, right now there’s not many about that have experience. Leon has played in the Premier League and has been promoted from the Championship, and that’s the type of player I believe is right for our group.”
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