Cardiff City manager Russell Slade is challenging his squad to further development when Gary Rowett brings his Birmingham City side to Cardiff City Stadium this weekend.
“Getting good results against strong Brentford and Bournemouth sides over the last two games was pleasing, as we hadn’t done that against the top sides yet this season,” Russell said. “The resilience and the character in the side were much better.
“Since the January window shut, we’ve been looking at targets and seeing what might be available to us in terms of strengthening the group. It seems as if we’ve achieved a little bit of stability, togetherness and that bonding element, which can galvanise the group to go forward. It’s very difficult with a large squad, but with a smaller number it’s much more realistic. Even the players on the bench are making an impact, which is exactly what you want from a group.
“I want to see continued progress. Yes, there’ll be small ups and downs along the way, such as the hiccup against Charlton, but it’ll be about getting over those setbacks. Our aim is to keep improving and muster as many points as possible between now and the end of the season.”
With defender Matt Connolly heading to Vicarage Road on loan until the end of the season on Thursday, Russell had encouraging news regarding two of City’s sidelined stoppers.
“After this weekend’s match we should have Lee Peltier back available, and even Ben Turner could be back involved soon; we’ve pencilled in the sixth of April as the date that we might have him returning to training. That will help in giving options at the back; there will be more options after Saturday.
“If we can bring in three or four to strengthen our core of players this summer, and get a good pre-season, which is something we didn’t have this time around, that’ll be a huge bonus. We’re planning that already, and it’ll be longer than six weeks, as we’ll be coming back in June for preparation before the main six-week progress. There could well be another trip abroad too, so it’ll be a busy time for us. It’s the most crucial time of the season.”
Birmingham will arrive in Wales just one place below the Bluebirds in the Sky Bet Championship table, with manager Gary Rowett working wonders at St. Andrew’s since arriving earlier this season from League 2 side Burton Albion.
“I think Gary’s done a very good job since going there in stabilising the club,” the City boss added. “They were in a bit of a freefall when he went in. He’s made them a difficult nut to crack, and they’re strong with pace and craft going forward in the forms of Clayton Donaldson and Demarai Gray. They are a nicely balanced side now, and it won’t be an easy game.
“We’ve felt that we’ve been in the driving seat on a couple of occasions, such as against Charlton and at Blackpool, where we’ve been punished for not taking our chances. We’re hoping to get that next win at home now, and after we did well in taking the game to Bournemouth on Tuesday, we want to get the three points in front of the home crowd against Birmingham City on Saturday.”