Next up for North End is an early away trip down to South Wales to face Neil Harris’s Cardiff City. Alex Neil and his men will be looking to make it 3 wins on the bounce and to get a bit more momentum behind them heading into the game away at Elland Road on Boxing Day.
The game at Cardiff, which will be featured on Sky Sports, could see us end a run of 3 away games without scoring a goal or picking up a single point, but if there was ever a time to arrest that worrying trend, it’s now as we head into the busy festive period.
In December 2017, a cold Friday night in Cardiff almost certainly exceeded expectations as a late Tom Clarke header from a scrappy corner saw North End leave the Cardiff City Stadium with 3 points in the bag and sat 7th in the table. This win also saw us extending our unbeaten run to 9 games.
We will be looking for a similar result this time around as things are still very tight in the top half of the table at the moment.
Cardiff will be looking to build on their inspired comeback against automatic promotion chasers Leeds United on Saturday after they somehow managed to draw 3-3 after finding themselves 3-0 down with half an hour to go.
Cardiff have only lost once since Neil Harris’ arrival showing that he’s clearly worked on them defensively and made them much harder to beat, just like he did at Millwall for a number of years.
Another boost for North End is that Cardiff captain Sean Morrison will be missing for the game in south Wales after picking up a red card in the draw at Leeds, meaning there is a key area we can look to exploit in a game which I can see both teams having few chances.
From this newly inspired Cardiff City side, I have picked out striker Danny Ward as someone we’ll need to watch out for on Saturday lunchtime.
The frontman has a goal every 111 minutes and with 5 goals to his name so far this campaign, he could certainly cause our defence trouble. Especially with the manager being forced into yet another change at right-back.
Darnell Fisher picked up his 10th booking of the season in the game against Luton Town and Joe Rafferty is still suspended after picking up a red card in the game against Fulham.
Ward has been quite unlucky throughout his time at Cardiff with constant injury problems but has now started to get a run in the team after starting the last 4 games. That number probably would have been more had he not got a red card in the game Cardiff won 4-2 against Birmingham.
The striker has scored against Hull, West Brom, and Millwall who are all teams we haven’t scored against this season, showing that he is someone who will need to be dealt with properly by whoever Alex Neil picks for his back 4.
This time, we have Scott Salter. You can find Scott on twitter and give him a follow here if you want – @scottsltr. Scott is a part of View From The Ninian which is a resurrected Cardiff City fansite. You can follow VFTN on twitter here – @VFTNinian.
Cardiff are a tricky side to place at the moment. On paper, the squad is one of the strongest in the league, but far too often things aren’t clicking seamlessly.
After a frustrating start to the season, the club made a change and I think it was the right thing to do. Neil Warnock is a club legend and what he did should never be forgotten, but for whatever reason the fight in the team has gone.
Neil Harris came in and the impact has been positive on the whole. He’s got us playing better football and we’re scoring goals. Our defence certainly still needs work, though.
Our last game – a 3-3 draw against Leeds – was one of those mind-boggling Championship matches. We probably had no right to a point but we fought back and a few moments of quality snatched a draw.
Harris is discovering his best team and Lee Tomlin is proving to be central to that. He’s a maverick and is finally showing what he can do in a Cardiff shirt.
With Robert Glatzel – the clubs big summer signing – returning from injury to link up well with Tomlin on Saturday and grab the equaliser – the hope is Cardiff can only get better under Neil Harris.
In terms of starting XI, I think he’ll go: Etheridge; Peltier, Bamba, Nelson, Bennett; Pack, Ralls; Whyte, Tomlin, Mendez-Laing; Glatzel.
As for a score prediction: 1-0 Cardiff.
As previously stated, I can see this game being low scoring with few chances. However, with a key figure in Sean Morrison missing from that defence, it may well hinder the organisation of the backline and be a key factor in North End potentially getting 3 points.
I can see us drawing this one, bearing in mind how poor we seem to be away from home so I’ll go with a 1-1 draw.
However, as I mentioned at the start of the piece, a win would set us up perfectly for the Boxing Day trip to Leeds. You would expect the squad to head into it full of confidence and closing the gap on Leeds would certainly go someway to adding pressure to a Leeds side who always seem to struggle around the Christmas period.
For the Cardiff game, however, I will guess at this for our starting XI: Rudd; Clarke, Bauer, Davies, Hughes; Pearson, Gallagher; Barkhuizen, Browne, Maguire, Stockley.
Safe trip to all the North End fans still making the trip down to Cardiff despite the ridiculous kick-off time, but hopefully, you’ll be rewarded with an early Christmas present of 3 points.
Finally, if you haven’t yet listened to our latest episode of From the Finney Meets… Graham Alexander, there’s a web player below, just hit play.