No surrender, vows Cardiff boss
CARDIFF boss Lennie Lawrence today spelt out the importance of his side's Sunday showdown at Ipswich.Lawrence has challenged his players to deliver on the day and insisted they would not be coming to Portman Road just to make up the numbers.
By Mel Henderson
CARDIFF boss Lennie Lawrence today spelt out the importance of his side's Sunday showdown at Ipswich.
Lawrence has challenged his players to deliver on the day and insisted they would not be coming to Portman Road just to make up the numbers.
As the experienced manager put it: "The eyes of the world are going to be upon us with the game being shown live on Sky Sports.
"I am demanding the very best performance my players can come up with and when it became clear that we could not make the
play-offs ourselves I said the last thing we wanted was for our season just to peter out."
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Clearly, the game is far more important to Ipswich, who know that victory will definitely secure a First Division play-off place for
the fifth time in seven attempts.
Town's first-ever brush with the play-offs was in 1987, the year they were introduced, and a two-leg defeat by Lawrence's Charlton put paid to their chances of promotion.
At the time, the Addicks were already a top-flight club and were required to see off Second Division opposition in order to preserve their status.
Lawrence took Cardiff into the First Division last season via victory over QPR at the Millennium Stadium and the club's first campaign at this level in 18 years has been declared a huge success.
But the Ninian Park boss, his job as secure as the Bluebirds' mid-table slot, has emphasised the players' need to end the campaign on a high.
He added: "I know how important the game is for Ipswich, but it is anything but a meaningless game for my team.
"I have a theory that teams who finish one season well usually start the next one in a similar fashion – and it works the other way, too, if you don't have a good finish.
"I learned a lot about my players in our last away game, when we were 2-0 down at Preston on a very hot day. The way they hit back to earn a draw showed there is plenty of spirit and character in the side.
"When our play-off challenge was finally over I made it clear that anyone who was not pulling his weight would be left out."
Midfielder Gareth Whalley is a definite non-starter on Sunday after becoming embroiled in a bitter cash dispute with the club.
Under the terms of his contract, the ex-Bradford player would be owed a £50,000 payment if he made 23 appearances this season.
He has made 22 so far and Cardiff are reluctant to hand over the cash, a situation which Lawrence accepts may make the player's position untenable.
Striker Alan Lee is also likely to sit the game out, again for financial reasons as Cardiff would prefer to wait before triggering a clause written into the player's transfer agreement when he moved from Rotherham earlier this season.
Lawrence said: "If you could get away with not paying a bill for four months, what would you do?
"We are not a benevolent society. People have said 'It's a soft touch, Cardiff'. Not any longer it ain't!"
It will probably be top scorer Robert Earnshaw's last game for the Bluebirds, the nifty striker's 26-goal haul taking his all-time total to 103.
Welsh international Earnshaw, who is tipped to join Charlton in a £4 million close season deal, has not netted in his last six outings.
Meanwhile, Town boss Joe Royle today confirmed that midfielder Tommy Miller has recovered from the hamstring and sciatica problem that has plagued him in recent weeks.
Royle has also been boosted by the news that Pablo Counago remains on course to rejoin his senior colleagues in training within the next few days.
Counago has been sidelined with hamstring and groin injuries, and Royle said: "Pablo is still doing one-to-ones with fitness coach Simon Thadani and if he isn't back with us on Friday or Saturday, it will definitely be Monday."
By then, of course, Town will know whether the season is to be prolonged to encompass the play-offs and, if so, a fully-fit Counago would be a welcome additional asset.
The Spanish striker just missed out on a place in the reserve squad to face their Nottingham Forest counterparts at the City Ground this afternoon.
But defender Drissa Diallo and fit-again midfield man Chris Bart-Williams are both included in Steve McCall's otherwise young squad.
Royle added: "They both need games and will definitely figure at some stage."