Championship Review – Cardiff slide out of the top six as West Ham keep up the pressure on Southampton

Cardiff’s promotion hopes took a blow on Sunday after defeat to West Ham at the Cardiff City Stadium. It was a loss that brought the Bluebirds firmly back to earth after their Wembley exploits seven days earlier. Admittedly that was ultimately in vain, but the performance more than demonstrated the club’s potential to compete in England’s elite. Unfortunately Sunday’s weary display epitomised Cardiff’s recent Championship form, which has dipped alarmingly in the last month or so.

The defeat was the Bluebirds’ fourth in five domestic fixtures, and one that plunged them to eighth, having been in the top six since November and within two points of top spot at the beginning of 2012. Now two points separate them from Birmingham in sixth, so a play-off spot is still well within reach – not least considering the continual yo-yoing of clubs in and around that zone – but one suspects Wednesday’s clash with seventh-placed Brighton could be a defining moment for Malky McKay’s men. Cardiff will be visiting a side in top form and one – a mauling at Liverpool in the FA Cup apart – undefeated since New Year’s Eve.

“We’re disappointed, very much so as we wanted to win today and instead gave away some very sloppy goals as far as we’re concerned,” McKay told the club’s Official Website after the game.

“Obviously we’ve come off the back of another one hundred and twenty minutes last Sunday, but at the same time the group were ready to go out there and play again, playing against a good and experienced team,” he added.

The win for West Ham, of course, was crucial, having watched Southampton extend their lead at the top to four points and Reading inching within a point of them in third after Saturday’s action. The Hammers may have to repeat the feat on Wednesday, however, as Southampton and Reading face – on paper, at least – straightforward fixtures at home to Ipswich and Portsmouth respectively on Tuesday evening.

The situation at Portsmouth is becoming more and more desperate by the week. On February 23rd Administrator Trevor Birch admitted in a public meeting with fans that the club may not be able to fulfill its fixtures unless significant cuts were made. Since then captain Liam Lawrence and striker Eric Husklepp have departed to Cardiff and Birmingham respectively, and more playing staff are expected to leave in the next few days in order for the club to reduce its wage bill. On the pitch, Pompey were beaten by Middlesbrough on Saturday and now lie five points from safety.

Doncaster drew level on points after holding Brighton, but remain bottom on goal difference. Little else changed at the bottom end of the table, with none of the bottom six victorious. Donny visit Nottingham Forest in Tuesday’s biggest fixture, while Bristol City will be hoping to end a disastrous run of six defeats in seven matches when they entertain Leicester. Coventry, who remain in touch with the Robins, face a Crystal Palace side unbeaten in six matches.

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