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View From The Town End: Cardiff City

The Bluebirds’ view ahead of a huge game in South Wales on the last day of the season.

Cardiff City v Nottingham Forest - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

For the last Town End of a thoroughly miserable season, we spoke to Cardiff City fan and Sportsmole reporter Dan Lewis - you can find him on Twitter @Daniel_Lewis92.

You’re on the brink of a return to the Premier League - what’s the secret of your success?

The manager – it’s as simple as that! Neil Warnock took over a side heading towards League One just 18 months ago and has now transformed us into a side heading for a Premier League return.

Warnock has the ability to get the most out of each of his players, including those that struggled badly under previous boss Paul Trollope, while also using the transfer market to his advantage. Two of Cardiff’s three best players this season were brought in for free: Sol Bamba and Junior Hoilett. The other, if you were wondering, is a certain Sean Morrison.

What are the long-term hopes for Cardiff? Can you establish yourselves in the top tier?

It’s incredible to think that City have already amassed more points than the title-winning side of five years ago – a side that cruised over the line with plenty of time to spare – yet could still miss out on the top two if things go badly on Sunday. This is arguably a weaker squad than the previous group to earn promotion, and there is no doubt that a handful of new recruits will be required to stay in the top flight.

Warnock has hardly set the Premier League alight in the past, but he deserves another shot at it. The alternative, of course, is another season of Championship football, and there is no better manager to lead us than ‘Colin’ himself.

What are the biggest strengths in your team?

The ability to bounce back from adversity has been a key theme this season, most recently picking up a 2-0 win at Hull City just a few days on from our terrible display at Derby County. Defensively speaking, just 39 goals have been shipped – only Wolverhampton Wanderers have a better record – while up the other end of the field only three teams have netted more than City’s 69.

Remarkably, Callum Paterson is the top scorer, despite missing the first three-and-a-half months of the season and initially being signed as a full-back. With only 10 goals to his name – Cardiff’s top scorer, remember - it is clear to see that others have been happy to chip in throughout the campaign rather than focus being on one man.

Hull City v Cardiff City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ashley Allen/Getty Images

Are there any weaknesses that Reading can try to exploit?

Those travelling down for the game simply have to hope for an off-day from their opponents. Bad performances have been few and far between this season, particularly on home soil having dropped just 15 points at the Cardiff City Stadium – 16 wins, three draws, three losses.

Cardiff also have the best defensive home record of any side, so getting men behind the ball and holding out for a point may be the best bet for Reading. Oh, and there is the small matter of the ‘bottlers’ tag that Cardiff have not truly been able to shake off – the 2011 play-off semi-final defeat was a particularly tough one to take.

What have you made of Reading so far this season?

I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I was surprised to see Reading make it all the way to the play-off final last season, but Jaap Stam must have done something right. The style of football looked very bland – at least Warnock’s ‘hoof-ball’ leads to plenty of chances and entertainment.

I have yet to see a single Reading game since Paul Clement arrived, although results-wise it looks as though keeping out the opposition is proving particularly tough – has the legend that is Chris Gunter been suspended or something(?!)

How do you see the game going, and what will the score be?

On a normal matchday it’s difficult to see this one being anything other than another straightforward home win. Pressure does horrible things to teams, though, and there is plenty of that on Cardiff.

Reading also have something to play for which could make things interesting, and an early goal for the visitors would test the patience of the record home crowd. Still, going against everything I was told about tempting fate, I’ll go with a 2-0 win for Cardiff and another season of overpriced top-flight football.