There’s a few days between our exciting midweek clash against West Brom and our Saturday match against Cardiff. In that time, I bring Macedonian striker Ivan Trickovski on a week’s loan. Transfer rumours and reports continue, with Ponferradina’s Biel Company telling the media he wants me to sign him, whilst Manuel Gavilan is looking to leave the club, unhappy with a lack of first team football. In many a season, he would have been the first name on my teamsheet, but Michele Marconi is like Will Grigg – he’s on fire!
Saturday comes and we travel to Cardiff to take on 19th-placed Cardiff City at the Cardiff City Stadium. Despite the difference in our league positions, the bookies make us 3/1 underdogs for our trip to Wales. I make no changes to my lineup that played against West Brom, which results in Ryan Mason making his 125th career league appearance. We get off to a fast start, with Dacian Varga crossing from the left in the second minute; his cross hits a defender and the keeper is just able to get to the ball ahead of a rapidly closing Jonny Hayes. It’s an encouraging start and in the 6th minute, Mason lays the ball off to Bradley Johnson, who scores his 10th goal of the season from 18 yards to put us into an early lead. The game then settles down after our fast start, with the next action of note coming in the 23rd minute when Jagos Vukovic plays in Hayes, who hits a shot that the keeper parries. Michele Marconi picks up the rebound and rolls it into an empty net for his 19th goal of the season and 25th career goal for the club. Four minutes later, Jonny Hayes takes a free kick from the right and finds Vukovic unmarked at the far post; he rises above the outrushing keeper and heads in from 6 yards his third of the season for our third of the game. Unsurprisingly, as we’re three up inside half an hour, the game starts to peter out, with nothing of note happening in the rest of the half, although Vukovic is replaced at half time after picking up a knock The next action of note happens nine minutes into the second half when Bertin Matip takes an outswinging corner from the right; Johnson meets the ball at the near post with a header and the keeper is able to tip it onto the woodwork and Cardiff scramble it clear. Cardiff also come close to scoring from a corner in the 76th minute, but Jonathan Bond is alert and tips the ball over for another corner. Cardiff going close seems to inspire us and three minutes later, Varga looks for a lob from 20 yards, but scoops it over the bar. Jones strikes a free kick from 30 yards that goes just over in the 86th minute and Eagles hits the post a minute later (although the linesman does raise his flag for offside), but it’s too little too late. Whilst I could be disappointed that we didn’t kick on from the opening half an hour, I’ll never be unhappy with a 3-0 away victory (although the majority of the 16,282 in attendance will be less happy). Jonny Hayes is named Man of the Match with a rating of 8.3 and 2 assists.
Post-game, the physio reports that Jagos Vukovic has suffered a strained wrist and will be about for 11-14 days. Nottingham Forest, who are 14th in the league, sack Kenny Jackett and my name is linked with the job, but Mike Phelan is the favourite, which is confirmed a few days later when they appoint him as their new manager. Three more trialists arrive: Uruguayan striker Carlos Maria Tabarez (2 weeks), Tunisian central midfielder Nabib Zouaghi (1 week) and Italian goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini. Peter Zlatinov, who is retiring at the end of the season, leaves his agent, Stanislav Ganchev. Torquay United offer to loan Martin Brandt for a month, which I accept and he agrees to go there. Whilst on the subject of loans, I welcome three players back: Dominik Masek from Wycombe, Clement Baud from Leyton Orient and Konstantin Manov for Yeovil, with Manov announcing that he enjoyed his loan spell and felt that he learnt a lot. I also discover out opponents for the FA Cup Fifth Round as Southampton beat Coventry City in their replay.