Hull are not down yet, but they are really. Three points adrift at the foot of the table with a horrendous goal difference, their defeat at home to near rivals Luton last weekend killed their chances and they knew it. At full time, their players were slumped and resigned.
The club has been run in to the ground in recent years and selling their two best players in January pretty much sealed their fate. With contracts expiring, they were left with little choice, but that is no way to run an already struggling football club.
Hull are all that stand in the way of Cardiff and the top six. A point would do, but they may not even need that. Most seem to be treating the game as a foregone conclusion, so why am I bricking it?
I’m not going to do that thing that all fans do for every club, which is to say that it would be so typical of *insert name here* to bottle it in this way. Cardiff do not have a recent history of bottling it, whatever that means. On the contrary, in the last few years they have shown plenty of bottle.
It was a defining character trait under Neil Warnock, who saw off a fierce challenge from Fulham to get promoted. They also showed that they were down, but not out last season by going to Old Trafford on the final day and slapping Manchester United about the face for their best result, and performance, of the season.
That is probably at the root of my fear for facing Hull. Now that the pressure is off and their fate is confirmed, maybe they will play without fear and suddenly prove a formidable opponent. It could go the other way and they may just down tools and get pumped again. This is the side that recently went in at the break seven down against fellow strugglers Wigan after all.
Should Cardiff miss out, it would be a triple whammy. Not only what they have lost at home to the worst team in the league, they would have relinquished their play-off place and it would be filled by Swansea. That would be beyond grim. The sort of scenario that haunts your most anxious dreams.
Fortunately, that would take a rather freak set of results. A Hull renaissance aside, Swansea also face a tough trip to Reading, who may or may not already be on the beach. Cardiff will also have half an eye on Nottingham Forest, who share their current points total in fifth place and host Stoke.
This Cardiff side are also made of pretty stern stuff. Neil Harris has not yet received the praise that he deserves for salvaging the wreckage of Cardiff’s season, but maybe that will soon come. I have enjoyed all of games since the restart, but the stakes are so high now, that may no longer be the case.
It boggles my brain to think that Cardiff could be four games away from a swift return to the top flight. They look up for the challenge though and no one will fancy playing them. Should they manage to navigate Hull that is. Lets not get ahead of ourselves!