Never mind survival, here’s why Cardiff City are our play-off tip

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Last night’s impressive 2-1 victory at Wolverhampton Wanderers extended Cardiff City’s unbeaten run to three games and lifted them out of the relegation zone.

But their revival under the steady hand of Neil Warnock, paired with the unpredictability of the Championship means the hefty odds of 33/1 for the Bluebirds to soar up and take a play-off spot looks well worth a punt.

The 68-year-old gaffer has made the South Wales outfit extremely tough to break down, since taking over at the beginning of October. And that’s been reflected in their vastly improved league form.

After taking just eight points from their first 11 league games, the Bluebirds have now chalked up 15 in 10 games under Warnock, and last night’s display saw them dominate chances and possession against Wolves.

However, while they played some slick stuff against the Molineux outfit, it’s Cardiff’s battling spirit which has most caught the eye in recent games.

Having come from behind to win last night, thanks to Anthony Pilkington’s neat finish, the Bluebirds once again showed the mental toughness which saw them cling onto a draw at Ipswich last weekend, despite playing much of the second-half with 10 men.

That’s been helped by a solid and consistent defensive line-up, with the likes of Lee Peltier and Sean Morrison impressing since Warnock’s arrival.

And those disciplined displays have been borne out by Cardiff conceding just two goals in their last three games – becoming the first team to shut out Brighton in the last 16 games, along the way.

At the other end, former England international Rickie Lambert is beginning to rediscover his shooting boots after a difficult few seasons. He’s netted twice in the last four games, including a superbly taken volley in the victory over Huddersfield Town.

Having netted 27 times in the Championship for Southampton back in 2011-12, there’s no doubt the 34-year-old can be prolific at this level. And he’s well supplied by fellow veteran Peter Whittingham and Aron Gunnarsson, who starred in Iceland’s Euro 2016 campaign.

But it’s Warnock who remains the most important member of the Bluebirds’ set-up, and the most convincing reason for them to rise to the play-off spots.

Having achieved seven promotions in management to date, including two from the Championship – with Sheffield United and Queens Park Rangers  respectively – there’s no question Warnock knows how to build a well-organised outfit and drag them up the table.

When you consider the fact he arrived at apparent relegation-certainties Rotherham United last February and took them on an 11-game unbeaten run, just think what he could achieve with a Bluebirds side packed with talented and tough players.

Next up for Cardiff City is a home tie against Barnsley on Saturday, with Evens for the South Wales club to chalk up their fourth win in five meetings with the Tykes.

Win that game, and the 33/1 for Cardiff to finish in the play-off spots could well be slashed – as could the similarly generous 100/1 for them to win promotion to the Premier League this season.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing

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Dave Burin

Dave graduated with an MA in English Literature at Durham University, and worked in marketing before joining the Ladbrokes News team. A Man United fan and avid groundhopper, he’s also an ardent follower of Rugby League. You can usually find him at a ground near you, clutching a big cup of tea.