Neil Warnock is braced for a bruising battle with the team he wants his Boro side to be when Cardiff City visit the Riverside this weekend (KO Sat, 3pm).
Warnock helped build the foundations at the Bluebirds, signing a host of players, stamping a direct tactical template on a towering side and guiding them into the Premier League in 2018.
Now, after a dip and the sacking of Neil Harris, the Bluebirds are flying under Mick McCarthy who has reverted to a long ball style and they have gate-crashed the top six after seven wins on the bounce.
Warnock knows exactly what to expect. He is the partly the architect of the functional football onslaught heading Boro’s way.
“People go on about style but football is all about getting results,” he said. “Cardiff will be delighted with what Mick’s done since he came in. Is it seven wins on the spin? That is what football is about. Getting results.
“Mick’s not going to change his style. Why should he? And he’s not bothered with the beauty of the game. He just wins games. And when you win games fans aren’t bothered about style. Do you think Cardiff fans will moan about lots of throws if they are in the Premier League?”
“We know what to expect. There will be 10 long throws, 10 corners, 10 free-kicks, it will be non-stop and we have to find a way to cope with it. We’ve got a real task on our hands.
“There will be a lot of balls into our box aimed at big Kieffer Moore up front and the big defender Morrison from dead-balls. We have to stop that.”
Warnock admitted he was disappointed and ’embarrassed” after a first half collapse in a 3-1 midweek to struggling Bristol City but is backing his side to bounce back.
“Yes I was disappointed and yes I had to criticise a few of them in the dressing room but when I think about they were all trying their best,” he said. “It came down to 20 minutes when we were awful.
“But we have to wipe the slate clean and have to think about how we get a result against Cardiff. It will be difficult because they are a good team in good form but we will find a way.”
Warnock has some injury headaches. Ashley Fletcher is sidelined with a recurrence of his ham-string injury leaving him with little height up front against Cardiff’s Land of the Giant defence.
Fletcher has had a scan but there is no return date: “We don’t know the exact amount but he won’t play on Saturday. I would imagine it will be two or three weeks.”
Meanwhile, both much-missed midfielder Marcus Tavernier and wideman Yannick Bolasie have stepped up their training – although Warnock hinted he would not risk them against Cardiff.
On how the pair are progressing, he said: “They’re both training at the moment. Marcus has stepped up his moaning so I think he’s nearly ready. We’ve missed his enthusiasm. Yannick is working hard too.
“But we have two big away games next week, one of them being Swansea – so I’m sure Cardiff would rather we got them fit for that one!”
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