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Matt Holland's Blog 29

6 March 2013

Are leaders Cardiff City going to bottle it? That's the question on a lot of people's minds this week as the Welshmen battle through a late season wobble.

There's bound to be a lot of pressure on the players, and much of that stems from the disappointments the club has endured in recent seasons. Falling at the final hurdle in pursuit of promotion to the Premier League has hurt them in the past.

Half the players might be new, but a lot of familiar faces remain so it's perfectly normal to expect them as a squad to feel the nerves. They'll know that some fans are waiting for them blow up, and when one or two results don't go your way the doubts can quickly creep in.

Every time they drop points, the players will rush to the TV after the final whistle to see how their rivals fared, and if they all win, it might give them a sinking feeling. They may begin to wonder if it isn't meant to be.

All Malky Mackay can do is to keep his players calm, and avoid them getting too worked up. They've proven what a top side they are this season, and I'm still sure they will be promoted. That said, their lead is being cut all the time and they no longer have a big margin of error to fall back on.

One club always bursts through from the pack in the npower Championship and I wonder if this year it will be Bolton Wanderers' turn to gatecrash the promotion party?

Having gone seven games unbeaten, and with four wins in a row, they're flying.

I spoke to Bolton coach Curtis Fleming last week in Ireland and he was really positive. He told me what a great set of lads they had in the dressing room and that the quality of their play was of a high level, too.

Dougie Freedman is a very intense manager. He takes as much information on board as he possibly can when it comes to stats and science, and from what I gather it's taken the Bolton players a little while to adapt to those methods.

Now Curtis tells me, the players have clicked. They are used to Freedman's expectations and all of a sudden the results are coming. Footballers often take time to adjust to changes, but now that the Bolton manager is getting his ideas to sink in, they are reaping the rewards.

Hull City are another club vying for promotion, and George Boyd must have been delighted with his debut at the weekend.

Having been rejected by Nottingham Forest for a failed eye test, the Peterborough United forward quickly showed them what they missed out on by scoring with his first touch in a Tigers shirt. He followed it up with another goal shortly afterwards at home to Birmingham City, proving once and for all just how terrible his eyes must be!

Boyd is on loan for the time being, but a permanent transfer has been agreed for the summer. This explains why Peterborough United were prepared to let him go.

To me, he's a quality footballer who deserves his chance to play for a club that's in with a shout of Premier League football. He's at the right end of the table for his ability.

Peterborough United will miss him in their bid to stay in the division, though. I was chatting to another former Eire team-mate of mine, Gary Breen, this week, who's part of the staff at London Road.

He confessed that the side isn't the same without him. George Boyd knitted everything together for the team according to Gary. Linking defence with attack, he made things happen.

The one positive is that Peterborough are still scoring goals. In Dwight Gayle, they've found another lower league bargain predator, and around him other players are always likely to hit the back of the net.

When you weigh up which teams will struggle most in the run-in, it's the sides who struggle for goals that you fear for most, but that's never the problem with Posh.

If they can start keeping clean sheets I'd fancy them strongly to escape the drop yet again.

Off the pitch, I read with interest that a group of Middlesbrough players have got themselves hooked on basketball, and practice at one another's houses in the afternoons after training.

It's good to have a distraction like that, and when footballers compete at different sports it can have a brilliant impact on team spirit.

At Charlton and Ipswich we often used to hold tennis competitions between the players - sometimes as an alternative training session - and then away from the training ground we'd often have fun with a bit of table tennis, golf, and darts, too.

Tony Mowbray won't want his men getting injured, but I can see the benefits of shooting some hoops in the afternoon.

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