Langfield: Brown deserves send off

Bristol City have no fresh injury worries as they prepare for

their huge Championship clash with Sheffield Wednesday at Ashton

Gate on Monday.

The Robins are yet to taste defeat on home soil since head coach

Sean O’Driscoll took charge but their failure to secure a victory

on the road has left them six points adrift of safety with seven

games remaining.

The likes of Albert Adomah and Liam Kelly are pushing for

recalls while Paul Anderson came through 90 minutes following his

return to the starting line-up after injury.

But O’Driscoll is limited when it comes to attacking options

with striker Ryan Taylor (shoulder) back in training but not yet

available, and fellow forward Jon Stead (groin) still

sidelined.

City’s latest defeat on their travels, a 3-0 loss at Derby on

Friday, means a reverse to the Owls would leave the Robins staring

at a return to League One after six seasons on football’s second

rung.

Sheffield Wednesday, meanwhile, will be without suspended

defender Lewis Buxton for the game.

Buxton was sent off in Saturday’s derby win over Barnsley for a

second yellow card offence and will sit out a one-game ban, so

Martin Taylor will come into contention for a recall.

Seyi Olofinjana and fellow midfielder Stuart Holden made their

debuts after joining on loan last week from Hull and Bolton

respectively, and manager Dave Jones must decide if both are

capable of playing two games in four days.

Giles Coke, fit again after a foot injury, replaced Holden in

the second half on Saturday, while Rhys McCabe, Kieran Lee, and

David Prutton provide Jones with extra options in midfield.

Jermaine Johnson is in contention to start. He returned to the

bench following international duty with Jamaica, but fellow winger

Michail Antonio (groin) is out for the rest of the season.

The hosts will hope Will Grigg can manage two games in four days

as they prepare to entertain their midlands neighbours.

The Northern Ireland international, who has 19 goals to his name

this season, was a big doubt for Good Friday’s trip to Yeovil but

made an earlier than expected to return to start from the off at

Huish Park.

Grigg lasted 78 minutes of the goalless draw and Saddlers boss

Dean Smith, who is not expected to be have any other injury or

suspension concerns, will be hoping he is fresh enough to line up

once more against the Sky Blues.

New loan signing Romaine Sawyers appeared for the closing stages

against the Glovers and will be aiming for a bigger role on Easter

Monday as Walsall strive to stretch their 11-match unbeaten

run.

Coventry manager Steven Pressley will be tempted to keep faith

with an unchanged XI.

Pressley poured praise on his players after they responded from

one of the toughest weeks in the crisis club’s history to inflict a

1-0 defeat on league leaders Doncaster on Good Friday.

The victory would have kept City within touching distance of the

play-offs were it not for a 10-point deduction for going into

administration, imposed by the Football League 24 hours

previous.

Pressley made three changes for the clash as fit-again skipper

Carl Baker returned in midfield alongside Adam Barton, with Callum

Ball taking his place in attack.

Gary McSheffrey and Cody McDonald, both benched, will be hoping

for recalls while Steven Jennings will again be assessed having

missed out due to injury.

Dundee boss John Brown immediately tried to sign the former

Inverness and Ross County striker on a short-term deal after he

became one of seven experienced players to lose their jobs with the

administration-hit club.

A statement on the Dundee website read: “The signing which took

place at Dens Park this afternoon is subject to SFA clearance and

special dispensation due to Dunfermline’s circumstances.”

Partick Thistle signed two of the released Pars players, Jordan

McMillan and Andy Dowie, while Dunfermline reported that goalkeeper

Paul Gallacher had joined Ross County.

The Tangerines are facing crunch time as they chase a top-six

slot with games against Saints tomorrow night at McDiarmid Park

before hosting Aberdeen at Tannadice this weekend.

McNamara knows the importance of securing a top-half finish for

the Scottish Cup semi-finalists so will not mind if they win ugly

on this occasion.

McNamara said: “We always try to play good football.

“But when it gets down to this stage of the season it can be

more about the result than the performance at the end of the

day.

“I know the players can dig deep to win even if they’re not at

their best.

“That’s a side of their game they’ve shown since I came in so

they may have to do that again.

“St Johnstone are a big, strong side so we will obviously have

to match them in that respect.

“It’s going to be a very hard game but we’ll be ready for it and

hopefully come away with a positive result.”

United’s last outing ended in a 1-1 draw with city rivals Dundee

before the international weekend.

And McNamara reckons they’ve benefited from the free weekend and

are raring to go again in their pursuit of a top-six slot.

He added: “The lads are buzzing to get going again.

“We worked hard when we were in last week and then had a little

bit of time off.

“The players have come back fresh and are really looking forward

to this match with St Johnstone.

“It’s a big one and we’re under no illusions about that.

“We will be looking to win both games before the split so we

know what we have to try and do in that regard.

“I think the players are capable of that as they’ve shown on

their day.

“There are no easy games in the SPL but hopefully this one can

being out the best in us on Monday night.”

United will give winger Gary Mackay-Steven every chance of

making it as he battles to shrug off a hamstring injury.

John Rankin is suspended though and striker John Russell is

still missing through his knee injury.

St Johnstone need just a point against Dundee United to book

their top six place on Monday night but midfielder Liam Craig is

determined to finish the season with a bang.

Fifth-placed Saints would put themselves out of reach of all of

the bottom six including United by avoiding defeat in the Tayside

derby at McDiarmid Park.

Consecutive top-six finishes would represent an excellent

achievement for Steve Lomas’ side, especially given that they would

ensure finishes above clubs with the biggest spending power outside

the Old Firm such as Hearts, Hibernian and Aberdeen.

But Craig is not content with that alone. St Johnstone set up a

Europa League clash with Eskisehirspor last year by finishing fifth

but they ended the season in unspectacular fashion and Craig wants

to leave the club on a high before he joins Hibernian.

The 26-year-old said: “When you look at it, you wouldn’t have

expected that top six to be there with two games to go before the

split.

“But this year has been tight and we’re delighted to put

ourselves in a position to make the top six again, especially after

the start we made.

“We always knew we had the quality in the team and over the

season so far, it has proved right.

“But when you look back to last season, we didn’t win any of the

last seven games, which by our standards isn’t good enough.

“There are seven games left now and we don’t want to stumble

into the top six – we want to get there with two wins and give

ourselves a chance of climbing the table.

“We want to make sure we go in there positive and make a better

account of ourselves.”Victory in the televised clash would move St

Johnstone into fourth, three points behind Inverness and a

guaranteed European spot.

“After we got a wee taste of it last year, we are determined to

get back there,” Craig said.

“For a lot of the boys it was their first experience. It was a

great trip to Turkey, albeit the result wasn’t what we wanted it

was a great experience.

“It was something we wanted to build on this year and we have

put ourselves in a position to do it again, so it is up to us to

finish it off.”

Graham Westley takes charge of his first game back in charge of

Stevenage on Easter Monday.

Westley has returned to Boro, who he guided to back-to-back

promotions before leaving for Preston, to replace Gary Smith who

was sacked last week.

He will be without Miguel Comminges, who is suspended after his

red card in Friday’s 1-1 draw against Crawley.

With Lee Hills a doubt with a hamstring problem, David Gray is

set to fill in at left-back.

Midfielder Gavin Mahon is struggling with a knock but new

signings Alex Smith and Roarie Deacon could be added to the

squad.

Defender Smith joined on loan from Fulham on Thursday and

forward Deacon was a free agent after leaving Sunderland, but

neither signed in time to face the Red Devils.

The visitors will be without suspended midfielder Simon Walton

and three other players could miss out through injury.

Walton was shown a straight red card in Friday’s home defeat to

MK Dons for his challenge on Patrick Bamford and will start a

three-game ban.

Pools manager John Hughes could also be without fellow

midfielder Ritchie Humphreys again after he missed out against the

Dons due to a calf strain.

Defender Evan Horwood and midfielder Antony Sweeney are also

doubtful after they both sustained hamstring strains during

Friday’s setback.

Teenager Jack Baldwin made a surprise return to action on Friday

following knee ligament damage and played the full 90 minutes, so

he too could be struggling to last a second full game in the space

of four days.

Charlie Wyke, on loan from Middlesbrough, overcame a heel

problem in time to start against the Dons and although fellow

striker James Poole missed out due to a knock, he could return to

contention to boost Hughes’ attacking options following Thursday’s

departure of Steve Howard to Sheffield Wednesday on loan.

The home side sent a stream of set-pieces and crosses into the

opposing penalty area looking for a second equaliser, Leigh

Griffiths having earlier cancelled out Ross Draper’s opener.

But Butcher was always confident his players would protect the

lead provided by Andrew Shinnie’s 65th-minute strike.

“They are a resilient bunch of players, really tenacious as

well,” said Butcher. “I’ve grown to trust them enormously.

“They all get on with each other and they all respect each other

and it makes my job so much easier. I can just sit back and

relax.

“There in the dugout today I could just sit back with my legs

crossed and let them get on with it – no broken dugouts this time,”

he quipped, referring to his recent Scottish Football Association

charge for punching through the side of the dugout at Dundee.

“A lot of these boys are here next year so it whets the appetite

for that. We’re on 50 points now, but we’re not finished yet. We

don’t like 50, we want another number. We want to get another win

on Friday against St Johnstone.”

One player who will not be back is Shinnie. The midfielder has

been instrumental in Inverness’ unforeseen rise up the table this

campaign, but the 24-year old is out of contract in the summer and

has his heart set on a move to England.

“I’m determined to give my all until the end of the season,”

said Shinnie, who capped off a terrific second-half performance

with the winner.

“I’m too professional to do anything else. We’re desperate to

get a European place, we feel that the players and the club deserve

it.

“He (Butcher) has been great for my career. After I left Rangers

he gave me the chance to play SPL football every week and I hope

that in the two years since I’ve been here that I’ve managed to

repay him.

“He’s played me every game this season. If there were times when

I struggled a bit for a couple of games he wouldn’t just dump me

out the team, he’d keep faith in me. He’s been brilliant for

me.”

Hibs, who for a long time this season looked to be challenging

for second place, now look likely to miss out on the top six with a

trip to Celtic Park their one remaining fixture before the

split.

Manager Pat Fenlon said: “We have to give it our all and go to

Celtic, which is obviously a difficult venue, but we have to be

positive and try and get a result and hope that other games go our

way.

“I disagree that we’ve been poor at home, we’ve had some decent

results. We haven’t lost too many games, typical of Hibs it’s

always looking at the negative.

“We’re looking at the positive. We’ve done okay this season, we

need to kick on before the split and we’ve got a semi-final to look

forward to.”

Pochettino took to the St Mary’s helm in controversial

circumstances in January but has quickly won around supporters with

an exciting brand of pressing football.

That was evident in the high-profile scalps of Manchester City,

Liverpool and most recently Chelsea, who left St Mary’s on the

wrong end of a 2-1 scoreline on Saturday.

Rodriguez opened the scoring against the reigning European

champions, capping what was yet another fine performance from the

former Burnley attacker.

The 23-year-old had initially struggled for form after his

?6million summer arrival but has flourished since Pochettino’s

arrival on the south coast.

“The manager has put his faith in me,” Rodriguez said.

“He gives you belief that you should be on the pitch because

he’s played me and given me a chance.

“All I can keep doing is to try and do my best for him, and for

the team.

“I was chuffed with the goal but, like I always say, it’s the

three points that matter.”

It was fine all-round performance from Southampton, who went

ahead in the 23rd minute when Rodriguez finished a superb team move

by slotting past Petr Cech.

John Terry was allowed to level unmarked from a corner 10

minutes later, only for Saints to hit back immediately through an

exquisite – and ultimately decisive – 25-yard Rickie Lambert

free-kick.

“It was a good performance,” Rodriguez said. “We worked really

hard and I thought we deserved the win.

“Obviously it was a great goal from Rickie, which was key, so it

was a good three points.

“We just have to carry on that form we’ve got. We did well

against Liverpool and worked hard during the international

break.

“We know how good Chelsea are and I thought we played really

well.”

Southampton now sit 12th in the standings – their highest

position since returning to the Premier League – although only four

points separates them and the bottom three.

“It’s still tight down there, so we’re going to concentrate on

ourselves because that’s all we can affect,” Rodriguez said.

“Our next game is our most important game – that’s what we all

think and we’ll be working all week for that.

“It’s important that we get three points to move us up the

table.

“We’ll work out a strategy and a tactic to play against them,

and work hard to win the game.”

That match is away at Reading – a mouth-watering duel between

Pochettino and the man he controversially replaced at Southampton

two months ago, Nigel Adkins.

“It will be a great occasion against Reading but we’re just

going to concentrate on ourselves and getting the three points,”

Rodriguez added.

“We’ll work hard all week and focus on Reading and hopefully

moving up the table.”

The hosts will be without centre-back Darren Jones, who was

forced off after just 20 minutes of Good Friday’s 2-2 draw at

Carlisle with a suspected dislocated shoulder, which is likely to

rule him out for the remainder of the season.

The news is a particular blow to Shrews boss Graham Turner with

fellow defenders Cameron Gayle (hamstring) and Rob Edwards (thigh)

already struggling to play again this term, while Jermaine

Grandison (hip) is also lacking match fitness after a lengthy spell

on the sidelines.

Connor Goldson replaced Jones at Brunton Park and is likely to

do so from the off for the visit of the Red Devils.

Midfielder Dave McAllister was rested to the bench on Friday and

will hope to return, while loan signing Akwasi Asante is also

pushing for greater involvement having made his debut as a

73rd-minute substitute.

Crawley boss Richie Barker is set to make changes after

admitting his team needed freshening up as they laboured to a 1-1

draw against 10-man Stevenage on Friday.

Two games in three days might be too much for skipper Josh

Simpson, who has only just returned after a month out with an ankle

injury, while top scorer Billy Clarke could start after dropping to

the bench against Boro.

There will definitely be a change among the substitutes as

midfielder Jake Taylor has returned to parent club Reading at the

end of his loan spell.

Defender Kyle McFadzean remains unavailable as he continues to

build up his fitness following a virus.

Niall McGinn scored 10 minutes into each half to secure

Aberdeen’s second win of 2013 to allow Brown and assistant Archie

Knox to take the acclaim of the 10,175 Pittodrie crowd in their

final home match before stepping aside for Derek McInnes and Tony

Docherty.

Their last match together will be at Dundee United and Aberdeen

will have at least some chance of making the top half after moving

into seventh place, although the two teams immediately above them,

St Johnstone and Kilmarnock, both have a game in hand as well as

superior goal difference.

Langfield told RedTV: “Basically it’s win or bust for us next

week. We know if Kilmarnock win their two games then it’s

mathematically impossible.

“But we want to send the manager out on high and what a great

way it would be by going to Tannadice in front of six or seven

thousand of our own fans, a great atmosphere and winning the game,

and maybe we would get a chance of being in the top six.”

Langfield has previously paid tribute to the veteran coaches for

helping him back to action following a brain seizure.

“I’m ever so grateful for the time I have worked with them here

and I’ll be sad to see them go,” he said.

“They have built a really good squad and I think everyone says

that.

“Some decisions never went for us and the six 0-0 draws at home

have really affected us.

“Brown was desperate to reward the Aberdeen fans for their

support.

He said: “To please the crowd is a major satisfaction because

the crowd is so supportive of the team, the club and myself and to

disappoint them breaks my heart.

“You ask if I’m emotional but I’m more emotional when we go to

Inverness at Christmas and we lose, and I see the buses and I get

really upset.”

But the 72-year-old former Scotland manager was touched when he

and Knox received a warm post-match ovation.

“I’m grateful, that was a bit emotional,” he said.

“The fact they are happy with the team, that’s the main

thing.

“I had 60,000 at Celtic Park when the team beat Latvia (to

qualify for the World Cup) and did two laps of honour.

“I’m very fortunate, I am used to great acknowledgement and very

little the other way.

“I hope it continues and I’m sure it will for Derek because if I

have left him nothing I have left him the best signing in the

SPL.

“Derek and Tony will look at the team and I am sure they will

find they can improve it but it will be very difficult to improve

on the goalscoring of Niall McGinn.”

McGinn’s first was a simple conversion from a square ball by

Jonny Hayes after Gavin Rae had opened Hearts up on their left

side.

The former Celtic player’s 19th Aberdeen goal was a lot more

difficult as he cut inside Mehdi Taouil on the touchline, turned

Dylan McGowan and curled into the top corner.

Josh Magennis also had two goals wrongly disallowed for offside

but Hearts had chances. John Sutton hit the post and saw a header

well saved by Langfield, who also made excellent stops from Michael

Ngoo and Jamie Walker, all in the first half.

But Hearts manager Gary Locke was disappointed to see his side

lose an opener that was very similar to the goal which turned their

Scottish Communities League Cup final defeat by St Mirren.

Locke told Hearts TV: “It was disappointing the way we lost the

goals. The first one, we work on things as a team, I’m not just

blaming the back four. There was no pressure on the ball and you

have got to drop off.

“The second goal, we said their wide men like to come in the

pitch and to show them outside. We let him inside and it’s another

sloppy goal to lose.”

The main positive for Hearts was full-back Jamie Hamill’s

comeback from the bench following almost a year out with a knee

injury.

“I was really pleased with Jamie when he went on, he showed the

desire and hunger that’s required and I thought he did really

well,” Locke said.