Cardiff will come out fighting in play-off second leg, says Neil Harris

Cardiff boss Neil Harris expects his team to come out fighting in the second leg of their Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-final at Fulham.

The Bluebirds’ hopes of returning to the Premier League suffered a major blow as they were beaten 2-0 in the first leg at the Cardiff City Stadium on Monday.

After an evenly contested first half, a Josh Onomah strike and injury-time Neeskens Kebano free-kick put the Cottagers firmly on course for the Wembley final, but Harris insists the tie is far from over.

“We understand the monumental task in front of us but, with backs to the wall, we’ll come out fighting,” said Harris at a press conference ahead of the trip to Craven Cottage.

“The atmosphere in the group is brilliant and we are really looking forward to the challenge of trying to overturn the deficit.

“We’ve been written off, we’re massively the underdog now. We’re being questioned in some departments. We want to respond and we will respond.”

Harris succeeded Neil Warnock in November and steered the side to fifth in the table, eight points behind fourth-placed Fulham.

He takes confidence from his team’s away record in the second half of the campaign and wants to invoke the spirit that saw them recover from a 3-0 deficit to draw at champions Leeds in December.

He said: “Obviously I had to pick the boys up – I had to pick myself up first.

“I spoke to the players with some facts, some passion – the fact we’ve won six out of our last eight away games. No team in the Championship has picked up more away points than us since I took over.

“(These are) important facts – just to remind the players of the ability that we have got on our travels, coupled with the quality we have got in the changing room and the desire we have got.

“We were 3-0 down at Leeds and came back. We won at Ashton Gate, we won at Preston, won at (Nottingham) Forest. We’ve been to Middlesbrough in a challenging environment (and won).

“We’ve had some really important wins. When our backs have been up against the wall we have stood up to the challenge and we have got to do it one last time. We’ve got the ability to do it.”

Neeskens Kebano's late free-kick on Monday left Cardiff facing a huge task to reach the final
Neeskens Kebano's late free-kick on Monday left Cardiff facing a huge task to reach the final

Harris recognises, however, he has to get the balance between defence and attack right. Goals are needed but conceding early could put the tie completely beyond them.

He said: “The truth is we have to score two goals more than Fulham to take it to penalties, (or more) to win after extra time or 90 minutes.

“The first goal is going to be vital, we understand that, but the game doesn’t have to be won in the first 10 minutes. Goals at key moments change any game of football, certainly play-off games.

“It is not going to be easy, we are fully aware of that, but we are up for the challenge.”