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Swansea City, Cardiff City and Newport County Preview

Swansea City aim to prove there are the high noon specialists when they visit Bristol City for another midday kick-off on Saturday.

Having beaten rivals Cardiff City, 2-0, last Sunday, the Swans have already proved themselves top dogs in Wales and now they are anxious to take a bite out of their second-nearest neighbours in the West Country.

Russell Martin’s side have established an astonishing dominance in the South Wales derby with three consecutive victories against the Bluebirds, and six wins out of the last eight meetings, during which they have scored 15 goals to the Bluebirds’ one.

The most recent games against Bristol City are just as clear in where the current superiority lies. Again, the Swans managed a league double against the Robins last season – winning 1-0 at Ashton Gate, followed by a 3-1 win at home back in February.

Head coach Martin has overseen a transformation in recent weeks that has seen the team pull away from the lower reaches to stand fourth in the Championship on the back of six wins in their last seven matches.

The only defeat in that sequence came at Burnley, the week before the South Wales derby, when Martin’s men were hammered 4-0 in Lancashire.

“We know there will be occasional blips, days when things do not go well, is was the case at Burnley,” says Martin.

“There will be more days like that one this season, I’ve no doubt. It’s inevitable when you are dealing with a young team and inexperienced players.

“But the important thing is how the players recovered quickly to beat Cardiff and didn’t doubt themselves or their methods.”

It’s not just the playing or coaching methods that appear to be paying dividends for Swansea at present, either.

As a club, Martin reckons the Swans have a long term strategy that provides for steady development, rather than the major squad overhauls seen by both Cardiff and Bristol City in the last couple of seasons.

“We spoke about it in a recent fans’ forum – we either buy or we build,” adds Martin. “We are trying to build. I’ve been really keen to stress to everyone when I first came in that it’s going to take time.

“I think from day one we set out with a clear plan and you could see the vision for the team. We are starting to really reap some rewards now with the patience everyone has shown.”

After the latest victory over Cardiff, Martin made the point that for each of his three derby games against the Bluebirds, the opponents have turned up with a different manager – Mick McCarthy, Steve Morison and current caretaker Mark Hudson.

Bristol City have not had quite that level of turnover in recent seasons, but their current boss – Nigel Pearson – has his own problems.

The major one is consistency of results. Last weekend’s 2-0 defeat at Reading meant the Robins’ last five games have gone: lost, won, lost, won, lost.

They currently sit 13th in the table, but their lacklustre performance against the Royals left Pearson in exasperation over how their form can lurch from one match to another.

“We have players who have hit one level in midweek and then perform miles below that,” he said.

“We were collectively short at Reading and it’s very frustrating.”

As for Cardiff, they now find themselves back in 20th place after three straight defeats – two places lower than when Hudson took over the reins following the sacking of Morison.

On Saturday, they host Rotherham – a fixture that might have appeared a home banker when Hudson had picked up seven points from his first three matches in charge.

But since then, decisions by officials and a moment of madness by Callum Robinson that led to a red card against the Swans have drawn all the wind from Hudson’s sails.

Rotherham are up in 11th place and have only lost four times this season, the second best record in the Championship behind Burney, although the smart money might be on a draw since The Millers have drawn seven of their 16 games so far this season.

The last time Cardiff won at home on a Saturday was way back on August 13, when they beat Birmingham City 1-0 and Hudson knows another failure with feed the doubters who hold reservations that he should be given the job for the long term.

As for Newport County, new manager Graham Coughlan is aiming to build on a 1-0 win over Colchester United in League Two, when his team head for third-placed Northampton.

The victory in midweek followed Coughlan’s first match in charge – a goalless draw at Mansfield.

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