Cardiff to make late Bellamy call for second leg as Wembley awaits

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The Independent Online

Dave Jones will go into tonight's play-off semi-final second leg against Reading unsure whether captain Craig Bellamy is fit to play for Cardiff. Bellamy had to go off 17 minutes into the goalless first leg at the Madejski Stadium on Friday. The Cardiff manager said yesterday he would wait as late as possible before deciding whether to risk the 31-year-old Wales international.

"We'll leave it as late as possible," Jones said. "He's still got a chance and we'll look at him on Tuesday. He came off as quickly as he could get off so we'll just wait and see." Bellamy has been on loan at Cardiff City from Manchester City all season and has scored 11 goals in 35 appearances. His well-known injury problems require management and any recurrence tonight could prevent him from playing in the final should Cardiff win.

The Welsh side are marginal favourites to reach Wembley after the first leg. Reading's manager, Brian McDermott, is confident, though, that his team can win at the Cardiff City Stadium. McDermott played more than 50 times for Cardiff in the late 1980s and so is familiar with the challenge of beating the Welsh club.

"There is a great atmosphere there," McDermott said, "they love their team, love their players and it's a crowd that get behind their team like we do. But I don't regard it as hostility. It will be a great atmosphere. When I was a player there we were playing in front of five or six thousand, but times have changed and it is one of the best grounds in the division now. But we have won at Anfield as a group so we have no fear."

McDermott anticipates a match as good as the atmosphere this evening. "There's quality, spirit, commitment and desire on both sides with everything you need to be a successful team," he said. "Friday was my first experience of the play-offs as a manager and it's what football is all about. It's two sides having a right go, with players and staff trying to win. It will be a very competitive game and there is a lot to play for. In the play-offs there is a lot of hype, but our philosophy is always just to win the next game."

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