Stoke boss Tony Pulis has backed Cardiff to feature prominently in this season’s npower Championship promotion shake-up.
The Bluebirds were beaten 2-0 after extra-time by Stoke in last night’s FA Cup third-round replay at Cardiff City Stadium, but Pulis has no doubt about the Welsh side’s quality.
Cardiff currently sit third in the table, two points behind Swansea with a game in hand, and pushed a much-changed Stoke side despite not starting with any of their prolific strikers; Craig Bellamy, Jay Bothroyd and Michael Chopra.
Pulis said: “Cardiff haven’t played their top team against us, but they have got a squad as good as any in the Championship.
“I expect them to be there, without a shadow of a doubt. With the quality they’ve got you win more games than you lose.”
Jon Walters scored twice in extra-time – his first a close-range header, the second an angled shot – to book Stoke a fourth-round trip to Premier League rivals Wolves later this month.
And Pulis is ready to utilise his squad again after making 10 changes from the side that had beaten Bolton 2-0 just three days previously.
Pulis added: “I will use the squad again at Wolves, very much so. It was a tough game, both sides made loads of changes, and we are pleased to have come out with a win.
“I don’t have to justify (selection) to anyone apart from my chairman. We’ve got a 25-man squad and we pay players good money whether they are in the team or out of the team.
“We wanted them to have a go and they did. That is all you can ask for.”
The only disappointing note for Stoke was provided by an early hamstring injury to Danny Higginbotham that is likely to keep him out of next weekend’s Premier League clash against Fulham.
A young Cardiff side had their moments, but ultimately lacked sufficient firepower to seriously threaten Stoke inside the penalty area.
Chopra came on as a second-half substitute and saw claims for a last-gasp penalty in normal time correctly waved away by referee Peter Walton, but Cardiff manager Dave Jones had no complaints.
Jones said: “We had a lot of youngsters in there and they didn’t let anyone down.
“I can’t fault them. We wanted to go through, and the team nearly did it, but we probably lacked a little bit of awareness at the death.
“This has given the youngsters a great taste of FA Cup football. They went out there and gave everything they had, and we are disappointed we have gone out.”