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Racing: Phillips: Bluebirds can crown great season for Welsh clubs; Three sides can stay cool and collect on the glory trail.

FORMER Wales midfielder Dave Phillips has predicted a glorious end to the season for Wales' Football League clubs - providing Cardiff City overcome last-day nerves against Crewe.

Phillips is convinced Wrexham will clinch automatic promotion to Division Two and Swansea City will escape the dreaded drop into the Conference.

But the former Coventry, Norwich and Nottingham Forest midfielder - capped 62 times by Wales between 1984 and 1996 - warned the Bluebirds face the lottery of the play-offs if they lose their cool in the crunch promotion battle at Gresty Road on May 3.

``Crewe against Cardiff on the final day of the season will determine who goes up with Wigan,'' said Phillips, who has followed all three Welsh clubs this season as a radio pundit.

``I say that because I believe the Bluebirds have the toughest run-in of the teams going for automatic promotion.

``They've really got to win all of their last five games. They certainly can't afford another slip-up.

``But it won't be easy. Peterborough away on Wednesday will be tough because they're not clear of relegation and have done reasonably well against Cardiff in the past.

``You would expect City to get a result from Colchester, but the final three games - Bristol City, Wigan and Crewe - are all massive.

``Bristol City, who play Crewe on Tuesday night, will be there or thereabouts. And Wigan? Perhaps by the time they come to Cardiff they will be home and dry, but it's still a difficult one.

``Lots of City fans are saying `Yes, we will do it' but Crewe is the key game for me.

`` I'm sure it will come down to whoever is most cool, calm and collected on the day. City will have to hold their nerve.'' Lennie Lawrence's side are one point off second-placed Crewe following their 3-0 win at Chesterfield and Phillips insists they must carry the momentum forward.

``After the way they missed out last year, the play-offs are the last thing Cardiff want,'' he said.

``And looking at the way things are shaping up, Cardiff could play Queens Park Rangers in the play-offs - a bogey team for them.''

At the bottom of Division Three, Phillips is certain Swansea can notch up enough points from their last four games to secure League survival.

``Swansea will be safe - I have no doubt about that,'' he said. ``I think they will finish fifth or sixth from bottom and, considering everyone was writing them off a while back, that will be a fantastic achievement.

``I have the utmost respect for what Brian (Flynn) has done and I think the arrival of Roberto Martinez is one of themain reasons why the Swans are getting out of trouble.

``But their run-in does include a couple of tricky games. Orient will be looking to beat the Swans on Saturday to see them well clear of the drop zone.

``Rochdale's manager Paul Simpson will be out for a result when Swansea go there on April 26 because he is under intense pressure at the mo-ment. ``And I'm sure Peter Taylor will have his Hull side, who will be one of the favourites to go up next season, fired up when they go to the Vetch on the last day.

``But Swansea will get enough points to survive. I would certainly expect them to pick up three from the massive game against Exeter on Easter Monday.

``Exeter are no great shakes and, considering their run-in includes Oxford at home and York away, I think they will go down along with Carlisle.''

At the other end of the table, Wrexham are in possession of the third automatic promotion place after a run of nine games without defeat.

And Phillips, 39, believes the Dragons will hold onto it. ``Wrexham are a strong enough side to go up automatically and I believe they will,'' he said.

``Certainly their run-in is slightly easier than some of their rivals. Saturday's game at Kidderminster will be difficult, but I would expect them to come away with a good result.

``They should then be able to do Swansea a favour by beating Carlisle at the Racecourse.

``That's the crucial game in hand Wrexham have over most of the other chasing teams - Bournemouth, I feel, are the strongest challengers for third spot - and they must make it pay.

``Cambridge at home and Leyton Orient and Bury away may present a few problems, but Wrexham are going full tilt at the moment - especially with Andy Morrell banging in the goals - and, providing they steer clear of injuries, they will be OK.''

Added Phillips, ``This could be a truly great season for Welsh football.

``Cardiff and Wrexham winning promotion and Swansea avoiding the Conference would be fantastic on the back of the success Wales are enjoying in their Euro 2004 campaign.''

Final countdowns

CARDIFF CITY April 16: Peterborough (a) 19: Colchester (h) 22: Bristol City (a) 26: Wigan (h) May 3: Crewe (a)

SWANSEA CITY April 19: Leyton Orient (a) 21: Exeter (h) 26: Rochdale (a) May 3: Hull (h)

WREXHAM April 19: Kidderminster (a) 21: Carlisle (h) 26: Cambridge (h) 29: Leyton Orient (a) May 3: Bury (a)

CAPTION(S):

PREDICTION: Dave; Phillips sees brilliant hat-trick in the offing for Welsh sides; BOUND FOR SUCCESS: Leon Britton, left, of Swansea challenges Carlos Edwards of Wrexham during the clubs' Third Division battle at the Vetch this season - both sides can attain their goals this term, with Wrexham gaining promotion and Swansea avoiding relegation
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUW
Date:Apr 15, 2003
Words:909
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