The Run-In For Automatic Promotion
Well it’s here yet again, that time of the season where supporters of clubs at both ends of the table are suffering ‘twitchy-backside’ syndrome (a genuine medical term).
Naturally a popular subject of conversation now is ‘who is going up’. Here are my thoughts.
Mick Mcarthy’s men appear to have overcome that dreadful run of results from December to March where they only picked up two league wins in eleven games. The men from Molineux have won four from their last five games and next up is an enormous clash with Birmingham in The Blues back yard. The run in sees games against mid table QPR and Derby but the games against relegation threatened Southampton, Barnsley and Doncaster may spring some unwanted surprises.
Wolves will win the title with a few monumental battles on the way – just about.
Despite an away loss to promotion rivals Sheffield United, City are still sitting in second place four and six points above Reading and Sheffield United respectively. Albeit the Blues have played a game more than their two nearest rivals. Defeat against Wolves in the aforementioned top of the table clash could put a real dent in their promotion bid, City also face Reading away in the final game of the season that stands a chance of effectively being a play-off final at the Madejski.
VerdictBirmingham cannot afford to lose to Wolves and Reading. Defeat in both games could cost them the chance to land the coveted 2nd spot. It will be a dogfight for second but the Blues have to be favourites as Reading and Sheffield United still have to win their ganes in hand to keep the pressure on.
The Royals have won only two of their last ten championship games after that superb pre-Christmas run that saw them win six games back to back. At that time I thought that it was only a matter of time that the Berkshire club would storm to the title. However, since beating Wolves in late January the title challenge appears to have lost momentum with Steve side struggling to find a consistent run of good form. Having said all this they have a game in hand on 2nd place Birmingham that would cut the gap to a mere point. That, coupled with that impending possible promotion decider with ‘The Brum’ in the final game at the Madejski could see the club return to the top flight.
Aside from a huge game against Sheffield United at home on Good-Friday, this is Reading’s to lose. Dogged-determination and a vociferous home crowd should see the Royals up on the final day if they land those big six points against The Blades and The Blues.
The in-form side in the top four, The Blades are no doubt in with a real shout. Winning their game in hand is a must. That game is the clash with local rivals, Barnsley and is likely to be a thunderous battle in the wake of the Iain Hume and Chris Morgan elbowing incident. The Blades, like Reading have a lot in their own hands but face a difficult run-in, with Burnley and Reading away being the key fixtures. Should the Blades overhaul Reading at the Madejski and Wolves beat Birmingham, Kevin Blackwell’s men have four home games from their last seven with a potentially huge final game awaiting them when they visit Bramall Lane old-boy Neil Warnock’s Crystal Palace.
If the Blades can continue their current form and pick up big wins at Reading and Burnley they have every chance of making a return to the Premier League. However, other results must go the Blades way for them to achieve this.
A calamitous refereeing performance from match official Paul Taylor saw the Bluebirds reduced to the nine men in their last game against the Sheffield United at Ninian park, culminating in 3-0 defeat at the hands of their rivals. This was a huge loss for Cardiff but they still have two games in hand which could see them cutting the gap to 2nd place down to three points. Next-up for City is a massive South Wales derby at home and how The Swans would love to kill off their bitter-rivals automatic promotion challenge. Should the Bluebirds prevail they still have to win two games in hand and face play-off hopefuls Burnley and Preston.
Far from impossible but realistically Dave Jones’ side needs to win six from their last eight games while depending on other results. I’m afraid I think it may be a little too much to ask. It’s looking like the Play-Offs could be a more realistic way to send Ninian Park, their home for 99 years off in the way the club would like to.
Apologies to Burnley but without games in hand I cannot see the Clarets closing a seven-point gap at this stage. I will try and call the play-offs after the traditional end of season shake-up.