The Championship Relegation Round Up
We are well and truly embroiled in the business end of the season, so it's high time to take a look at the potential movers and shakers in what has proved to be yet another fantastic and unpredictable Championship season. With two or three games remaining for the teams involved, the relegation battle is still wide open, and we're looking at who can survive the drop into the lower reaches of the Football League.
Unfortunately for Gary Johnson's intrepid Yeovil side, their relegation now appears inevitable. Having battled to be within touching distance of safety in March, the effort appears to have come at a cost, as the team have won just once in the intervening seven games. Town now need to win their final two games, hope that Birmingham lose their final three and make up a 13-goal deficit to stay in the league.
Yeovil's campaign has been held back by a marked lack of Championship-quality players and an inability to garner any real momentum—a run of two wins and two draws is the highlight among several sustained barren runs during their first-ever season at this level.
Barnsley's prospects aren't looking quite so grim, but they are most definitely up against it. They find themselves four points adrift with just two games to play—one less than Birmingham, who occupy the final safe spot.
Barnsley have been playing with fire for some time, having finished 21st in the past two campaigns and only escaping relegation in 2012 thanks to Portsmouth's 10-point deduction. For the Tykes to have any chance of repeating the feat, they realistically must win their final two games—away to Middlesbrough and home to QPR, which isn't beyond the realms of possibility with both teams having nothing to play for.
However, one win and four defeats in their last five games is not the sort of form they would have wanted to be carrying into the final games, and even with two wins they would be relying heavily on other results going their way.
Perhaps the most surprising addition to this season's relegation battle, Blackpool could well find themselves following the likes of Portsmouth, Charlton and Leeds by suffering two relegations in quick succession. While the latter two clubs were able to secure swift promotion back to the Championship, it will be of little solace to the Seasiders, who went into the season with promotion ambitions.
Indeed, everything appeared to be going to plan, as they found themselves in fourth place after 17 matches under the stewardship of Paul Ince. However, a five-match stadium ban for Ince due to violent conduct seemed to destabilise the club.
Since the end of November, the club has managed just two wins and plummeted down the table. The old adage is that timing is everything when it comes to relegation battles, and Blackpool have fallen into the drop zone for the first time with their most recent result, a precipitous drop that could prove disastrous.
To make matters worse, their final two matches will be extremely tough. They travel to a resurgent Wigan side still not assured of a play-off berth before what could prove to be a relegation decider against fellow strugglers Charlton.
Like Blackpool, Birmingham City were a team many were tipping to do well this season. However, their campaign simply never got going, and they have found themselves gradually slipping toward the relegation zone as the season has progressed.
Unlike others in the relegation fight, the Blues have one clear reason to blame for the position they find themselves in. Their away form has been excellent—the sixth best in the league, including wins against every other team in the bottom eight—but their performances at home have been another matter entirely. A paltry two wins all season at St Andrews is as dire as it is baffling for a team with considerably more quality than many others in the division.
On paper, City’s run in should present them with ample opportunity to stay up. Home games against Leeds—who have nothing to play for—and Wigan—who may well have secured their place in the play-offs by that point—are followed by an away fixture at Bolton, who fielded a weakened team in Tuesday’s match against Leicester.
That being said, the home hoodoo has now gone on for so long that it may be easier said than done. Don’t be surprised to see Birmingham heading to the Reebok on the final day of the season needing a win.
Millwall, like Barnsley, are another team who have never looked particularly at ease with the Championship and avoided the drop by just two points last season. Following the loss of long-serving manager Kenny Jackett, Millwall started the season poorly and didn't record a victory until their seventh match of the league campaign.
After falling to 21st, the club opted to remove Steve Lomas at Christmas and replaced him with Ian Holloway. However, the move had the opposite of the rejuvenating effect many anticipated with the arrival of such a charismatic figure.
Having found themselves rock bottom just six matches ago, the Lions have hit form at a crucial point, going unbeaten since then and placing their destiny back in their own hands. The next fixture—away at QPR—looks tough, but the visit of Bournemouth on the final day is very much winnable, particularly if they are out of the play-off picture at that stage.
Having endured a yo-yo existence for the last few years, if you’d offered Doncaster fans the chance for a season where their biggest piece of news was signing a member of One Direction, most would have snapped your hand off.
Rovers have enjoyed a steady, if slightly perilous run in the country’s second division this term and have occupied 19th position for the last five matches, despite not winning in that time.
However, this run, despite not plunging them into immediate danger, could come back to bite them. Their run-in is arguably the toughest of the relegation candidates, and sees them face a Reading side clinging to the final play-off spot and travel to champions Leicester who—despite a 4-1 home reverse against Brighton immediately following their promotion—will be determined to finish the season on a high after manager Nigel Pearson challenged them to break the 100-point barrier for the first time in the club’s history.
Many thought Charlton Athletic owner Roland Duchatelet was attempting to make a name for himself as the next Vincent Tan following his decision to sack club legend and hugely popular manager Chris Powell.
While the club were bottom, a prosperous run in the FA Cup meant the club had four games in hand at the time of Powell’s sacking, which new manager Jose Riga has duly taken advantage of. In his 13 games in charge the cub have recorded three draws and five wins—the latest of which was a remarkable comeback from 2-0 down away at Sheffield Wednesday.
The Addicks must travel to Blackpool on the final day of the season, but with home games against Blackburn and Watford to play beforehand, and considering their form under Riga it would be surprising to see them going into the final day needing a result at Bloomfield Road.