Dotting The I’s And Crossing The T’s

I hope you’ll forgive me for concentrating at the bottom of the table on the penultimate weekend of the regular season, but as most of the issues at the top have been resolved it seems appropriate.

Incidentally, you might want to make a note of the playoff dates: the first legs will be on Saturday 10th May, with 6th v 3rd kicking off at 12:15pm and 5th v 4th at 5:15pm. I expect both games and the final will be shown on Sky Sports, but nothing has been confirmed at time of writing.

One of the remaining questions is who going to join Stevenage in League 2 next season. The bookies have Shrewsbury and Carlisle favourites to join them, but I’d hazard a guess and say any of the sides currently under 50 points might find themselves in trouble if they lose their next two games. With that in mind, two of the three games I’m looking at this weekend feature clubs that could still go down if results go against them.

Brentford v Colchester

The angle here is whether Colchester can spoil the Bees’ promotion party, but the visitors haven’t won at Griffin Park since New Year’s Eve 2005. I haven’t mentioned Colchester since the beginning of last month, but two wins in their last ten games doesn’t exactly inspire confidence for next season even if they avoid relegation. You can’t win games if you can’t score and since mid March the Us have failed to score in half their league games: to put it bluntly, goals from Jabo Ibehre and Freddie Sears have kept them out of trouble so far, but that may not be the case in 2014/15.

Leyton Orient v Tranmere

Rovers have spent most of the season between 17th and 22nd place but have been inconsistent side of bad rather than just plain awful and Ronnie Moore’s dismissal earlier this month might well have happened in any case. Orient almost seem to realise that their chances of automatic promotion had disappeared a few weeks ago but Russell Slade still sounds bullish and Tranmere might be on a hiding to nothing in this one. One relevant stat: there hasn’t been a draw between the sides at Brisbane Road since November 1986…

Shrewsbury v Peterborough

A big game for both sides: the hosts need to win to keep their slim chances of survival alive for one more game whilst Posh can secure the last playoff place if they win at Greenhous Meadow and Swindon lose at Notts County. The Shrews had looked as if they might have avoided relegation until a disastrous run of four consecutive defeats in January saw them drop into the bottom four and resulted in the resignation of club legend Graham Turner. I don’t think there’ll be a miracle ending: the Shrews haven’t won at any of the sides in the top half of the table so far this season and I can’t see Peterborough blowing such a big opportunity to reach the playoffs.

Next post is due next Friday but if anything noteworthy happens this weekend then I’ll try to update sometime on Sunday – I’ve got a weekend long birthday party to attend in Monmouthshire, so that might not be possible 🙂

Update: Shrewsbury lost at home to Peterborough, a result that confirms relegation for the Shrews and that Posh will be seeded sixth in the playoffs. We also know all three automatic promotion winners from League 2: Chesterfield, Rochdale and Scunthorpe.

Wolves Champions, Brentford Up, Stevenage Down

With most clubs only having two games left, most of the major issues at the top of the table were settled this weekend:

Wolves won the title, which was expected. They’ve been in first place since the start of last month and it was only five years ago that they won the Championship: scoring the most and conceded the fewest goals in a competition will always ensure a strong chance of success.

Brentford put last season’s disappointment behind them to return to the second tier for the first time in over 20 years, even though they shipped a last minute goal at MK Dons which gave Wolves the title. The challenge for the Bees is to stay up next season: the last time they managed consecutive seasons in the old Second Division was in the early 1950s.

The last playoff place will be between Peterborough and Swindon: Posh have a four point lead over the Wiltshire Robins -as well as a superior goal difference -with six points left to play for.

Stevenage will be playing in League One next season after losing 1-3 at home to Bristol City. They were one of my tips for relegation last July and never reached any higher than 15th place this season; they’d been hanging around the bottom four for most of 2013/14.

I’ll definitely be back on Friday – I arrived back later than expected yesterday evening.

Good Friday Preview

It seems incredible that the last post was almost three weeks ago, but from now on it’s heads down until the end of the season.

Before I go any further, congratulations to Wolves for winning automatic promotion back to the Championship. Having spent the entire season in the top three and winning 14 of their last 20 games you wouldn’t really expect anything else, but nonetheless it can be argued that the club should have never been allowed to drop back into the third tier in the first place. Reports that the club would have gone bankrupt if it hadn’t received parachute payments following consecutive relegations show that a potentially catastrophic situation has been averted, but also proves that the extra money doesn’t always help. I can think of one club currently struggling in the Premier League that might want to remember that.

However, for the other promotion hopefuls the fun starts now: remarkably, four of the top six are playing each other tomorrow. Brentford could still win the title, but the Bees have a very tough looking game against Preston at Griffin Park. Even though the Bees won 15 of their last 16 home games, over the same period Preston have only lost twice on their travels: with three of the last five matches between them in West London ending all square – combined with Preston’s reputation as draw specialists – a draw seems almost inevitable.

Wolves entertain Rotherham at Molineux and could take a giant step towards winning the League One title if they win. Rotherham haven’t won there since their first ever league meeting in April 1920, but their 1-0 defeat at Sheffield United was their first reverse on the road since the end of 2013 and the Millers have a pretty good record against the other promotion candidates, having only lost at Orient and at home to Peterborough this season.

At the bottom, Shrewsbury v Crewe is a huge game for both sides. The hosts have only lost one of their last six league games at Greenhous Meadow and have won three of the four games they’ve played against the Alex since the turn of the century, but the Shrews have scored less than a goal per game in front of their own fans this season. When your leading goalscorer is a midfielder who has only scored twice in the last month (Jon Taylor) you know you’re in trouble. Crewe have performed heroically on the road recently – they hadn’t won two consecutive away games at this level for over five years – but haven’t kept an away clean sheet since mid October and only Notts County have currently conceded more goals away from home in 2013/14.

I’ll be back at some point on Sunday, but before I sign off I think it’s time to pay tribute to Sheffield United. Despite taking a half time lead, the Blades were finally knocked out of the FA Cup by Hull City in an exciting semi final. We’re unlikely to see another third tier side do that well in the competition for a while but in this particular context, such rare success normally means a good season following the cup run and I’ve got a feeling that 2014/15 might be the season the Blades should have had this year. We’ll see.