Saturday, April 21, 2007

Down In The Dumps

Just a couple of weeks to go of the domestic season now, and it's all very exciting in all five divisions. I'm going to skip over the Premiership for now (because, let's face it, you're hardly starved for Premiership news, are you?), and have a quick look at what's going on at the bottom of the three divisions of the Football League and the Conference.

In the Championship (and I'll be putting some sort of poll up on here summer on the subject of what we should call the divisions of the Football League, by the way - this season has been far too confusing), Luton Town were relegated last night after a 1-0 defeat at Derby County. I tipped Luton to go down at the start of the season after their impressive slump in the second half of last season, but they started reasonably well, until their terrible mid-season slump. Their are boardroom ructions that hint at a deeper malaise at Kenilworth Road, and their surrender to the gravity of relegation has been somewhat meek. Above them, though, it's all to play for, with just five points separating Southend United, Hull City, Leeds United, Barnsley and Leicester City. This will not be settled until the last day of the season, but I fancy Barnsley to stay up (they can take a massive boost from beating Crystal Palace, who have nothing to play for), whilst it's difficult to see Leeds, Southend or Leicester picking up any points from difficult away matches at Southampton, Plymouth and Preston respectively. At the moment I'd be tipping Leeds, Barnsley and Hull to stay up (Leicester are in free-fall, and Southend have to win two of their remaining three matches to stand much chance of avoiding the trapdoor), but it's too close to call.

At the bottom of League One, Rotherham United and Brentford have already gone, and then, in a mirror of the division above, there's a very undignified scrap to stay up going on. There's only one match that really matters at the bottom today, and it's at Valley Parade, where Bradford City entertain Leyton Orient. I've noted Bradford's fall from grace on here before (they were, of course, a Premiership club just seven years ago), and a couple of weeks ago I sagely noted that they were likely to plummet further. Of course, they then went and picked up an unexpected three points last Saturday to make a fight of it. Like more or less everybody in North and East London, I've got a bit of a soft spot for Leyton Orient, but they are heading in the wrong direction, having been looking reasonably comfortable in the lower mid-table for most of the season. Their relegation would be a shame but, since their promotion last season was quite a surprise, not entirely unexpected. To complete the three to go down, Chesterfield (who, ten years ago this month, were going damned close to beating Middlesbrough in an FA Cup final at Old Trafford) need at least two wins from their remaining games and are, therefore doomed.

At the bottom of League Two, Torquay United's luck finally ran out last week (there are plenty of people in Lincoln who'll say that they should have gone down twenty years ago, but that story is for another time), but above them, there is an almighty scrap going on for the preservation of a Football League place between Wrexham and Boston United. Those of us on the side of righteousness should, of course, be supporting Wrexham in this. Boston's promotion to the League in 2002 was clouded by rumours regarding their off the field activities, and they started the following season on minus four points after being found guilty of illegal player registration, and with their manager and chairman banned by the FA. Meanwhile, Wrexham, another one of those clubs that seem to have spent the whole of the last fifteen years or so lurching from crisis to crisis, are level on points with them, but have a game in hand. This afternoon they play the already doomed Torquay, whilst Boston entertain Chester City. It could, theoretically, be all over by the last day of the season, but it seems likely that it could come down to the final match, between... Wrexham and Boston. I'm pretty certain that the League script these things on purpose.

Finally, at the foot of the Conference things are no clearer. St Albans are down (and, with the manager going at the end of the season, unlikely to bounce back), and Tamworth have to win both of their remaining matches to avoid joining them, but above them, just three points separate (deep breath) Crawley Town, Forest Green Rovers, Altrincham, Halifax, Cambridge United, Grays Athletic and Southport. Now, that's a relegation dog-fight. Inevitably, some of them are doing battle this afternoon - Forest Green play Halifax, Grays play Crawley and Tamworth play Altrincham. There is, of course, absolutely no way of predicting who's going to go down from that lot, though it seems highly likely that, for some poor unfortunates, fifty points will prove to have not been enough to stay up.


Graham said...

In pub conversations, I find i'm increasingly using "tier" as the easiest way of describing what level I'm talking about (ie, top tier=prem, tier two = championship etc). I thinks it's easier and clearer (though a lot less romantic) to say tier 8 rather than Ryman Isthmian League Division One South

Ed said...

I call them Roger, Mavis, Archibald and Steve Bruce.

Graham said...

I wouldn't like to repeat what they call you

Scaryduck said...

Having followed Weymouth this season, I'm just pleased there's still a football club there....

[Word verification for this post, no word of a lie = wogjock. Two racial slurs for the price of one!]

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