Saturday, April 07, 2007

Easter Bunnies

Easter is a strange weekend, isn't it? Good Friday feels like a Sunday, Easter Saturday feels like a Saturday, Easter Sunday feels like a Sunday, but then Easter Monday feels like a Sunday too. It's a disorientating few days. In a football sense, it gives us the opportunity to put the unfortunate events of the last few days behind us, and concentrate on the stuff that really matters - the end of domestic season. The end of the football season always creeps up on me, and takes me by surprise. The season suddenly goes from mid-season to end of season, and suddenly every single match matters.

It's a pivotal weekend in the Premiership, where Chelsea entertain Spurs and Manchester United travel to Portsmouth. These are both matches that the bigger clubs could, theoretically, drop points in, but the pressure will be greater on Chelsea, who have to beat Spurs to stay in touch with United. At the bottom, I suspect that West Ham are doomed and we all already know that Watford are, but Charlton's draw at Manchester City last night dropped Sheffield United back into the bottom three for the first time for quite a while. However, United are at home against the freefalling Newcastle this afternoon, so Charlton could well be back there by 5.00 this afternoon. Fulham and Aston Villa are also looking nervously over their shoulders - Fulham more than most after they were mauled at Goodison Park last night. I don't know exactly why, but I'd be delighted if Fulham went down.

Derby dropped a critical two points at Leicester in the Championship last night, a result which gives Birmingham City the edge at the top of the table. They'll go top of the table if they beat Burnley at St Andrews tomorrow. The match of the weekend is at the Stadium Of Light, where Sunderland play Wolves. Wolves inexplicably lost 6-0 at home to Southampton last week - one of those results that left everybody standing there scratching their heads, and given the history between Mick McCarthy, Sunderland and Roy Keane, there should at least be a full house and some fireworks there today. Wolves need a win to stay in the play-off places, too - if they lose and Southampton win at Luton, they're out of the play-off positions for the first time in a couple of months. At the bottom, wouldn't it be absolutely typical if Leeds, under the weasally Dennis Wise and the epitome of all that's wrong with modern football (Ken Bates), stayed up having been in the bottom three all season? They're at home against Plymouth Argyle this afternoon, and a win will probably lift them out of the bottom three.

In League One, the comedy writer's favourite team, Scunthorpe United, pulled further clear at the top with a 1-0 win against Yeovil Town last night. They're now eleven points clear of third placed Nottingham Forest with half a dozen or so matches left to play. It's between Bristol City and Nottingham Forest for second place, by the way - there are four points between them, with Bristol City playing Swansea City this afternoon, and Nottingham Forest facing a daunting trip to Millwall. At the botttom, your eyebrows may raise at the news that Bradford City, a Premiership club as recently as 1998, could be dropping into League Two. I'll have a look into what is still going wrong there and report back in the week. Brentford and Rotherham United are both as good as down, and the prognosis isn't terribly good for Chesterfield either.

Finally, League Two. It's looking good for Hartlepool, who are five points clear at the top. Walsall and Swindon seem likely to follow them up, though there is still room for either of them to slip up. We should, of course, all be hoping that Franchise FC fail spectacularly in the play-offs, if they fail to get the third automatic promotion spot. In the Conference, by the way, Dagenham & Redbridge will be promoted into the League if they win at home against Aldershot Town and Oxford United lose at Northwich Victoria. Who'd have thought that at the start of the season?


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