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The Final Furlong - relegation dogfight




Well for most of the league there are only 3 games left, 4 for a couple. At the top, the two automatic promotion places are confirmed, and Wolves look set to win the title. Three of the four play-off spots are sorted, but 6th is still up for grabs.

But it's down at the bottom where it's really interesting. Today's loss at Bristol City was a bitter pill to swallow for Notts. There's no two ways about it, we deserved all 3 points, let alone 1. But yet again, we shot ourselves in the foot. We've done that too often this season, and I'm concerned it will all come back to haunt us. How many times have we taken nothing from a game we deserved at least a draw from? It's happened all season. Wolves at home, Peterborough away, Gillingham away, Tranmere away, Carlisle away. They all spring to mind. All games in which we played well and deserved a draw at the very minimum, but games in which we ultimately came away empty handed. Even if we could have managed 3 more draws we'd be sitting pretty in 17th place. But as it happens, we find ourselves 22nd, 3 points off safety with 3 games to go.

This is the bottom six as it stands going into Easter Monday:


Something that really stands out is the fact we've won the most games out of all apart from Coventry, who of course started the season in title winning form. To me, it just nails home how much good a few more draws would have done.

What I'm going to do here is look at everyone's remaining fixtures.

But let's not waste much time with Stevenage. They're a poor side, and when they come up against anyone who can play football, their tactics are to kick them all over the park, after which they lose anyway.

To stand any real chance of staying up they need to win all of their remaning 3 games at home to Bristol City and Walsall, and away to Brentford, whilst hoping everybody above them slips up. I'll take it on the chin if a miracle occures and they manage to do it, but realistically I can't see Stevenage taking more than 2 points at the very most from these 3 games, and that's if they're lucky. Two points would give them 41 points, which even now would have them finishing bottom.

Now let's look at 16th placed Oldham. They've been hovering above safety winning the big 6 pointers all season. They already have the magic 50 points but a lot can happen in 3 games. In their case, 4. They play Coventry, Sheffield United and ourselves on the final day at home, and go to Carlisle for a big game. I think they'll beat Coventry, draw with us and Carlisle, and lose to the Blades. 5 points would give them 55 points, which is easily safety.

17th placed Coventry have been sliding further down the table since the turn of the year. They were scoring goals for fun in the first half of th season, but the loss of their two main strikers left a huge hole in the side, and they haven't really recovered. Now they find themselves just 5 points above the drop zone, and face a nervy climax to the season.

Aside from their trip to Oldham which I'm claiming they'll lose, they also host champions elect Wolves, before ending their season at Brammal Lane. I've thought about this for a while, and I honestly don't see them getting anything from those games. They haven't proved themselves to be a side capable of grinding out a scrappy victory, and the goals really have dried up lately. They're playing against at least two sides in brilliant form, and another in Oldham who are well used to this situation, and have shown all season that they are capable of winning these relegation six pointers. So 0 points would see Coventry finish on 49 points.

Below them at the moment, in 18th place we find Colchester United.

Like Oldham, United have struggled hovering just above the dotted line for much of the season, and recent defeats to three of their relegation rivals in ourselves, Tranmere, and today - Oldham, have pulled them right into the mire.

This monday they travel to Crewe Alexandra for a huge six pointer. Colchester did win at Stevenage last weekend, but their away form has been poor all season. Mind you, so has Crewe's home form. Crewe have a young side of players who have probably never been in a situation like this before, whereas Colchester have a few more seasoned players among their ranks. However they've chosen the worst possible time to go on such a poor run, and I see them falling short yet again at Gresty Road.

They also host title chasing Brentford before ending their season at Walsall. They'd do well to get much against Brentford but Walsall's season is peatering out somewhat, so they might just be able to nick a point on the final day. If they do they'll have 47, which dosen't sound like a surviving total.

Crewe themselves are 20th, and are always a good bet for a goal. Their problem has been keeping them out at the other end. They possess the league's worst defensive record. I think they'll beat Colchester on Monday, and after that they go to Bristol City before hosting Preston on the final day. Bristol City were less than impressive despite beating us today but have been in great form. They're a big physical side and I think Crewe's young guns will struggle to take anything from Ashton Gate. The Preston game on the final day is a tricky one. Preston now know they will compete in the play-offs so they may rest key players ahead of them. Crewe also won at Deepdale convincingly earlier in the season. I think they could take a point from that game. 4 points would leave them on the magic 50 point mark.

Between Crewe and Colchester, in 19th place, we find Tranmere Rovers. They recently sacked manager Ronnie Moore for breaching FA betting rules but the caretaker manager has steadied the ship in recent weeks with crucial victories against Colchester and Shrewsbury Town.

They host Sheffield United on Monday, go to Leyton Orient on Saturday, and end their season at home to Bradford City. Sheffield United's faint play-off hopes have been extinguished and they are out of the FA Cup, as is the case with Bradford City. Two teams with nothing to play for, and an Orient side going into the play-offs in pretty indifferent form. I think Rovers are capable of beating City on the final day, and somehow I reckon they might nick a draw at Orient. Orient are in poor form of late, and Tranmere always do seem to do quite well down there. Orient know they're in the play-offs, Tranmere are desperate for points. So 4 points, again, gives them 50 points.

Then in 21st place currently are Carlisle United. They're another side in poor form, losing 6-1 at Preston last weekend having conceeded 4 to us a few weeks earlier. Perhaps crucially, they have a game in hand away to Crawley in just over a weeks time. Crawley, a midtable side in poor form with nothing to play for. Carlisle are fighting for their lives and have bolstered their side with a couple of loan signings, I think they could go there and earn a point. They are not a side who pick up many points on the road, also there is a lot of unrest and discontent between the fans and club at the minute, so you wonder if they have the spirit and togetherness to pull through. They also face Peterborough away, Oldham at home and Wolves away. I think they'll draw with Oldham, and well, they'll do well to get anything at Posh or Wolves. So 2 points would leave them on 46 points.

In 22nd, ofcourse we find the mighty Notts County! Or not so mighty as it's turned out this season. A few weeks ago we were dead and buried. But now, of all the sides down the bottom we probably have the biggest head of steam, the most momentum, and possibly the most belief of anyone. We're always good for a goal or two - the FL's 9th top scorers in 2014, but the defence has been an issue all season. We've been very strong at home, and I think we should beat Crawley. As I said, midtable side, nothing to play for. Yeah they beat us at their place but it was only 1-0, and we didn't show up that day. I also think we're capable of beating Swindon Town. For some reason Town just can't get it together away from The County Ground, and that's held them out of the play-offs this season. They still have a small chance, but I think our players will ultimatly want it more on the day, and with it being our final home game, there should be a buoyant home crowd behind the lads. As for Oldham on the last day; our away form is quite poor, but then their home form is also poor this season. I expect they'll be safe by the final day, and I reckon we'll scrape a draw there. 7 points, would give us the magic 50 points. But our goal difference is so superior to the other strugglers it's like having another point.

And this leaves Shrewsbury Town. Shrewsbury don't conceede many goals. But they score even less - possessing league one's bluntest attack with just 39 goals all season. They also have the least wins in the league - 9. Typically, 2 of which came against us!

Defeats in the last week to both Tranmere and Crewe have all-but sealed their fate.

They travel to Preston on Monday before hosting Peterborough, and ending their season at Gillingham. I could actualy see them picking up a point from one of the first two games. Preston will now be looking at the play-offs, and truth be told they haven't really been prolific at home this season. Posh meanwhile have been in poor form since Chrismas, and it's a bit of a miracle they still occupy a play-off spot. Gillingham will finish midtable, and will have nothing to play for on the final day, so I could see Shrewsbury going and winning there. 4 points would give them 45.

So, going by my prejections, this would be the final table:

16th. Oldham Athletic - 55 points

17th. Notts County - 50 points

18th. Tranmere Rovers - 50 points

19th. Crewe Alexandra - 50 points

20th. Coventry City - 49 points


21st. Colchester United - 47 points

22nd. Carlisle United - 46 points

23rd. Shrewsbury Town - 45 points

24th. Stevenage - 41 points

Obviously some will look at that and think I'm mad to think of us finishing 17th, but it would be on goal difference, and ours is much better than all the other sides apart from Coventry.

Some sense has gone into this, I have actually thought about it. I accept that if we go down, I'll look rather stupid. But it's been a while since I've written anything on here so I had to do something!

If we play like we have been lately we should be capable of getting enough points on the board to stay up. To a man they were brilliant at Bristol City, and I just hope they don't let the way in which we shot ourselves in the foot bring them down too much. We can't afford to do that anymore this season. Let's start on Monday. We simply must beat Crawley.

We have momentum, we're in good form, we have belief. We can do this. COME ON YOU PIES!

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Man that would be good, I also did this but in person and to a couple of friends. We all agreed Notts could be safe if the remaining results went the way we predicted, now we have two teams to rely on (the 3rd is a bonus), yet another Carlisle need to slip up.

Great blog mate!

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Great blog,James.Well thought out.Unfortunately in the end it's still all down to ifs and buts.I just hope your predictions are as good here as in the prediction league.

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