In the first of our ‘run in’ articles, Jack Gaughan looks at the weekend fixtures and what impact they could have on the Premier League table.
It is that time of year again when Blackpool face a run-in which will shape their season. For the past six campaigns, Pool have had a make or break final months to either steer clear of relegation or gun for promotion.
During those years Simon Grayson, Tony Parkes and obviously Ian Holloway have helped shape the Seasiders into a Premier League outfit. Last season’s fantastic run of results ended in promotion at Wembley, akin to the ‘perfect 10’ of 2007 during the playoff winning year in League One.
As striking as those two years were, it is the resilience of the team when up against relegation which also contributed to the club moving in the right direction.
And that resilience is something Ollie and his side will need in abundance as they do battle against almost a dozen other squads in the fight for Premier League survival.
In our Vital Run-In series we will look at the weekend fixtures and try to fathom what could happen during the final 10 games.
Birmingham City host West Brom at St Andrews in the tasty early kick off on Saturday, which could have a huge bearing on the table. City have two games in hand on most teams in the bottom half and thanks to investment in January, have picked up results since, including the League Cup final win on Sunday against Arsenal.
The Baggies themselves have shown that they can be resolute and grind out results, notably on Monday night away at Stoke City with a goal moments from time to record a point – similar to the injury-time draw against Wolves last week. They too signed quality in the transfer window with Carlos Vela earning both draws to keep their points tally ticking over.
Blackburn Rovers travel to Fulham searching for results as they continue to slide down the table. Rovers have picked just one point from their last four – that was against striker-less Newcastle United. The Ewood Park faithful have also been critical of players, with Steve Keen careful not to tread on any supporters’ toes after saying midfielder Keith Andrews was upset at vocal discontent.
Fulham themselves have been consistent throughout the season, picking up 14 draws so far – more than any other team in the division. It is hard to see them dropping if the pattern of draws continue.
West Ham United v Stoke is also a big game, with the Hammers proving their quality recently after recovering from three down at the Hawthorns and beating Liverpool on Sunday. Their main men are growing into the relegation battle, being roared on by skipper Scott Parker – whose rousing speech at West Brom was said to be the catalyst for the comeback.
Stoke themselves aren’t safe yet, as they sit 10th, six points clear of the drop zone. A win for Avram Grant would close the gap between the two sides to three points.
Aston Villa have a tricky game to manoeuvre at Europe-chasing Bolton whilst Everton play Newcastle. Wolves host Spurs obviously buoyed by their big win against shocking Blackpool and Wigan are at Eastlands to face Manchester City.
Birmingham 2 – 1 West Brom
Bolton 1 – 0 Aston Villa
Fulham 0 – 0 Blackburn
Newcastle 3 – 1 Everton
West Ham 2 – 2 Stoke City
Man City 4 – 0 Wigan
Wolves 1 – 2 Tottenham
That would see the bottom 10 looking like this going into the Chelsea game on Monday night:
10 – Stoke, 35
11 – Fulham, 33
12 – Everton, 33
13 – Birmingham, 33
14 – Blackburn, 33
15 – Aston Villa, 33
16 – Blackpool, 32
17 – West Ham, 29
18 – West Brom, 29
19 – Wolves, 28
20 – Wigan, 27