With most teams in the Football League's lower divisions having just three games left to play, one or two situations have been firmed up this weekend. Top of that list are Norwich City, who secured promotion back to the Championship just one season after their fall from grace. With the Canaries now nine points clear at the top of League One, a single point will also give them the Champions silverware to go with it. Undeniably the best side we've seen in this division, so it's no surprise to see them rise to the top of the tree.
Whilst we say goodbye to Norwich after one season, we will also say hello to Peterborough United, who were relegated on Easter Monday, the day before Gary Johnson was appointed as their new manager. Sir Gary may wonder what on earth he's taken on - his new side were thrashed by Brian McDermott's Reading by a 6-0 scoreline yesterday.
As Posh come down into League One after just 12 months, Rochdale are in nosebleed territory, having secured promotion back up to the third tier for the first time since 1974. Notts County have taken a little less time, having been relegated six years ago. Those two teams will swap positions with Stockport County, provided the Hatters come out of administration before the start of next season.
Southend United look likely to join them in League Two. Their 0-1 home defeat against Brighton and Hove Albion pretty much left the Seagulls safe through an Ashley Barnes goal, but left the Shrimpers seven points adrift and pretty much knowing that unless they win all three of their final games, they are going to be relegated. With Southend back in court next Wednesday, they may well share Stockport's belief that starting next season in League Two is a success of sorts.
Nine days ago, we declared that Wycombe Wanderers are not going to escape from relegation - they were cut away by nine points and looked like they had no chance. But the last eight days have suggested they are out to prove people wrong. A 2-0 win was then followed by a 3-0 midweek win, and finally a 3-2 away win at Milton Keynes Dons on Saturday, complete with a 95th minute winner from former Glover Kevin Betsy. Wycombe's Alex Revell and MK's Aaron Wilbraham had earlier bagged two each. Wanderers are still five points adrift, but are making it that little bit more interesting.
In truth, we're probably down to who grabs the last relegation spot. Tranmere Rovers did their chances of escaping no harm at all by winning their match yesterday by a 3-1 scoreline. More significantly, their opponents were Exeter City who now lie just one place above them in the table, and two points in front. With Rovers playing their game in hand on Tuesday night at Brentford, their fate is still firmly in their own hands. Exeter's cause wasn't helped by James Dunne getting his marching orders just 36 minutes into the match for two yellow cards. At that point the score was 0-0, but Tranmere saw Craig Curran, Joss Labadie and Gareth Edds score one each with the man advantage. Exeter's Stuart Fleetwood pulled things back to 2-1 but there wasn't a way back into the match for the Grecians.
Tranmere would have been in a stronger position, were it not for Gillingham, Leyton Orient, Oldham Athletic, Hartlepool United and Brighton and Hove Albion all winning their games, in an extraordinary weekend for those sides near the bottom four. Gillingham's was the most impressive, beating Leeds United 3-2, and having the cheek to race into a 3-0 lead at the Priestfield Stadium through Adam Miller, Mark Bentley and a bit of own goal charity from Richard Naylor. By the time Leeds got their heads straight and saw goals from Luciano Becchio and Jermaine Beckford reduce the deficit, it was too late, with Beckford's penalty only scored three minutes from the end. Gillingham held on to keep both ends of the table looking interesting.
Three games ago, Leyton Orient were on a run of one win and seven defeats in their last 13 games and only kept out of the relegation spots on goal difference. Three matches later and they're unbeaten under the caretaker management of Russell Slade, with seven points from the last nine. The latest was a 2-0 win over relegated Stockport County with a goal from Ryan Jarvis being followed up by a debut goal for Eric Lichaj, ten minutes from time. Orient are now 18th and one point behind the Glovers in 17th.
Hartlepool United were one of three sides to leap above the Glovers on Saturday. Their 3-1 win over Colchester United almost finished off the Essex side's hope of the play-offs despite them taking the lead through Ian Henderson. James Brown equalised and then two Roy O'Donovan goals gave Pools three valuable points. On 51 points some might feel that they are now safe, but the possibility of a three point penalty at an FA hearing on April 26th means that they can not rest just yet.
Yeovil's final home opponents of the season Oldham Athletic have also reached the 50 points targetr, having got three points at Carlisle United, through goals from Lewis Guy and Dale Stephens. Gary Madine pulled one back, but with the Cumbrians already safe, they had no real urgency to pull the game back level.
The only game of the day with nothing at stake was Bristol Rovers' home match against Brentford. The end result was 0-0. OK, so we weren't at the Memorial Stadium, but we're just sensing that with this being the day's only goalless match, that maybe neither side was too bothered about going for the jugular.
A little more important was Swindon Town's 1-1 draw at home to Walsall. Whilst the Saddlers have nothing to play for, Swindon most certainly do, and they fluffed an opportunity to steal a march on their rivals, as Steve Jones gave the visitors the lead. Charlie Austin netted a second half equaliser, but the Robins couldn't grab the winner that would have put them on level points with Leeds.
With only Norwich winning in the top five, but seven out of the bottom eleven sides winning their matches, we're into the silly season where supposed superiority of teams go out the window and predicting anything becomes a bookies nightmare. The end result for Yeovil Town, following their 0-1 defeat against Southampton is that they are now just five points off the relegation spots, and they will be hoping that Brentford can see off Tranmere on Tuesday night to prevent any jitters appearing by the time the Glovers travel to Griffin Park. Manager Terry Skiverton may have calmed down by then - possibly.
Finally, for those who like a bit of trivia, the Glovers currently have 49 points from 43 games in the latest League Table. This time last year, the Glovers had 49 points from 43 games in the 2008-09 League Table. Then two years ago ... yes, you've guessed it, the exact same statistic was recorded for the 2007-08 League Table. It seems the more things change, the more they stay the same ...
Link: 2009-10 Latest League One Table.
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