Suddenly it’s Easter – and when we’ve finished stuffing our faces with chocolate, we’ll be two games closer to finding out which clubs are going to be rich beyond their wildest dreams and those that may have to play Carlisle on a Tuesday night.
There were no big changes following last week’s games although Reading broke the 70 point barrier and the race for the last playoff spot is even more wide open after Swansea, Leeds and Nottingham Forest all dropped points after taking the lead. Swansea and Forest both lost and Leeds were lucky to escape with a point at home to Watford at Elland Road when the Hornets’ Troy Deeney scored a late own goal.
Leeds were also the subjects of one of the more intriguing off-field stories of the week: following questions asked by MPs on the Culture, Media and Sport committee that’s currently carrying out an enquiry on how football is being run, the FA was forced to admit that they did not know who actually owned the club – which could have some very serious implications, especially if United are promoted this season.
At the foot of the table, Sheffield United will have to win all of their remaining games to stand any chance of staying up, but with two of their last four games at Reading and Swansea that looks like a tall order. The last two spots could come down to a classic end of season relegation scrap. Since he took over at Preston, Phil Brown’s side have hit form at exactly the right time to escape the bottom three – the Lillywhites have only lost once in the last six games and don’t have a particularly difficult looking run in. On the other hand, Doncaster Roverscould be in real trouble if they don’t start winning soon – one victory in the last fifteen games and no wins at the Keepmoat Stadium since the beginning of February.
The Easter programme starts with the East Anglia derby this evening, but Good Friday sees the first of the games that are important in a wider context. In the afternoon Crystal Palace travel to Doncaster in an absolutely vital game for both teams: the Eagles’ away form has been just as bad as Doncaster’s has been at home. Palace have lost all of their away games against the current bottom six and although Donny have beaten Scunthorpe and Sheffield United this season, those wins seem a long time ago now.
As soon as that game is over, there’s a Championship double header on Sky Sports 1. Nottingham Forest v Leicester (5:15pm) features two sides that could still qualify for the playoffs, but the outstanding game on Friday is Leeds v Reading (7:45pm). The Royals have never won at Elland Road but if Forest beat Leicester, Leeds will be out of the playoff places and will need to win this game to regain a top six spot.
On Saturday lunchtime it’s the biggest game of the season so far: QPR travel to Cardiff. There is an awful lot riding on this game: the Bluebirds could still overtake QPR but they need to win this game to stand any chance of both winning the title and ensuring automatic promotion. Unfortunately, the leaders have won five of the last ten league meetings in the Welsh capital but the last time these clubs met in such an important game, a single goal at the Millennium Stadium meant that Cardiff won the 2002/03 League 1 play off final.
The Championship team of the year was announced earlier this week and it wasn’t that much of a surprise, with eight of the 11 players coming from teams in the current top ten positions. More surprising was the absence of any players from Cardiff or Leeds and the inclusion of Grant Holt, especially as Reading’s Shane Long has scored more goals for his club this season – it’s plausible that Holt was included as he’s been on TV more often this season.