Doncaster Down: Reading Up

Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of ‘if, then, else’ which features the four crucial games on tonight’s programme. Once again, it’s hardly worth commenting on the various scenarios that have been better outlined elsewhere see the relevant Betfair football betting odds for the Championship scramble as I have a feeling very little will be resolved tonight.

However, one of the relegation spots has been settled and we already know one of the teams joining the Championship next season. It’s been a fairly poor couple of seasons for Doncaster Rovers and it wasn’t really a surprise that they were relegated after losing at home to Portsmouth on Saturday.

Charlton Athletic will replace Doncaster after three seasons of League 1 football: it looked obvious that they’d come up from day one and given the impact that recent promoted sides have had then it’d not come as much of a surprise to see the Addicks challenging for promotion next season. But that’s another discussion for another day, so in the meantime it’s a case of congratulations to Chris Powell and his staff.

Friday night’s title decider between Southampton and Reading finished with the Royals winning 3-1, with two goals coming from Adam Le Fondre. The bookies have cut the’ odds of the Berkshire side winning the title to 2/9: yet more proof that the team that usually wins the Championship is a team that’s played at least one season in the Championship – it also seems to help if you play in blue and white hoops.

So on to tonight’s games. Reading have a very good chance of promotion tonight when they entertain Nottingham Forest, but that depends on which Forest decide to turn up. If it’s the team that’s capable of winning at Blackpool & Birmingham then Reading might have to wait until the weekend to start celebrating: however, Forest aren’t mathematically safe from relegation yet and although they’ve only lost three of their last ten road games they’ve only won twice at Reading since Christmas 1930. This could be the type of game that is over by half time: I can’t imagine that Brian McDermott won’t remind his players about what happened at the end of last season.

Eighty miles down the M4, West Ham make their first trip to Bristol City for nearly twenty years for a game the Hammers have got to win if they want to avoid the playoffs. Or to look at another way, a game they’ve got to win if they want to avoid The Curse Of Fourth Place. It’s an important game for the hosts as well: although Derek McInnes’ side still has a four point advantage over Coventry at the bottom of the table, an eleventh home defeat this season could make Saturday’s game against Barnsley a must win game and this could be the last game this season the Ashton Gate outfit can afford to lose.

The games affecting the two sides that are still in immediate danger of being relegated are almost too close to call – until you dig a little bit deeper. Portsmouth arguably have the ‘easier’ game this evening when Crystal Palace visit Fratton Park: the visitors have nothing left to play for and have a poor record against their opponents but the main problem for Pompey is that their home form has almost completely deserted them. Although Michael Appleton’s side have only won three of their last ten home games, Palace haven’t won an away game since the end of 2011 and seem to be suffering from a case of ‘what ifs’ after they narrowly lost out in the semi finals of the Carling Cup.

Millwall secured their position in the Championship with a 2-1 win over Leicester on Saturday and if they’re determined to finish the season on a high note they could play the role of spoilers at the Ricoh Arena. Coventry have turned their stadium into a bit of a fortress recently but it’s worth pointing out that the Sky Blues have only won three of their last six games at home while Millwall have been formidable on the road recently – they’ve only lost three in the last ten – and won’t be pushovers. This is a must win for Coventry – a win might put them in a position to overtake Bristol City on Saturday – and anything less could be disastrous, especially if Portsmouth beat Crystal Palace.

As I said at the start of the post, I’d be surprised if anything dramatic happens at the bottom of the table tonight but I’d also be surprised if Reading don’t clinch promotion back to the Premier League. If there’s anything to report, I’ll add an update at around 10:00pm.

Update: a late goal from Mikele Leigertwood earned Reading automatic promotion. The relegation scrap moves on to Saturday.

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Author: Mike Roberts

A football fan since the 1970s, I take my inspiration from the standard of writing that made Shoot! magazine streets ahead of anything else back in the day. I'm also a complete and utter stathead, which I blame on being exposed to American sports at the end of my teens.