Here we are again, the last day of the season. With most of the major issues settled, it’s always an odd day for those of us who support a team that’s got nothing left to play for. Regardless, here’s what to look out for when the games kick off at NOON tomorrow:
At The Top:
Brighton properly blew it last week: this was their first home defeat by Bristol City for a decade, when they were struggling at the Withdean.
If they lose at Villa, Newcastle only need to draw at home to Barnsley to win the title on goal difference.
Aston Villa v Brighton
On paper this is a far tougher challenge for the Seagulls than Bristol City should have been last weekend: Villa have only lost three home games this season, with only one defeat against sides above them. Brighton have only won half of their last six aways and to be honest, if they’re going to compete in the Premier League next season, their away record against the better teams in the Championship should be cause for concern for Chris Hughton during the summer.
Fun fact: Brighton have never won at Villa Park in any competition.
Newcastle v Barnsley
The Toon have lost only one league game at St James’ Park since Boxing Day and haven’t lost at home to Barnsley since September 1982. The Tykes have a very poor away record against the teams in the top half of the competition and could be the ninth team that Newcastle do the ‘double’ against.
The Play Offs
Unless Leeds beat Wigan by fourteen goals and the Cottagers lose at Sheffield Wednesday, Fulham will be travelling to whoever finishes third – and seeing as though there’s almost always a playoff semi final that was a recent league game, it wouldn’t surprise me to see another couple of meetings between Fulham and Wednesday over the next few days.
Due to My Wife’s Birthday, the playoff preview will be posted next Thursday, but the details of games themselves will be featured in the update mentioned in the last paragraph.
The Bottom aka ‘Survival Sunday’
This is where the fun starts. Blackburn are favourites for the drop and it’s not outside the realms of possibility that any sense of tension could disappear quite quickly. One thing that’s worth noting about the three teams trying to avoid the drop: all are owned by Asian ‘businessmen’ who don’t appear to know what they’re doing.
Brentford v Blackburn Rovers (Sky Sports 5)
Rovers will be safe if they win and either Forest or Birmingham lose, but considering that their recent win at Nottingham Forest was their first away victory in eleven games since the end of November, that cannot be taken for granted. Adding to their potential misery is Brentford have been really rather impressive at home recently: four straight wins, conceding only one goal.
The head to head record in league games at Brentford should make sobering reading for Rovers fans: although Blackburn won their last visit by a single goal in March 2016, they’ve lost three of the last four meetings since their previous victory in West London.
Bristol City v Birmingham City (not televised, but I can’t imagine the other two games won’t be interrupted if anything happens)
It could be a very emotional affair in front of the biggest crowd at Ashton Gate for almost 40 years: former City manager Steve Cotterill returns as Harry Redknapp’s assistant for what will probably be Tammy Abraham’s last appearance for the Robins, but City fans with long memories will remember that the Blues practically ensured the hosts were relegated when they won a controversial affair at Ashton Gate in 1999. One of the reasons the hosts are safe is their impressive form at Ashton Gate since Christmas: only three defeats in eleven games, the most recent of which was in mid-February.
I’ve no idea where to start with Birmingham City, other than writing that if The Blues are relegated then their new owners should take a long, hard look at themselves. Vanity appointments in this competition usually end in abject failure and all the work that Gary Rowett did after Lee Clark’s reign almost ended in disaster has been thrown away.
In the calendar year between last May and this, Birmingham City have won only four away league games in 23 attempts: but their record at Ashton Gate has been phenomenal – they’ve not at Bristol City since 1993 and Ashton Gate is something of a lucky ground for them.
Nottingham Forest v Ipswich Town (Sky Sports 3)
Forest have probably done just enough under Mark Warburton to prevent relegation this season, but be under no illusions: they’ve been in obvious decline over the last four years and have been very lucky that Rotherham have been holding the Championship up for most of the season. They’re also lucky they’re playing Ipswich, who haven’t won at the City Ground since December 1999: the Tractor Boys have only lost four of their last ten aways games though, so although a Forest win isn’t guaranteed
Update will follow as soon as I get home from the game I’m attending on Sunday lunchtime. Come back at any time between 3 and 5pm and there should be something here…
Update: Newcastle are Champions and Blackburn Rovers have been relegated, despite winning 3-1 at Brentford. Both Birmingham and Nottingham Forest won. The playoff semi finals are as follows:
Saturday 13th May: Fulham v Reading (5:3opm)
Sunday 14th May: Huddersfield v Sheffield Wednesday (12:00)