One Eye On Next Season…

This week I’m going to look at the bottom of the table but from a slightly different perspective.

With two of the newly promoted teams featuring in the games that matter, it’s interesting to see the relative declines in the fortunes of their opponents this weekend – especially as there might be implications for next season.

With the exception of Bolton, Charlton and Wolves, Brentford and Blackburn are the clubs who played in the Championship last season that have gone backwards at a rate of knots and feature in the games highlighted below.

Blackburn v Bristol City

Blackburn: 17th with three games left, ninth at this point last season.

After consecutive top ten finishes, Rovers have returned to the form that saw them finish just four points away from relegation in 2012/13. They’ve lost half of their last ten games in the Championship at Ewood Park but haven’t lost at home to any of the teams below them this season.

Bristol City: 21st with three games left. Won League One this time last season.

City only need a point to reach safety and although their form has been frustratingly inconsistent recently – Tuesday evening’s performance against Derby summed up their entire season – that’s better than absolutely terrible, which they had been until Lee Johnson took over.

Head to head: only the third league meeting between the two since January 1992. The Robins haven’t won at Ewood Park since December 1990, the last draw between them in the league in Lancashire was on May 1st 1971.

Fulham v Nottingham Forest

Fulham: 19th with three games left. One place worse than last season.

Although it doesn’t seem like it, the Cottagers are actually a bit better than they were in 2014/15, primarily because they’ve lost fewer games and conceded fewer goals. However, they’ve let in 1.75 goals per game since they were relegated from the Premier League and have only kept two clean sheets at Craven Cottage this season.

Forest: 18th with three games left. Were tenth at the same stage last season.

No wins in their last six aways and only two goals over that period. This will be Forest’s third consecutive bottom half finish and at the rate they’ve regressed since August 2013 they’re heading for a relegation battle next season.

Head to head: just like the game immediately above, this is a comparatively rare game. How rare? The last Forest win at Fulham in the league was in January 1975, which was their second away victory in the old Division 2 under the newly appointed Brian Clough. The clubs have only met four times in the league in West London since and three of those games were drawn.

MK Dons v Brentford

MK Dons: 3rd in League One with three games left.

With the benefit of hindsight, it would have been interesting to have seen how MK Dons would have done in last season’s League One play offs, but with Preston losing to Colchester on the last day of 2014/15, the Dons won automatic promotion. All of last summer’s new arrivals have scored fewer goals than last season, but MK have scored 66 fewer and that’s one of the reasons why the bookies have taken them off the board for relegation.

Brentford: 13th with three games left. Were seventh at the same stage last season.

I called it last July, so Brentford’s regression from play offs to mid table isn’t a huge surprise but I bet they wish they’d kept Mark Warburton. It’s far too early to tell if Dean Smith is going to be a successful manager at this level, but I’m happy to give him the benefit of the doubt at the moment. Currently on a five game unbeaten run and have only lost once in eight league games at MK Dons.

This weekend’s televised games: Preston v Burnley (Sky Sports 1, 7:45pm) and Derby v Sheffield Wednesday (tomorrow, Sky Sports 2, 12:30pm). The Lillywhites would love to put one over their local rivals this evening, but six of the eleven Lancashire derbies this season have been away wins, including the reverse fixture at Turf Moor in December.

The game at Derby could very well turn out to be one of those end of season match ups that become play off semi finals a few weeks later, so although this game should be an indication of how the Rams will approach the post season, Wednesday need to avoid defeat to more or less guarantee themselves a place in the top six.

I’ll try to update this post at some point over the weekend, but it’s highly likely to be at some point on Sunday as I’ll be ‘helping’ a Manchester United fan watching tomorrow’s FA Cup semi final…

Update: MK Dons will return to League One after a 4-1 home defeat by Brentford. It’s all but inevitable that Wigan will be back in the Championship in August but that could be confirmed on Tuesday evening.

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.