Not for the first time, a fantastic (but probably unintentional) piece of scheduling has provided us with three dramatic games over the next couple of days and a Monday night game that could be absolutely vital for Bournemouth‘s chances of automatic promotion.
The big change last weekend was Watford taking over at the top after beating Birmingham City. Bournemouth’s draw with Sheffield Wednesday and Middlesbrough winning at Norwich give the Hornets a slim advantage that might not last long. The top four are still in with a chance of automatic promotion but the next four are all in competition for the last playoff place. At the bottom, the situation changed dramatically this morning when the Football League confirmed that Rotherham had been deducted three points for using an unregistered player in a recent game. The Millers now have a one point advantage over Millwall with a match in hand, but the punishment has also thrown Wigan an unexpected lifeline.
Here are the games that I think will matter tomorrow:
Brighton v Watford (tomorrow, 12:15pm, Sky Sports 1)
Albion haven’t won at home since the start of march, haven’t scored a goal at the Amex since the middle of last month and haven’t beaten Watford at home for over a decade. I know we’re not even at the end of April, but this is the type of calamitous performance that normally indicates a struggle to stay up during the following season. I think it’s fair to say Chris Hughton has done enough to save the Seagulls for now. On the other hand, Watford are on an eight game unbeaten run away from home, have a superb record against the current bottom six both at home and away (10-1-0) which includes not conceding an away goal against anyof those teams. However, it’s about this time of the season that really weird results happen and I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised if Brighton win.
Millwall v Derby
An odd one. Before Rotherham’s points deduction the bookies didn’t think either Millwall would stay up or Derby would go up, which means that this game might be totally irrelevant in a few weeks time. Needless to say, both sides need a win but the Rams have only won three of their last ten road trips and have only won once in their five league games at Millwall in the last decade. The Lions have won two of their last three games at the New Den, but that doesn’t look as if it’s going to be enough to save them. My contrarian instincts predict a draw, which could be no use for either side.
Rotherham v Norwich
Whoever was responsible for the mistake that allowed Farrend Dawson to play in the 1-0 win against Brighton on Easter Monday must be feeling the heat today. If the Millers end up back in League One for what is basically an admin error, it’ll be an albatross round their necks forever. That victory was the only thing keeping United away from the bottom three and having already lost at home to bournemouth, Watford and Middlesbrough at the New York Stadium this season without scoring, the first league meeting between these two clubs since January 2004 could easily get away from Rotherham, who haven’t beaten the Canaries since August 1981. Once again though, Norwich have a ten game unbeaten away streak to maintain and after what happened against Middlesbrough last week that’s a potential banana skin. Wild guess: Rotherham win, making the points deduction irrelevant.
If there’s anything to update, it’ll be on Sunday as I’m on Uncle duty tomorrow. However, I’ll be back early next week with a rare Monday night football preview that could feature one of the most unlikely promotions ever.