With only nine fixtures left to play for the bottom three of the Championship, Laura Jones wonders whether it’s too late for Wigan Athletic, Millwall and Blackpool . . .
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It’s looking quite bleak for the bottom three teams in the Championship; Blackpool are rock bottom on 22 points, managerless Millwall are on 31 points and Wigan Athletic are drifting away from the those above them on 34 points – six points adrift of Rotherham.
With 27 points left to play for, is it all but decided who’ll be playing in League One next season?
With only 22 points, Blackpool look a certainty now. Rotherham and Fulham only need nine more points to mathematically guarantee their fate. With a goal difference of minus 45 it seems inevitable, especially as the club have struggled off the field with putting a squad together and defusing friction between the fans and the owners.
On paper, it seems Blackpool have the ‘easier’ run-in. They have difficult games against promotion-chasing Ipswich Town and Derby County and also Fulham, who are technically not safe from the drop, but it’s hard to see where Lee Clark’s team are going to pick up points.
Both Wigan and Millwall have their issues off the pitch, too. Wigan’s chairman, Dave Whelan has stepped down after a difficult season of gaffes, including their current manager, Malky Mackay’s pending FA hearing. At the beginning of the season, under Uwe Rosler, Wigan looked a promising bet for at least the play-offs but through the sale of key players they have struggled to adapt.
Wigan’s run-in looks particularly tough over the next six or seven weeks with games against promotion hopefuls Watford, Middlesbrough, Wolves and Brentford. At the other end of the table, they need all the points against Brighton, Fulham and the crucial six-pointer against Millwall.
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Millwall sacked manager Ian Holloway last week, which had an air of relegation resignation about it. The incumbent caretaker manager, Neil Harris, may be a club favourite but like Alan Shearer in 2009, it feels like a token gesture. Harris won’t be blamed for their relegation; he’s merely trying to add some positivity to what has been a ropey season for The Lions.
Millwall also have to face Brentford, Watford and Wolves, who have all scored for fun this season, meaning The Lions’ goal difference of minus 31, could creep closer to Blackpool’s tally.
If we’re asking whether all is lost for these three teams then current form has to have a bearing on their direction. Blackpool and Millwall have lost their last five consecutive games whereas Wigan have improved of late, winning four of their last five fixtures. Wigan still have a chance but with a six-point gap to bridge they will have to rely on the form of Rotherham, Fulham and Brighton. For me, these four teams are paddling to get away from the final relegation spot and Millwall and Blackpool are firmly in the League One rowing boat.
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