It proved to be a weekend of relative satisfaction on the football front. We duly saw our play-off place confirmed with no need for any fresh contribution from ourselves; Lyon Duchere secured a highly-commendable 0-0 draw away at Red Star, which was not enough to guarantee their survival in France’s third division but comes close. So not perfect on either front but in both cases outcomes we would have taken without hesitation a few weeks ago.
Let’s face it, once Plymouth were behind at Gillingham we pretty much ceased to be the focus on any attention, given the mathematics and the much more interesting fluctuating battle between Rochdale and Oldham to avoid the drop. Johnnie Jackson has already acknowledged that the news unavoidably affected the effort from us on the pitch. With hindsight, we earned our top-six spot with the victories over Shrewsbury and Portsmouth and one curtesy of Pearce’s backside while Plymouth lost their final two games. Consequently all he and Lee Bowyer will have learnt, according to all reports on the game, is that neither Zyro nor Kaikai took the opportunity afforded to make a case for being in the starting XI on Thursday. So be it, but let’s hope that does hurt them as they will very probably be called on to play a part before the season’s over.
By default the indication is that Magennis and Ajose move back to the fore. I can’t exactly speak from extensive experience of watching them play together, and its’ a little unfair to draw any conclusions from the home game against Blackburn. But there was no evidence that day of a natural understanding between the two, really little link-up in their play. More often than not, if Magennis won the ball in the air Ajose was too far away to take advantage. I hope that if they are working on anything in training this week it is how each of them might work to get the best out of the other. It’s never too late for a little fine-tuning.
Otherwise we just pray that Amos doesn’t trip over the carpet if he goes up to collect the Player of the Year award tonight, that certain others are also wrapped in cotton wool over the next few days, and that the football gods smile on us on Thursday (and then again on Sunday).
For Duchere, the permutations going into the final round of games on Friday evening are clearer – but still many. Notionally they could win the final game and end up fifth in an 18-team league (probably that’s not possible given who will be playing whom, but even I’m not sad enough to spend time working that one out), or lose and get relegated. It is that tight. While Duchere were getting their point away at Red Star (which was enough to confirm them as champions, so perhaps there was a little collusion), some others around them pulled out the stops. Pau won away, Avranches and Les Herbiers (who are about to take on PSG in the French cup final) won at home, while Chambly secured a point against Beziers (which leaves Grenoble rather than them likely to take the second automatic promotion place). The losers on Friday were Marseilles Consolat, who lost and are relegated (along with Creteil), and Cholet, who were beaten at Dunkerque.
So one relegation place yet to be filled – and eight teams go into the final game knowing that it could be them. Duchere are now 12th in the league, now below Pau and Concarneau but still above Les Herbiers – all of them on 39 points, with Avranches and Chambly on 40 and not yet safe. On 38 in 14th are Cholet and on 37, sitting in that last spot, are Entente SSG.
In the final round of games Entente (elsewhere known as Sannois Saint-Gratien) are away at Grenoble. Anything less than a win – against a team on their own patch which still seems to need a point to guarantee promotion – and they can only potentially catch Cholet, who are at home to relegated Creteil. If Cholet win that game, for Entente it’s win or bust and their focus turns to any one of the six teams on either 39 or 40 points, most obviously the four on 39 – Les Herbiers, Pau, Concarneau, and Duchere.
So Duchere go into the game knowing that if Entente lose or draw they are safe, that if they (Duchere) win at home to Chambly (now in ninth place but on 40 points and not certainly safe) it is also time to celebrate irrespective of other results. A draw would be enough for Chambly but for Duchere? Now here I don’t know – and nobody in a certain Lyon office knows either. I’d be inclined to say it’s not certain as Duchere have a goal difference of -4 and Entente one of -6, so a win for the latter by two or more and it would suggest they go above Duchere. Only problem is that the table as is shows Duchere above Concarneau on the same number of points but despite the latter having a goal difference of 0. Other sites have slightly different orders for teams on the same number of points. So perhaps it’s head-to-head results (in which case Duchere and Entente drew both times this season – but 2-2 at Duchere and 1-1 at Entente, so would away goals count in this situation?).
Clear as mud, unless anyone out there can help. All I hope is that when next weekend is over we feel as content with the outcome as we are now – or alternatively that we are dancing around celebrating an actual takeover, although the assumption now is that such timing would only be possible if we’re not going to Wembley. We’ve waited this long, a few weeks more won’t hurt if it means we achieve both our goals.