Hearty congratulations to Jason Pearce on becoming the first ever Sky Bet Championship Player of the Month for June. He did seem to struggle at times earlier this season with the step back up to the Championship, but since the resumption he has been outstanding, kicking off our clambering out of the relegation zone with his bravery at Hull. May he (or another of ours) get the gong for July too.
Of course nothing’s going to be decided tonight or over the weekend, but we are getting to the stage where there could be a little clarity. Huddersfield have the opportunity tonight to given themselves some breathing space and all but relegate Luton – although looking at the fixtures left they will feel they have three winnable games remaining after tonight, so nobody’s giving up yet.
For the record, with effectively nine teams in the mix (up to Birmingham in the table plus Wigan), these are the games left for each club (reading up from the bottom):
Luton: Huddersfield (A), QPR (H), Hull (A), Blackburn (H). Current points per game over 46 games would give them 44.90 points and relegation. But again those games look winnable, can’t write them off even if they lose tonight.
Barnsley: Wigan (H), Leeds (A), Notts Forest (H), Brentford (A). Current points per game over 46 games of 46.00 and relegation. Have to say their position and those fixtures point to a relegation spot.
Hull: Millwall (H), Wigan (A), Luton (H), Cardiff (A). Current points per game over 46 games gives them 49.28 points. Given that the Spanners are gifting points to everyone except us, you have to say in their own hands.
Stoke: Birmingham (H), Bristol City (A), Brentford (H), Notts Forest (A). Current points per game over 46 games 50.38 and safety. But you have to say it looks down to their next two games given the two that follow.
Charlton: Goes without saying we win our four remaining fixtures (unless we’re already safe and decide not to spoil Leeds’ party) and stay up.
Huddersfield: Luton (H), Sheff Wed (A), WBA (H), Millwall (A). Their points per game projection is 51.48 and if they beat Luton tonight you’d have to fancy them to pick up another win (you know who) and be safe.
Birmingham: Stoke (A), Charlton (H), Preston (A), Derby (H). On points per game projection they are almost comfortable, on 53.67. But are they in disarray having sacked their manager, lost their last three? If they lose at Stoke they will be well in the mix, given that defeat follows in their match after.
Wigan: Barnsley (A), Hull (H), Charlton (A), Fulham (H). Points per game projection puts them on 58.05, or 46.05 with the 12 points deduction. But you have to say that given their form three of their remaining games look winnable and nine points would see them end the season on 50 points with the deduction, which could be enough provided one team in addition to Barnsley and Luton fall away.
Being realistic I’d say we have to get at least one win against one of Reading, Birmingham or Wigan, at the same time making sure at least we don’t lose to either Birmingham or Wigan. If we get to 50 points, as for Wigan, that could be enough. Nothing is written of course but it looks like a very heavy ask for Barnsley to get above 45 points, certainly if they lose to Wigan next time out. Luton obviously need a result tonight, but a defeat against Huddersfield and they would have to win two of their final three to stand a realistic chance (even then 47 points would probably see them go down).
It is so tight for the third relegation place that it will almost certainly go down to the wire. One win for Hull or Stoke, or of course us, and all the tentative conclusions have to be revised. But if you have a hunch for the unexpected, Birmingham could just end up getting suckered in and not having what it takes to get back out (of course if they win at Stoke strike that, they are safe).