Championship club’s play-off hopes can soon be dashed by drop fears

Mick McCarthy

Mick McCarthy - Credit: Archant

Bolton Wanderers’ victory over Huddersfield on Tuesday night kept them in contention for a late surge into the play-offs, while at the same time, almost safeguarding their status in the second-tier.

A defeat however, would have seen them just seven points clear of the drop-zone and while a second-successive relegation would have been a long-shot, such is the crazy nature of the Championship, that it could not have been ruled out.

The result was just as significant for Huddersfield, who are in a relegation fight, as a win or a draw would have seen them climb out of the bottom-three to 18th. They would have been just four points behind Bolton, who are still being considered for a return to the Premier League.

Mick McCarthy described the division as “bonkers” following the 0-0 draw at Millwall on Easter Monday and, with just 14 points separating sixth-placed Brighton and the Terriers in third-bottom, he has a point.

For instance, the Blues could remain unbeaten for the rest of the season yet still go down. It would take a freak set of results for that to happen but just three points clear of the drop-zone and with an inferior goal difference to all but Huddersfield, it remains a possibility.

Usually, 50 points has been enough to stay up but this campaign, there is a belief that Town will require at least 56 with teams below them refusing to lie down

The Championship and, before it, the First Division and Division Two has never been short of drama.

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In 2008, just 29 points separated Leicester, who went down with 52 points, from leaders West Brom. The Foxes went down on the final day with a goal difference of just minus three and right up to Sheffield Wednesday in 16th, just three points was the gap. Three years earlier and Gillingham, now in League Two, accrued 50 points but finished third-bottom and went down on goal difference from Crewe, with Plymouth, in 17th, just three points better off.

Bury went down in 1999, on goal difference from no fewer than three other teams.

Millwall were relegated at Portman Road in 1996 on 52 points, having been top just five months earlier. Their slump in form coincided with Mick McCarthy’s move to manage Republic of Ireland.

It promises to be a breathless end to the season.

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