All eyes on the final run-in
EVERYONE is at it, writes Derek Davis.No matter how many times you look at the remaining fixtures and work out how many points might be enough for automatic promotion, you always need to go back for another peep.
EVERYONE is at it, writes Derek Davis.
No matter how many times you look at the remaining fixtures and work out how many points might be enough for automatic promotion, you always need to go back for another peep.
All three managers at the top of the Championship are doing their best to stay cool, Joe Royle has seen it so many times before after winning promotion three times in the past, while the Black Cats' Mick McCarthy has been through the mill at club and country level.
Paul Jewell is showing signs of strain as Wigan keep their noses in front but it was easier last time round for him when the Latics went up automatically to the former Division One in 2002-03.
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McCarthy expects the race for the two automatic spots to remain undecided until the final matches.
The Black Cats have picked up 18 points from a possible 21 with Marcus Stewart banging in six goals in those seven games.
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McCarthy said: "It's looking like it will go down to the last kick. I expected Wigan and Ipswich to win – and no doubt they expected us to win.
"Ipswich hadn't had a rocky spell until recently. Wigan have had one, and so have we.
"We're all hitting form, and it might just be the case that we continue that form."
Wigan's form remains excellent – they have also won six of their last seven games but manager Jewell is showing signs of paranoia.
He is unhappy that people suggested that his strike duo Jason Roberts and Nathan Ellington have fallen out after the Duke went for goal against Ipswich instead of setting up his mate for a tap-in.
He said: "We are a humble club and humble people here, but some people seem to have a problem with us competing at the top of the Championship.
"We will not get involved in what some people are writing about us, and to read some things you would think there is disharmony in our camp. That couldn't be further from the truth.
"We don't get the biggest crowds or have a long and illustrious history – but there is nothing we can do if these things bug people."
Jewell was criticised for not speaking to journalists after Saturday's 2-0 win over Millwall.
He added: "We seemed to make more headlines for not going to the press conference – I sent my assistant Chris Hutchings instead.
"But (Millwall manager) Dennis Wise sent in (assistant) Ray Wilkins and no-one was having a pop at Millwall, as far as I'm aware."
Meanwhile, Dean McDonald hit a hat-trick as a Town reserve side beat Cambridge United's second string 6-1 in a friendly at the Playford Road training ground.
The former Arsenal trainee also supplied Liam Manning for his finish while Adem Atay set up Canadian international Jaime Peters to nab one after the U's scored an own goal.
Former Town Academy midfielder Ashley Nicholls got Cambridge's consolation.
The game was also used to help players get back from injury and that proved successful with Gerard Nash and Scott Barron both getting through without mishap.