Defining weekend for Blues

IN the afterglow of the defeat at Chelsea, Town manager Jim Magilton gave his impersonation of the “Minister For The Bleedin' Obvious” by declaring the loss would not define their season.

Derek Davis

By Derek Davis

IN the afterglow of the defeat at Chelsea, Town manager Jim Magilton gave his impersonation of the “Minister For The Bleedin' Obvious” by declaring the loss would not define their season.

Although it lacked the humour of a Monty Python sketch, the message was fundamentally correct, going out of the FA Cup mattered little in the big scheme of things - at least they had not embarrassed themselves at Stamford Bridge.

But what happens at the Liberty Stadium this coming Saturday when Town go to Swansea could well define Town's season.

If the Blues become only the second team in the Championship to win at Swansea then they will leapfrog one of their main rivals for a play-off place.

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It could put them back within touching distance of the top six, depending on results elsewhere and the psychological effect would be immense of players and supporters.

Anything less than victory though could well put a serious dent in even the most optimistic of believers.

If the Swans were to win for the seventh time at home since being promoted from League One last year it would take them four points away from Town and with a better goal difference.

Should Sheffield United win the Steel City derby and Preston get something at Reading, depending on how they got on last night at home to Plymouth, then Town could be at least nine points off the top six.

With less than a third of the season to go and with trips to QPR, Preston, Wolves, Reading, Sheffield United and Cardiff City, to come, it would not bode well.

Even a draw would make it tough for Town and with Swansea proving hard to beat that is may be the best this Blues side can hope for.

Robert Martinez's side have drawn exactly half of their 30 championship matches, and the reason why they are not higher in the table, but losing just five games is beaten only by South Wales rivals who have been beaten just four times, although have played a game less.

The corresponding fixture at Portman Road finished 2-2 and many observers thought the Swans to be among the best footballing teams seen so far.

Of course Town have shown away from home, at Crystal Palace for example, that they are capable of a surprise or two as they prefer teams to come on to them.

But conversely that highlights their problem at home. While you would expect them to comfortably deal with the likes of Blackpool, Nottingham Forest, Southampton, Burnley, Watford, Doncaster Rovers and Coventry City, all teams below them in the league, they have shown against the likes of Plymouth and Sheffield Wednesday of late, they have trouble beating those who are unsporting enough to make it difficult.

In among all those games is the East Anglian derby match with Norwich City but by the time that comes around in mid-April it could be just about pride rather than promotion or relegation.

So beating Swansea is imperative and given the quality of the opposition not an easy task but all the more satisfying if achieved.

Beating Burnley 3-0 away in the early part of the season, even if it needed Richard Wright to provide the platform with some outstanding early saves, has probably been the pick of the away games before the win at Selhurst Park. Giving Reading a 2-0 beating at home in September is arguably the pick of the home games.

Town will need to bring the best of all of those displays to the party on Saturday to ensure victory and an upbeat season finale filled with hope and a realistic chance.

Lose and an already fairly dismal season could peter out even quicker than expected.

It could be argued in the “Ministry For The Bleedin' Obvious” that mathematically Town will still have a chance but few in the real world are likely to believe that.

Actuaries and bookies could also show their own formulae that in terms of probability losing to Swansea will mean all Town fans will be counting is the days until May 3, rather than working out how many tickets they need for the play-offs.