Pundits doubt promotion chances

THE Championship is on the final furlong and the race for automatic promotion and play-off places is hotting up.Just 12 points separate second place Stoke and 11th place Wolves.

Stuart Watson

THE Championship is on the final furlong and the race for automatic promotion and play-off places is hotting up.

Just 12 points separate second place Stoke and 11th place Wolves. So how is it going to finish?

Evening Star reporter STUART WATSON spoke to the people who see as much of the Championship as anyone -local sports reporters from around the country.

How do they see it finishing? And what are their thoughts on Ipswich?

Bristol City: Andy Stockhausen (Bristol Evening Post)

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Thoughts on Ipswich

Ipswich are an excellent footballing side if you allow them to get the ball down and pass it. I was very impressed with Jonathan Walters over the two games, he played behind the strikers in one and out wide in the other and looked very good.

Ipswich can mix it their style of play up and go direct when need to, as they showed at Portman Road when they absolutely destroyed City (6-0), however if they have one weakness it is obviously the away form as they showed at Bristol.

Promotion

Automatic: Bristol City and Watford, play-off winners: West Brom.

West Brom are the best team I have seen all season but I think their automatic promotion hopes will be hampered by their FA Cup run so I will go with them as play-off winners.

I think Ipswich will make the play-offs but ultimately their away form could let them down over two legs.

Watford: Kevin Affleck (Watford Observer)

Thoughts on Ipswich

Ipswich have been the best footballing side I have seen this season but I think they lack the muscle to compliment their brand of football. You need to be able to grid out the results in this division and I'm not sure if Ipswich can always do that.

Promotion

Automatic: West Brom and Watford, play-off winners: Burnley.

I saw Burnley play recently and was very, very impressed, I think they are a good outside bet for promotion via the play-offs. Ipswich will be their main contenders for that final play-off spot though I think because, looking at their run in, they have only got one of the top six to play.

Stoke: Martin Spinks (Stoke Sentinel)

Thoughts on Ipswich

Portman Road is one of those horrible places to go to, however I've got to say I was a bit disappointed in Ipswich when they came here a couple of weeks ago, they just seemed to lack a bit of punch up front.

Promotion

Automatic: Stoke and Watford, play-off winners: West Brom.

I think fight for play-off spots will go right to the wire and, out of Ipswich, Burnley and Plymouth, I think Ipswich could just sneak the final spot. If they do, no one will want to play them at Portman Road in a semi-final.

West Brom: Steve Madeley (Wolverhampton Express & Star)

Thoughts on Ipswich

In our game at Portman Road I was very, very impressed with Ipswich, even though wasn't Albion at their best. They look a pretty decent side.

Promotion

Automatic: West Brom and Watford, play-off winners: Bristol City.

Charlton: Rob Kelly (South London Press)

Thoughts on Ipswich

Ipswich have been awful away from home, but their home form is strong. However, if they get to the play-offs there are going to have to find an away result from somewhere. When they played Charlton at the Valley earlier this season they were shocking. Charlton were three up at half time.

Promotion

Automatic: Bristol City and West Brom. Play-off winners: Stoke.

From what I have seen Bristol City will go up. They impressed me quite a lot the other night. West Brom will probably go up too, but they are inconsistent. Then it's very difficult to say who the third team will be, but I would say Stoke will go up because they are awful to play against.

Plymouth: Chris Errington (Plymouth Evening Herald)

Thoughts on Ipswich

Argyle got absolutely pummelled up there (Portman Road), how they got away with a draw is beyond anyone's imagination. If anything though, looking at Ipswich from a far, they seem a little bit inconsistent at times. They've got some very good players though, Jim Magilton is a very good manager so they stand a good chance of getting that sixth spot.

Promotion

Automatic: Bristol City and West Brom, play-off winners: Charlton.

Bristol City seem to be the most consistent, while West Brom are the best on paper. Their defence may be a little bit iffy, but when they click they can beat anyone.

Charlton have made two quality loan signings in Scott Sinclair and Leroy Lita so I think they could win the play-offs ahead of Stoke and Watford.

Hull City: Phil Buckingham (Hull Daily Press)

Thoughts on Ipswich

They are a very good footballing side who really like to play it around. They hammered us for most of the first half and inexplicably found themselves 3-1 down.

Ipswich are a useful team that have got to be considered a very strong prospect for the play-offs.

Promotion

Automatic: Stoke and Watford, play-off winners: West Brom.

I think the top five will all still be in the top five come the end of the season with half a dozen or so teams fighting for that last sixth place spot.

Ipswich are probably best equipped to get that final spot I think, but I've gone for West Brom as play-off winners because they can hammer anyone on their day.

Burnley: Suzanne Geldard (Lancashire Evening Telegraph)

Thoughts on Ipswich

I was impressed with Ipswich in both games. There are a lot of talented individuals in the side, but they also work well together as a team. Jim Magilton has a good philosophy and attitude so I'd fancy them to be in the play-offs.

Promotion

Automatic: West Brom and Watford, play-off winners: Charlton.

Anything can happen, there's still a chance the ones at the top could drop right out of things, even out of the play-offs all together. It's too tight to call really but, if Charlton make it I would go with them to win the play-offs, however Ipswich have got a good as chance as anybody else.

Wolves: Mark Douglas (Wolverhampton Express & Star)

Thoughts on Ipswich

They look a good side at home. When Wolves played them Ipswich dominated and fully deserved their win.

Promotion

Automatic: Stoke and West Brom, play-off winners: Charlton.

I think Wolves have left themselves with too much to do for the play-offs but I don't see why Ipswich can't get in there.

Crystal Palace: John Stanton (South London Press)

Thoughts on Ipswich

Ipswich have had such excellent home form, but there are few teams up there that have stumbled. The likes of Charlton have been up there all season but it's all so difficult. There's often someone who comes through at the end.

Promotion

Automatic: West Brom and Bristol City, play-off winners: Ipswich.