30 April ~ The battle for League One's remaining automatic promotion place is now a two-horse race and Brentford are uniquely placed to influence the outcome, playing both contenders in their final matches. In a week's time they will complete their fixtures at Huddersfield Town but today they host Southampton. Both teams currently have 83 points – one more than Nottingham Forest had when they were promoted in 2008 – but Saints have one match more to play than the Terriers as well as the better goal difference (41 to 28).
Hence Saints will be virtually certain of clinching the runners-up spot if they win and Huddersfield are defeated at Brighton. However, there won't be quite the party atmosphere that some might imagine, thanks to Brentford's inexplicable decision to restrict the visitors' ticket allocation to 1,600 when Saints fans would have happily snapped up at least twice that number. Brentford's average attendance this season is slightly above 5,000 – less than half the capacity of Griffin Park. Yet the home club appears intent on passing up an opportunity to augment their matchday takings, while increasing the likelihood of visiting fans infiltrating the home enclosures.
Former Bee Ryan Dickson could feature against his former club. He was expected to secure the Saints left-back spot but injuries and Dan Harding's form have limited his opportunities. When he has played his contributions have been impressive – not least when supplying the cross for Rickie Lambert's crucial opener at Leyton Orient three weeks ago – and manager Nigel Adkins has noticed.
Since losing at Walsall on March 1, Saints have won ten matches, drawn one and lost one. Such strong form has been essential given Huddersfield's unbeaten run, which began following their 4-1 defeat at St Mary's on December 28. Saints' final three fixtures are all against teams that have beaten them this season – they travel to Plymouth on Monday and conclude at home to Walsall – while Huddersfield are one of the few clubs to have overcome Brighton.
Saints will also need to improve on their recent record against Brentford – both matches last season were draws. What is carrying Saints through at the moment is, almost inevitably, the depth of the squad. They have continued to win despite the prolonged absences of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lee Barnard, with loan signing Dale Stephens and David Connolly available to come into the side. Connolly is hoping to earn a contract extension and a repeat of his classy goal at Withdean last week might seal the deal. Tim Springett