Monday 19 January ~
Reading and Birmingham may have coped comfortably with relegation from the Premier League but other recently demoted clubs continue to be locked in a relegation battle, with Charlton Athletic, Derby County, Southampton and Watford shipping ten goals between them over the weekend. Charlton's midweek victory at Carrow Road in the FA Cup was so demeaning for Norwich that it brought about the sacking of Glenn Roeder but it didn’t hasten a revival in the league fortunes of Phil Parkinson’s side. A 4-1 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday leaves them nine points adrift of safety and on course for third level fixtures next season for the first time since 1980-81.
At Pride Park, Nigel Clough must be starting to realise how hard it will be to follow in his father’s footsteps as his side suffered their fifth home defeat of the season, going down 2-0 to QPR. Sheffield United comfortably saw off Watford at Vicarage Road by the same scoreline, and with Nottingham Forest and Doncaster both winning, many more weekends like this one could spell disaster for three of the clubs expected to be challenging for promotion pre-season.
League One leaders Leicester City are continuing to cope with having reached a historical low point – in their case a first-ever demotion to the third level last season. Victory against Yeovil tonight will see them move seven points clear of second-placed MK Dons and they look a good bet to continue their good form and clinch the title come May. In Matty Fryatt they have one of the widely admired young strikers outside the Premier League. Fryatt has scored 23 times already this season and the Foxes will struggle to keep hold of him during the summer. Meanwhile, he is being given plenty of questions to answer.
Down in League Two, Luton reached the unenviable figure of zero points last week, but their fans will have been dismayed to see their team comprehensively beaten by high-flying Darlington on Saturday. They are in danger of becoming the first club since Oxford to have played in the top flight of English football before plummeting to the depths of the Conference. If you support a financially stable club in mid-table in the lower leagues, take the time to be thankful. In 21st-century football, the effort involved in gaining entry to the big time seems to generate an equal and opposite reaction a few years further on. There is something to be said for a quiet life. Tom Glenn