Saturday 7 February ~
With snow still causing havoc across the country, many games will succumb to the weather this weekend. But there are some interesting clashes in those games remaining on the programme. None more so than at the bottom of the Premier League, where just two points separate West Brom, who looked to be adrift two months ago but have rejoined the pack, and the never less than chaotic Newcastle. West Brom’s home form has been key to their recent improvement; they have won three of the last four at The Hawthorns. Another victory would see them leapfrog Newcastle in the table.
Newcastle boss Joe Kinnear has had to speak more about the recently departed Charles N’Zogbia than he would like, after the player slated his managerial approach and implied that the job was too big for him: “Newcastle need someone to control the club properly.” Kinnear quipped back with his characteristic wit that the player was living in a “fantasy world”. What Newcastle also need is an away win, something they have not had since a 3-0 stroll at equally troubled Portsmouth in December.
Two teams looking to take the place of the relegation-bond are Reading and Preston, who meet at the Madejski. Steve Coppell’s men don’t often drop points at home, losing only once, and their Irish striking contingent has helped them to a huge goal difference advantage over their rivals. But Alan Irvine’s Preston will be no pushovers, despite failing to win in their last three, and will draw confidence from their impressive 3-1 away win at Wolves in last month.
At the top of League Two leaders Wycombe travel to Darlington looking to recapture the form that saw them go uanbeaten until December. Since then they have looked mediocre and Peter Taylor, who has had as erratic a managerial career as anyone currently working in League football, will want this to change as they chase for promotion. Sitting in fifth, Darlington seem finally to be finding the success to draw more people into their 25,000-seater Darlington Arena – a stadium that has so far served as a warning to clubs not to get over-ambitious when constructing a new ground. “We are under no illusion that it will take nothing short of a miracle to fill the arena,” chief executive Jon Sotnick once said. That miracle has yet to materialise but, providing the snow holds off, the team could be just three points behind Wycombe by the evening. Daniel Smith