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Wigan the winners in this weekend’s relegation scrapping

by Aidan Elder | April 29, 2012

Owen Coyle's Dracula impression was a bit crap when he forgot his teeth

It was one of the most enthralling games of the season. The goals rained down as Swansea and Wolves deserted the caution that they didn’t need anyway. The Swans were dominant, desperate and dogged all in one afternoon. Wolves started out like a bunch of players already in their speedos on a sunny beach, but showed unexpected resolve. It was fantastic entertainment, if not defending.

It looked like Terry Connor’s plea for a dignified descent through committed displays from his players was being roundly ignored, but his team rallied. And then rallied some more. But the Wolves boss couldn’t really enjoy the astonishing game. It must have kind of felt like being a guest at your own wake. Wolves have booked their ticket through the trap door, but there are two places remaining for those who prove to be suitably inept. Elsewhere on Saturday, it was a dramatic day.


Judging by how Wigan have played in these crisis times, Roberto Martinez should rock up to Wigan training each morning and throwing a catastrophe situation at his players. A win would have done against Newcastle, but instead they took them apart and wrapped it up by half time. Sure Newcastle were unlucky and hit the woodwork a couple of time, but a 4-0 lead means you’re allowed focus on positives and discount anything you don’t like.

The result meant the Latics put some daylight between themselves and the drop zone. In his post-match interview, Martinez said “April is the biggest month in the club’s history.” The fact that no-one had any ready-made examples by which to contradict him suggests he’s probably right. With momentum, the self-belief and – most importantly – points you get from beating Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal in the space of four weeks, you’d think they’ll be safe.

Bolton missed a great chance to take a stride towards safety. Sunderland position of mid-table safety has seen them take the foot gas in recent weeks. Everyone at the club seems happy enough to resume Martin O’Neill’s miracle-working after the summer recess. Still though, Owen Coyle’s men couldn’t take advantage and they remain below the dreaded dotted line.

“I’m disappointed. We were good enough to take all three points,” said Coyle afterwards in a claim weaker than Adam Bogdan’s left wrist when trying to keep out a James McClean free kick. The game in hand they have at home against a stuttering Spurs is the straw Coyle has been clutching at in their case for safety, but it’s a dangerous straw to clutch.

Aston Villa limped to probable safety courtesy one of the more entertaining no score draws you’re likely to see. It didn’t look much like progress, but it put them four points clear of the drop. With a comparatively handsome goal difference in their favour, it’s unlikely two teams currently in the drop zone will be able to muster the five points they need to drag Villa below the line.

And that’s presuming Villa don’t take another point this season, which is admittedly a big possibility. It may not be enough to save Alex McLeish’s job, but rebuilding in the Premier League is much more palatable than rebuilding in the Championship.

On Sunday, goals continued to flow. The ass-whupping that QPR suffered at the Bridge will have been particularly irritating for Mark Hughes. Not only was it humiliating, it didn’t even feature a dreadful referring decision that he could blame for the defeat. The goal difference advantage they had over their fellow relegation scrappers has been whittled down and isn’t the reliable safety-net it had been. You’d have to think they’ll get nothing from their season-ending at Manchester City, so the game at home to Stoke is huge.

It’s amazing that Blackburn are still alive and fighting for their place in the league. The volume of the vitriol and protests aimed in Steve Kean’s direction earlier in the season would make you think the club were about to cease trading and Ewood Park turned into a chicken factory.

It’s not quite that bad, but defeat to Tottenham leaves them with a huge task. They’ve got Wigan and their Latiki-taka brand of swashbuckling football at home and then the resurgent Chelsea away. A Rovers supporting optimist might give them a chance of getting three points out of those games and moving on to 34 and the very faint whiff of safety, but a realist could easily imagine the tally staying fixed on 31 and the trap door opening.

Remaining games in the relegation battle


Aston Villa – 37 points GD: -14
6th May – Tottenham (H)
13th May – Norwich (A)

Wigan – 37 points GD: -22
7th May – Blackburn (A)
13th May – Wolves (H)

QPR – 34 points GD: -23
6th May – Stoke (H)
13th May – Manchester City (A)

Bolton – 34 points GD: – 28
2nd May – Tottenham (H)
6th May – West Brom (H)
13th May – Stoke (A)

Blackburn: 31 points GD: -28
7th May – Wigan (H)
13th May – Chelsea (A)


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