UK & Ireland Football

Championship relegation: Blackpool could be the best bet for the drop

English Football League RSS / / 13 February 2008 / Leave a Comment

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Andrew French tells us why Blackpool aren't out of the woods yet but why Preston should still be in the Championship next season

It may not have registered on a national scale quite yet, but just how significant has Tuesday night been in determining the Championship relegation battle? With no Premiership action, the second tier took centre stage with some massive results for those teams fighting to retain their status.

Like the battle for the promotion places at the other end of the table, the scramble to avoid falling through the trap-door is a wide open one.

It will not surprise anyone to see Scunthorpe in trouble. Although they are famous for having been the club that found Kevin Keegan, the Iron have spent most of their life in football's nether regions. Just reaching the Championship was a feat in itself, so staying there was always going to be a struggle. It's hard to see them escaping and although backing them at [1.4] isn't going to make you rich, it does represent a fairly safe bet.

Who goes with them? Despite their success on Tuesday night, Colchester look in serious bother. That victory was only their sixth of the season and their home form is especially worrying: just 16 points gleaned from a possible 45.

They also have the worst home defensive record in the division - when you are fighting for your lives, it doesn't help if you have the greatest propensity of those around you to concede goals on your own turf.

In Layer Road terms, the £600,000 spent during the transfer window constitutes a serious attempt to stave off relegation. However, I fear they may still go down. Their current back price of [1.6] fairly represents the chances of a side that had gone 11 games without a win before Johnnie Jackson's late salvation on Tuesday.

Sheffield Wednesday currently occupy the final relegation place, but I feel they may have enough about them to pull clear. I saw their recent victory over Sheffield United and although it is often risky to put too much faith in derby-day displays, if Brian Laws' side could replicate that showing over the final three months, they would have put their worries behind them long before May.

Target man Enoch Showunmi joined from Bristol City on deadline day, and the extension of the loan deal of midfielder player Graham Kavanagh from Sunderland for the rest of the season was a very good bit of business. If the Owls can get Akpo Sodje and Franny Jeffers fit and firing, they surely have the goal threat to save themselves.

At this stage, I'd be happy to lay them in the relegation market at [3.4].

You have to consider Coventry, simply because no team that close to the danger zone can go through the upheaval of a managerial change at this stage of the season without some repercussions.

They ground out a goalless draw with Cardiff last night and chairman Ray Ranson must have a new manager in mind. I personally think they will be safe: however, things may well get worse before they get better and so it may be worth considering a back-to-lay, taking the current [4.0] and then trading out once the price shortens after a couple more defeats.

Like Sheffield Wednesday, I think Leicester have enough goals in them to avoid relegation. Steve Howard, Barry Hayles and DJ Campbell should do the business, and so I'd swerve backing them at [3.55].

Preston have an awful away record but have started winning at home, beating Watford and West Brom at Deepdale since the turn of the year. I'd lay them at [2.2].

My money for the third spot will be going on a team that currently sits in mid-table: Blackpool. They look safe now, seven points above the bottom three, but they have a smallish squad and have only won one of their last six. With games against Ipswich, Charlton, Stoke, West Brom and Watford in their last 14 fixtures, they could be the 'stone' that falls. Backing them at [6.4] could be the value.

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