It’s looking good. That’s the worrying part. But try, like me, to make the most of it. If Sunderland can get awarded a penalty, then surely anything’s possible. I mentioned a couple of articles back that if we could get one or more victories during the tough three game sequence that we’re two thirds of the way through, we’d really be in the driving seat. As many others have already commented, things have really turned around for us when Birmingham, the most fancied team in the league, are relieved to snatch a home draw with us. I expected a win against Derby on Saturday and anything else would’ve been a sizeable disappointment. As for West Brom this Saturday, I’m expecting a point at least. Who have we got to fear? Without getting carried away, we’re a powerful outfit now and a look at the subs bench just confirms this. When we’ve got players of the calibre of Stokes, Wallace and Fulop in reserve, we know we can keep up a sustained challenge in every game. It’s a mark of great teams that they never stop battling till the final whistle and are capable of pushing for a goal until the last gasp.
One thing’s for sure though, we’re going to have to keep up this momentum till the end of the season as best we can. There are four teams on 59 points breathing down our necks and if we make one slip-up, we’ll find ourselves out of the play-off positions. Fortunately we’ve got to play three of them – Southampton and Cardiff away and Wolves at home – so we can take care of our own fate by getting at least a draw from each game. The Wolves match on 7th April is going to be interesting in all sorts of ways and they’re hitting a very good patch of form at the moment too. Realistically a play-off place seems our best bet, and that in itself seemed like an impossible dream six months ago, but an automatic promotion slot isn’t beyond us. Those two games in hand that Birmingham have, starting with Leeds at home tomorrow, may well prove crucial but their form, like Derby’s and Preston’s, hasn’t been too hot in recent weeks. Our away game at Colchester isn’t going to be easy either but the rest of our fixtures look very winnable. Of course no match should be taken for granted and this season has demonstrated once again that in the Championship just about anybody can beat anybody.
Roy Keane is continuing to try to strengthen the squad and yesterday’s news that defender Aaron Hughes may be joining us on loan from Aston Villa added an extra glow to the weekend. With Cunningham and Wright on the verge of competing for places and Kavanagh coming back into contention in early April, hopefully, we should go from strength to strength. After our bad memories of the play-offs against Charlton and Palace maybe it’ll be third time lucky and if, as I suspect is going to happen, we encounter Preston it’ll hopefully be a case of fourth time lucky.
By the way, the ranks of the Italian Mackems are expanding. Maybe you’ve seen Luciano from Milan on a messageboard or two but now my mate Alfredo in Rome is roaring us on from the Eternal City – ciao, lads!