Got your ticket yet for the Luton game on May 6th? Don’t delay, it’s going to be party day – for us, of course, and not for Luton who will almost certainly be relegated then. Poor Luton – their fall from grace has mirrored our own rise and I thought they were a good attacking side when I saw them at the SoL back in December. But, selling great players like Edwards is never going to do you any good and their loss has obviously been our gain.
When it’s good, it’s great, isn’t it? After the nightmares of the 2002/3 and 2005/6 seasons I think we all deserve some sustained joy and this Easter weekend, which is traditionally the graveyard of many a club’s promotion ambitions (ask any Preston fan), has been like a sunny dream with just about every result going our way. Of course even a draw yesterday would’ve been a good result and would’ve kept us beyond the reach of Birmingham unless they won their game in hand by more than….oh, stuff it! We don’t have to worry too much any more. Just pick up the Championship Table again and peruse it lovingly for the ninety-ninth time. We’re at last in that beautiful clichéd situation where we’re responsible for our own destiny and as long as we keep winning, nobody can overtake us.
As Keane keeps telling us, it ain’t over till it’s over and he’s right of course so let’s contemplate the four remaining fixtures. I live very close to Loftus Road and enjoy a faint glimmer when Q.P.R. win, but no more than that. They’re on a good run and look as though they’ve escaped from the threat of relegation but will still be a handful this Saturday. I think we’ll beat them and I fancy us to score three goals. Birmingham play Southampton at home on Saturday and will have to overcome their recent jitters to come away with three points against a very able side. Derby play Ipswich away and as the latter have nothing to play for really, I expect Derby will pull their socks up and win it. On 21st April we’ve got Colchester away and this will be a tough one. Colchester’s home form is great; nobody’s won more home games than them and they’ve scored forty three while conceding only sixteen. Quite why they’re so strong is unclear to me but the very small size of their ground probably creates a unique, intense atmosphere that intimid-ates away teams. They’re still in with a chance of getting into the play-offs and will be going for it all right. I think we may lose this one and I’ll be happy if we come away with a draw. Derby play Luton at home on that day and must surely be expected to win – but, come on you Hatters! (I’ve just said something nice about you.) Brum play Wolves away then and I doubt if they’ll win. If they lose it and we win that day, we’ll be just about home and dry.
Our last home game is against Burnley on Friday 27th April. Will Gray find the net against us after signally failing to do so when we had him last season? Will Caldwell be able to hold us back? Possibly, but though I think they’ll be far from a pushover, I fancy us to win it and this could be a night of great celebration. The next day Derby have Crystal Palace away and we know what an awkward place Selhurst Park is to get a result at. Birmingham have Sheffield Wednesday at home and would be expected to beat them but who would’ve expected them to lose at home to Burnley last Saturday? On May 6th Derby have Leeds at home and not many of us will be sorry to see them put the final nail in Leeds’ coffin while Brum have Preston away. Surely Preston’s recent run of four defeats can’t last much longer and despite this they’re still in a play-off spot so they’ll be battling like hell and I’m glad it’s not us who have to go to Deepdale and get a result.
I’m not really bothered if we finish second as long as we go up automat-ically but naturally I’d like us to be champions again. I think Derby will get the other automatic slot and they’ve done really well to drag themselves up from a similar position to the one we were in back in August. I fancy Stoke to come through as dark horses for the play-offs and grab the third slot. They’re keeping their nerve while many of those around them are losing theirs.