Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Colaship Review: Fight Time. Who Wants It?

Thats Norwich on the left and Plymouth in their 'gray fur' away kit.

It's been a few weeks, I know. The thing is, punters, it's been very hard to write about the Colaship. In fact, just peeking at the table through my fingers brings panic. My heart races and misery settles in for the rest of the day. My beloved Norwich are in the bottom 3, needing maybe 5 or 6 wins to survive. But it's not just at the bottom that trouble is brewing, Wolves are doing their best to blow the title, but no-one else seems to want it!

Wolves have lost 2 (Burnley and Coventry) and drawn 2 (Norwich and Cardiff) in their last 4. In short, they're doing their best to choke the title, but Birmingham and Reading have wasted the golden opportunity to jump ahead. Wolves look nervous and desperate at the moment. They only managed a point this weekend thanks to an absolute shocking keeper error by Cardiff's bungling goalie Dimitrios Konstantopoulos. Konstantopoulos dropped the ball over his line to gift Wolves at point at home. Wanderers are remarkably still four points clear at the top.

Birmingham blew the chance to make up ground on their midlands rivals by losing at home to Coventry last Saturday, a team that is in serious form after beating Wolves recently too. Oh, and it's a Coventry side who visit Norwich next week (crying inside). In fact, Bongo have just one win in their last four and Alex McLeish must be fuming at the wasted chances to catch Mick McCarthy's stuttering Wolves.

Mick McCarthy is doing his best to give up the title.

What about Reading, Bigus? They were second and right up Wolves backside no? Yes they were and they, ironically, beat Wolves just 3 weeks ago. But they too don't want the title either. Two goalless draws (QPR and Preston) and a loss at home to Bristol City this past weekend has left them 5 points adrift of the top.

Does anyone want to win this league?

Let's now look at the teams below occupying the play-off spots.

Cardiff's cup exploits with Arsenal have left them with 4 games in hand over Wolves and if they win them all, they will catch the leaders. With Watford, QPR and Barnsley making up 3 of those late games, it actually looks possible.

Bristol City are en fuego right now. They may have needed Andy D'Urso to gift them 3 points at Carrow Road two weeks ago but have since picked up six points against Southampton and Reading. They did stutter with a loss at Doncaster but this appears to be a blip, and they look set to make the play-offs for the second season in a row. Testament to the incredible management skills of Gary Johnson. Bristol have a home game with Blackpool coming up before a tough visit to Birmingham.

Preston are one of those 'odd' teams. They look fabulous one week and absolute shite the next. They have been picking up points however, and currently sit 5th in the league. But they are punching above their weight and will have a fight on their hands to make the play-off places this year. Sheffield United, Burnley and Swansea are all within distance.

Now for the bottom. This is how the table currently looks.

(Position/Team/Games Played/Goal Difference/Points)
15 - Derby 32 -3 41
16 - Doncaster 33 -11 40
17 - Blackpool 34 -14 38
18 - Watford 32 -7 36
19 - Barnsley 32 -11 36
20 - Plymouth 34 -13 36
21 - Nottm F 34 -14 34
22 - Norwich 34 -9 33
23 - Southampton 33 -19 31
24 - Charlton 33 -21 26

As you can see, Norwich are in deep shit. Watford and Barnsley have games in hand to help them out, as do Southampton. But all is not lost. Plymouth are in free fall and have some very tricky fixtures. Forest are in touch and one of Watfords games is with Southampton.

Norwich also have to play Plymouth AND Watford at home and pay a visit to Blackpool.

This coming weekend sees Coventry visit Carrow Road, and Bigus will be there praying for 3 points. Victory at home to the 'Sky Blues', Plymouth, Watford and Sheffield Wednesday are all necessary. I cannot see a victory away from home for the rest of the season except for maybe at the Valley on the last day, and nobody wants to have to rely on that. Trips to Bongo, Swansea and QPR will be fruitless, but points are possible at Blackpool and in the derby at Portaloo Road. Reading and Cardiff at Carrow road is a 'shot in the dark'.

I want to see this nutter cry.

But will 15 or 16 points be enough for survival? Plymouth have a very tough schedule with top three challengers Wolves, Reading and Birmingham. They also have crucial games, that may do Norwich a favor, with Barnsley, Doncaster and Watford. They also have Burnley, OPR and Swansea away. That lot gives me some hope as I can see Plymouth nabbing 8-10 points from the remaining fixtures. Throw in their visit to Carrow Road and our survival could be in our own hands.

The frustrating thing is that we're not playing badly.

Robbed by the worst referee in history (D'Urso) at home to Bristol City and unlucky not to bag a winner at home to Burnley last weekend, City will need to take their chances from now on if they are to stand a chance. The 3-3 draw with Wolves showed we can 'play up' away from home when we want to.

However, Norwich are missing a hero, someone who can bag 4 or 5 goals in 6 games. Whether one shows up is anyone's guess. Cureton is infrequent with his goals these days and Cort has been unlucky but improving every game. Can loanees Killen and Gow step up and help out? Maybe young Luke Daley is the man to hit some form and make an impact like young Chris Martin did two seasons ago. Daley made his debut late on in Saturday's draw. Someone needs to be the catalyst for a run. Hard working performances mean little if the chances are not converted.

Hero to save the day? Young Luke Daley has pace but no experience.

Forest are also in the mix for a drop into 'hell' or 'League One' to use it's correct name. The defeat to rivals Derby has left Forest just one point above Norwich. Forest play Reading next and still have Wolves to play. They also have to face play-off hopefuls Preston, Swansea, Bristol City and Sheffield United. But more importantly, they play no less than four of their relegation rivals -- Watford, Blackpool, Southampton and Barnsley -- and three of the four are away from the City ground. Thank you Lord.

It's going to be a rough ride for sure. Lets hope my ticker holds out.



jjf3 said...

Glad to have you and the Colaship back, BD. I still believe Norwich will survive, even if it takes 'til the bitter end...


Bigus Dickus said...

I hope you are right Joe, I hope you are right!