Terry Connor’s team languish on 22 points, some nine points behind 17th placed Wigan. Since they sacked Mick McCarthy, they have picked up only a single point, and have lost their last seven matches. But for a minor miracle, the Molineux club will be in the Championship next season. It is hard to imagine there will be much sympathy for them from pundits or opposition fans, given the nature of their managerial gamble in dispensing with McCarthy with no apparent plan.
The remaining two positions are anyone’s guess. As tends to happen at this time in the season, results surprise us, form books are ripped up and league tables are turned upside down. One must only look at the result at the DW last night, where Wigan triumphed over leaders Manchester United, to see that.
It is the Latics, empowered by Roberto Martinez’s desire to play attractive football, who appear to be in the rudest health. Sitting on 31 points, they have won three of their past four matches, including that shock last night. Having been bottom of the league from January 16th until March 12th, many had written them off after years of punching above their weight. But a late flourish might be enough to save them yet again.
Queens Park Rangers are another side who have come back from the brink. When Neil Warnock was replaced by Mark Hughes, it looked as though the team would go from strength to strength, but a poor run, not helped by a seemingly endless stream of sending offs, put them right back in the relegation mire. One win from eight matches and an immediate return to the second tier was on the horizon.
But Hughes’ men have built their survival chances by beating the big boys. So for defeats at Bolton and Sunderland, there were unlikely wins at home to Arsenal and Liverpool. Their 3-0 triumph over Swansea last night was as good as Rangers have looked all season. With games against West Brom, Tottenham and Stoke to come in the next few weeks, there are more points up there to be taken.
The story of the season in the bottom half of the Premier League has been Blackburn Rovers. Few would have believed six months ago that Steve Kean would still be managing at Ewood Park, given the level of antipathy towards him from the Blackburn fans. But a win over United in December and a far more competitive second half of the campaign has seen the supporters move their ire from boss to board.
Just as things were beginning to look relatively comfortable for Blackburn though, their form has deserted them. Four defeats on the spin have left them 19th on 28 points, and to get to the magic 40 point mark so coveted by struggling managers, they would have to win four of their final five games.
Owen Coyle always predicted that his Bolton team would have enough quality to escape, and it appears that he might be right. Of all the teams in the relegation struggle, the Trotters have the ace up their sleeve of a game in hand. They must make the most of that game of course, but if they do pick up three points then they would leapfrog their way to 16th.
The reason for the game in hand was the traumatic circumstances around Fabrice Muamba’s collapse. It appears that Muamba’s condition has united the Bolton squad, with the two league games after the terrible event ending in victory to go with the one in the game prior. However, consecutive defeats – shipping five goals and scoring none – have put them back on the precipice of relegation.
There will of course be many more twists and turns in the home stretch. Wigan’s victory over United proves that anything, quite literally, is possible. Who knows, perhaps Aston Villa, currently on 35 points and six points clear of danger, could be joining Wolves in the Championship next season. The prize is great - who will blink first?