Too Little Too Late?
Roughly 6 weeks ago now, Vital Crewe assessed Crewe's chances of staying up: Alex Able to Avoid Drop?. At that point, Crewe hadn't won in 17 games and were 12 points behind safety with 12 games left. However, with just 4 games remaining, we thought we'd take another look at our chances of avoiding the drop.
First of all, here are the run-ins of the sides involved in the relegation scrap:
Crewe: Crystal Palace (a), Cardiff (h), Leeds (a) and Millwall (h).
Sheff Wed: Norwich (h), Brighton (a), Reading (h), Derby (a).
Millwall: Plymouth (h), Southampton (a), Burnley (h), Crewe (h).
Brighton: Ipswich (a), Sheff Wed (h), Wolves (a), Stoke (h).
As you will all be aware, despite beating Wednesday at the weekend, there remains a 6 point deficit with just 4 games left. In our previous article on this topic, we estimated that 45/46 points would be required to stay up. With Sheffield Wednesday on 42 points, it appears that 45 points will be a bare minimum, though 46 might just be enough. That means Crewe need to win 3 of their remaining 4 games. Crewe's run-in appears to be the trickiest of the relegation battlers, with ill-timed trips to Selhurst Park and Elland Road.
The two games over this Easter weekend could see Crewe out of the relegation zone for the first time this year. With 6 points available, this Easter weekend will have a large bearing on who stays up. Crewe’s trip to Selhurst Park is likely to be a fairly tight affair. Both sides have taken 10 points from their last 6 games, though Palace's home form has been decent this season, having taken 38 points from 60. However, Palace have shown signs of defensive frailties recently, conceding 8 goals compared to Crewe’s 5. Crewe fans will be hoping for a lackluster display from a Palace side who would certainly be forgiven for thinking of the game as insignificant, considering they are 10 points clear of the 7th placed team, whilst also 12 points behind the 2nd placed team. However, Crewe fans should also be mindful of Iain Dowie’s motivational skills, which may well cancel out any lack of incentive. Meanwhile, Brighton look set to suffer another defeat at Ipswich, Millwall look set to play out an uninspiring 0-0 draw with Plymouth, and in a game of huge significance for Crewe, Norwich travel to Sheffield Wednesday. Norwich have failed to adjust to a new style of play since Ashton’s departure, with the long balls they used to feed Ashton no longer of use with Earnshaw and McKenzie up front. However, the Canaries’ form has improved slightly of late, giving Crewe fans hope that Norwich can do us a favour at Hillsborough.
Easter Monday sees Crewe host Cardiff in a must-win game. Like Palace, Cardiff have nothing to play for as they are 11 points off the play offs in 8th place, as reflected by the fact that their form hasn’t been particularly impressive. Given the importance of the game for Crewe, a greater sense of desire should be enough bag 3 very valuable points. Meanwhile, Millwall travel to Southampton in a game which will hopefully be fruitless for Tuttle’s men, whilst Brighton host Sheffield Wednesday in a 6 pointer. However, it may not be as significant as one might think, depending on Saturday’s results. Should Brighton lose at Ipswich and the Owls beat Norwich, Brighton will already be relegated before a ball is even kicked against Sheffield Wednesday. A draw appears to be the ideal result for Crewe in this fixture, though any result apart from a Wednesday win will be greatly received in South Cheshire.
The penultimate game of the season provides yet another tough fixture for Crewe. Despite Leeds’ current abysmal run of form, they will provide as good a test as any as they gear up for the play-offs. Like Cardiff and Palace, Leeds have little to play for having secured a play off spot, though Sheff Utd have well have secured promotion by 22nd April. A draw would be a decent result for Crewe, whilst a win would be nothing short of heroic. Sheffield Wednesday face mission impossible as they travel to Reading, who will hopefully still be attempting to beat Sunderland’s record points total of 105 by this stage. Brighton and Millwall face Wolves away and Burnley at home respectively, in fixtures which will hopefully see at least 1 of the sides relegated.
As we discovered last season, anything can happen on the last day of a season. Crewe host Millwall in a game which could, theoretically, still see both sides avoid relegation should Derby freefall back into the dogfight. In reality, however, one of these two sides are likely to have been relegated by the time this fixture comes about, though hopefully Crewe will still be looking to beat the drop. Sheffield Wednesday travel to Derby in what is a winnable fixture, whilst Brighton take on Stoke, though Brighton are very likely to have been relegated by then. Ultimately, it looks like Crewe have left it too late, with the disappointing Christmas period, especially the home games against QPR and Hull, proving costly. Despite this, we'll leave you on a slightly more positive note...Palace away, Cardiff home, Leeds away and Millwall home gained Crewe 10 points last season; a repeat of this would certainly be enough to ensure Crewe beat the drop.
Predicted final league table:
Sheff Wed 47
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