Peter Beagrie's Sky Bet Football League promotion verdicts
Last Updated: 10/04/15 9:42pm
As the Sky Bet Football League hurtles towards a thrilling climax, Peter Beagrie looks at the key issues…
Top of the Sky Bet Championship
As I wrote in my last column, I believe Bournemouth will take one of the automatic promotion spots, but it’s too difficult to call the other place.
I would suggest that it’s between Norwich and Watford with Middlesbrough under a lot of pressure now. I can’t see Derby and Wolves closing the gap.
Norwich are timing their run just right and now have as good a chance as the other teams in the top four. They are showing the kind of form we anticipated with the squad they have. They have got quality and options on the bench.
Bradley Johnson has scored 14 goals this season and when the pressure has been on during the run-in, he has come up with some absolute crackers. He’s the complete midfield player, but will miss two games because of a silly yellow card against Sheffield Wednesday.
Troy Deeney has been sensational for Watford for three seasons now and has been the key and the pivot to their shape. He has hit 20+ goals for three seasons in a row and has matured both on and off the pitch. He is a real leader for them.
Middlesbrough have it all to do after coming up short against promotion rivals Watford and Bournemouth. It’s all about the here and now for them – there’s no future in what they’ve done in the past!
It will be difficult for Boro with the momentum that the top three sides have, but we will have to see what form the teams are in as the season reaches its climax.
As for Bournemouth, I’m convinced their squad is strong enough in depth to cope with injuries and any suspensions in the run in. It’s the story that keeps on giving and I am backing it to have a fairytale ending as they look every inch automatic favourites.
Not long ago they were staring relegation in the face and looking into the abyss of financial meltdown. If they go up it will be one of the greatest achievements in the modern game.
Bottom of the Sky Bet Championship
Blackpool have already been relegated from the Championship and unfortunately I expect Wigan and Millwall to join them. I believe the current three will go.
Malky Mackay could not achieve a single home win at Wigan before he was sacked and was unable to make a statement of intent after coming under a bit of a cloud. Everybody knew his pedigree, but wasn’t quite himself during his tenure and hasn’t been able to change things around. They have not got better since Uwe Rolser’s spell in charge.
Wigan must now lick their wounds. Gary Caldwell has been put in charge and it’s a big opportunity for him at a big football club. However, he can’t expect League One to be a cake walk.
Sky Bet League One
I think the automatic spots in League One are pretty straightforward. Bristol City will go up as champions and Preston will finish second.
Simon Grayson’s side have done remarkably well to close the gap on Bristol City. Their win over Bradford was another pivotal result and they have shown the strength of their squad.
I always knew they had the manager to get them out of that division – and this year he has the squad to match it.
For me, Bristol City went up a few weeks ago and Preston have shown they have experience as well as ability. You need mentality as well as ability at this stage.
At the bottom, Crawley have moved out of the bottom four after winning four of the last six, which is brilliant for Dean Saunders. Crewe have dropped into the relegation places on goal difference, but it’s a tight division with nine places separated by four points.
It’s impossible to call it, except to say it will definitely go down to the wire.
Sky Bet League Two
Once again, I suspect the current top three will be the three that go up at the end of the season.
Burton and Shrewsbury should go up, but Wycombe have had a little wobble after back-to-back defeats over Easter.
Thankfully for Gareth Ainsworth, they have done really well before then and they haven’t been closed down in terms of points.
Burton have been absolutely brilliant and have so many options with Nasser El Khayati playing tremendous football and Adam McGurk fit and firing once again. They lost Alex MacDonald to Oxford, but other players have thrived in his absence.
Shrewsbury may be a side based on attack, but the last couple of results have been based around keeping clean sheets. It’s out of them and Burton for the title.
At the bottom I suspect it will go down to May 2 when Hartlepool play Carlisle in a match that could see either side retain their league status.
If Ronnie Moore keeps Hartlepool up it will be a minor miracle after being 11 points adrift at one stage. It just shows what you can achieve if you keep going.
If they achieve a Great Escape like that you’d think Steve McQueen was in charge!