With the finish line in sight, it’s almost as if Latics’ own results don’t matter. I doubt I’d be saying that if we were playing Newcastle and Sunderland over the next two weeks, but instead we’ve got one of the form teams in the division and the team with poll position but plenty to do before the league is sewn up. In essence we’ve have to account for getting no more points this season and look to results elsewhere to keep us safe.
At least there’s only one team that we really need to worry about this weekend. If Birmingham don’t get past us then we stay up, simple as. They’re five points behind which means they need two wins in their last two games against a resurgent Fulham and a, nothing to play for but pride, Blackburn. Of course, should they bring three points away from the cottage then everything is much more complicated next week but, the way things are running, the smart money will be on the home team in that one.
Reading are in a much similar position. A win and a draw sees them level on points with Latics, but with 11 goals to make up on us it seems unlikely that anything less than six points would be enough. Their task in hand is a little easier with a visit from Spurs and a trip to Pride Park on the cards.
The maths are exactly the same for Bolton, but if they manage the four points against Sunderland and Chelsea then not only will I eat my hat, but things could be very interesting, our neighbours have an almost identical goals scored/conceded record, and we could end up in the most expensive game of pitch and toss in history.
Finally, there’s Boro, one point behind and home games against Portsmouth and City make it likely that they’ll finish above us giving their season a veneer of comfort that they are possibly not feeling, just yet.
So in short, defeat if Birmingham don’t win tomorrow then we’re safe. If they do but Bolton or Reading lose, then we’re safe. If Reading manage a draw and we don’t lose 7-0 then we’re probably safe. If Brum and Reading win and Bolton draw then it’s time to get someone to build a spreadsheet. The wildcard is a Boro defeat, which doesn’t make up any safer but gives up an extra out next Sunday.
Still, it might seem unlikely but it would be remiss of me not to mention what Latics can do to save themselves. A point against Villa means that we could be counting goals on 11th May, a win and we’re safe.
The upshot of all this is that there’s more that can happen to keep us up than send up down. Stranger things have happened, but being the best placed out of the five teams vying for 18th place makes us, at worst, rank outsiders. Other people stopped talking seriously about Latics’ relegation prospects weeks ago, maybe (yes this may come back to bite me in the arse, but here goes any way) we should do the same and enjoy the rest of the year.
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