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Relegation Watch: 10 To Play

Ben takes a look at the relegation picture as Hull City boost their survival chances.

Reading v Sheffield United - Sky Bet Championship

This time last season, the Tilehurst End unveiled a new feature article. We aptly named it ‘Promotion Watch’ – a review of the Championship title race and analysis of Reading’s rivals at the top of the table. It celebrated the Royals’ weekly success stories and tracked their route to Wembley...

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the head honchos at TTE Towers have voted for a rebrand. For one year only (hopefully…), this is Relegation Watch.

Hull City v Norwich City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ashley Allen/Getty Images

Nigel Adkins’ rallying Hull earned a vital three points this weekend. The Tigers won 4-3 in a humdinger at the KCOM Stadium - a game punctuated by penalties. The home side took the lead through Jackson Irvine, the Socceroo finishing expertly past Angus Gunn. James Maddison, one of the shining lights of the Championship roster this season, soon turned the game on its head. The youngster completed a first-half hattrick in the 39th minute, two of them from the spot, to give the Canaries a 3-1 lead.

Not one to shirk a decision, the referee awarded two penalties to the home-side either side of the interval. Abel Hernandez, the recently returned Uruguayan striker, converted both to tie the game. Harry Wilson, on loan from Liverpool, secured the points. He beat his defender and finished with precision, boosting Hull’s survival chances.

Elsewhere, two relegation rivals clashed at Hillsborough, but a late Aaron Wilbraham equaliser secured a crucial point for Bolton Wanderers. Burton Albion held out for a point against Bristol City, as did the Royals at home to Leeds. Sunderland were beaten by Ian Holloway’s QPR, Barnsley were outclassed by ‘Boro and a late comeback from Birmingham City was not enough to save Garry Monk’s side from defeat in Cardiff.

That leaves the depths of the Championship table as follows:

17th Sheffield Wednesday - 38pts

This week’s results: Sheffield Wednesday 1-3 Ipswich, Sheffield Wednesday 1-1 Bolton

Form: L-L-L-L-D

Next up: Leeds (a), Preston (h), Sunderland (a)

Average position of remaining opponents: 13th

My verdict: A change of management doesn’t always pay dividends. The Owls have won just once in the league under Jos Luhukay and remain worryingly low in confidence. Despite this, their gap to the bottom three gives them some room for error and a surge in the form of Lucas João will continue to aid their cause.

18th Hull City - 36 pts (+ a game in hand)

This week’s results: Hull City 1-1 Millwall, Hull City 4-3 Norwich

Form: L-W-D-L-W

Next up: Ipswich (a), Birmingham (a), Aston Villa (h)

Average position of remaining opponents: 11th

My verdict: What a crucial win for Nigel Adkins’ side on Saturday. The Tigers leapfrogged the Royals and, with a game in hand, will harbour realistic ambitions to move further up the league. Having said that, seven points from their last four games do little to paper over Hull’s extensive off-the-field problems, which may yet come back to haunt them.

Hull City v Millwall - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ashley Allen/Getty Images

19th Reading - 36pts (+ a game in hand)

This week’s results: Reading 1-1 Bolton, Reading 2-2 Leeds

Form: D-D-L-D-D

Next up: Wolves (a), Norwich (a), QPR (h)

Average position of remaining opponents: 10th

My verdict: Reading showed encouraging signs in the first-half on Saturday but may regret another missed opportunity for three points. Reading have, statistically, the toughest run-in of any of the relegation-threatened teams and, miserably, have still failed to win a Saturday 3pm kick-off at home this season. Looking at games elsewhere though, the six-point gap could last a little while longer.

20th Bolton Wanderers - 36pts

This week’s results: Reading 1-1 Bolton, Sheffield Wednesday 1-1 Bolton

Form: W-D-L-D-D

Next up: Aston Villa (h), Leeds (a), Birmingham (h)

Average position of remaining opponents: 13th

My verdict: How crucial might Aaron Wilbraham’s late equaliser prove to be? Phil Parkinson’s Bolton will fight to the bitter end of this relegation scrap and, on current form, are likely to beat the drop. Already a game ahead of some of their rivals, they will target the visit of Birmingham as a must-win matchup.

21st Barnsley - 32pts (+ a game in hand)

This week’s results: Cardiff 2-1 Barnsley, Middlesbrough 3-1 Barnsley

Form: L-W-D-L-L

Next up: Norwich (h), Millwall (h), Bristol City (h)

Average position of remaining opponents: 12th

My verdict: Barnsley faced two tough fixtures this week, so it’s no surprise that they have drawn a blank. However, there are signs that Jose Morais may have had a positive effect on the Tykes and there’s no doubt that their new ‘Moneyball’ consortium will demand survival. They must pick up points from the three successive home games up next.

22nd Birmingham City - 30pts

This week’s results: Birmingham 0-1 Middlesbrough, Cardiff 3-2 Birmingham

Form: L-L-L-L-L

Next up: Hull (h), Ipswich (h), Bolton (a)

Average position of remaining opponents: 12th

My verdict: Can Garry Monk revive this sleeping giant? Birmingham have lost eight consecutive games, scoring just four goals in the process, but a late rally at the Cardiff City Stadium could be a positive sign. On paper, City shouldn’t go down, but the same could be said about most of this year’s contenders.

Cardiff City v Birmingham City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images

23rd Burton Albion - 30pts (+ a game in hand)

This week’s results: Burton 0-2 Brentford, Burton 0-0 Bristol City

Form: D-W-L-L-D

Next up: Sheffield United (a), Wolves (a), Cardff (a)

Average position of remaining opponents: 12th

My verdict: Don’t write off the Brewers just yet… Against the odds, Burton stayed in the second-tier last season and Nigel Clough will demand similar fight and belief from his players this time around. Plucky Burton face a nightmarish few games and may well be at the foot of the table by the end of the month, but delay your assumptions until April, when they play Birmingham, Hull, Sunderland and Bolton.

24th Sunderland - 28pts

This week’s results: Sunderland 0-3 Aston Villa, QPR 1-0 Sunderland

Form: L-D-D-L-L

Next up: Preston (h), Derby (a), Sheffield Wednesday (h)

Average position of remaining opponents: 12th

My verdict: The Black Cats may well be doomed. Chris Coleman’s appointment raised a few eyebrows earlier this campaign, but if his reputation was going to enliven anything, it surely would have happened by now. The club are struggling both on and off the pitch and appear to be facing a losing battle. It’s sad to watch unfold.