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Relegation Watch: 5 To Play

Ben reviews the relegation picture as Barnsley’s revival begins.

Brentford v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Harry Murphy/Getty Images

As each weekend goes by, I find myself breathing an almighty sigh of relief.

Reading secured a vital three points once more on Saturday and restored their five-point buffer from the drop-zone. Paul Clement has now won two of his three games in charge and seemingly buoyed a once dejected Royals side. However, the relegation fight is far from over.

Barnsley earned the result of the weekend, fighting back to win 3-2 at home to Sheffield United. Gary Gardner put the Tykes in front with a twenty-fifth minute thunderbolt, but some sloppy defending and deadly finishing from John Fleck and Leon Clarke saw them fall behind in the second-half. José Morais has perhaps been a tad unlucky not to achieve a home win since his arrival at Oakwell, but loanee Oliver McBurnie and top-scorer Tom Bradshaw were on hand to turn the score-line around.

Hull City also profited this weekend, battering QPR 4-0. Nigel Adkins’ side were unfortunate not to secure all three points at Molineux during the week and followed up with another stellar performance. Harry Wilson, Kamil Grosicki, Abel Hernandez all found the net for the Tigers.

Undoubtedly the most pivotal game of the weekend was hosted at St. Andrews. Burton Albion thought they had won it, defending a 1-0 lead into the last five minutes, but Lukas Jutkiewicz scored a late equaliser for Garry Monk’s Birmingham City. Sunderland also battled for a point, pegged back by Leeds at Elland Road, whilst Bolton Wanderers were defeated at Derby – Tom Lawrence scoring the pick of the goals:

Here’s how the table looks with five games remaining:

18th Hull City – 44pts

This week’s results: Wolves 2-2 Hull, Hull 4-0 QPR

Form: W-L-D-D-W

Next up: Burton (a), Sheffield Wednesday (h), Bristol City (a)

Average position of remaining opponents: 12th

My verdict: This was a fantastic week for Hull. Not only did they breeze past QPR on Saturday, but they nearly stole a victory from Championship leaders Wolves. Nigel Adkins appears to have guided the Tigers through the worst of their run-in with aplomb, but they will want to prevent Burton picking up a home-win next time out.

19th Reading – 42pts

This week’s results: Aston Villa 3-0 Reading, Reading 1-0 Preston

Form: L-L-W-L-W

Next up: Fulham (a), Sunderland (h), Sheffield Wednesday (a)

Average position of remaining opponents: 12th

My verdict: A Barnsley win, a Sunderland win and a Burton win could have been disastrous news for the Royals, but a flurry of late goals and a crucial home-win calmed the situation. Despite obvious attacking frailties and ill-discipline, Reading look far more compact and resolute defensively, creating far fewer of their own problems. Their away games remain little more than ‘free-hits’, but a win against Sunderland next week could be enough regardless.

20th Birmingham City – 40pts

This week’s results: Bolton 0-1 Birmingham, Birmingham 1-1 Burton

Form: L-W-W-W-D

Next up: Bristol City (a), Wolves (a), Sheffield United (h)

Average position of remaining opponents: 7th

My verdict: I doubt Birmingham fans have any fingernails left after that dramatic relegation six-pointer with Burton. They survived, just, but have they missed a final opportunity for three points? They may be in-form but their run-in is horrendous, with two promotion-chasers and two playoff-hopefuls still to play.

Birmingham City V Brentford- Sky Bet Championship

21st Bolton Wanderers – 39pts

This week’s results: Bolton 0-1 Birmingham, Derby 3-0 Bolton

Form: D-W-L-L-L

Next up: Millwall (h), Barnsley (a), Wolves (h)

Average position of remaining opponents: 14th

My verdict: Losing to Birmingham on Tuesday night was a severe blow for Bolton but they remain out of the drop-zone, albeit having played one more game than Barnsley. Despite my optimism about their chances, it’s clear that Parky’s men still have plenty of work to do. Their face-off with the Tykes next weekend is massive.

22nd Barnsley – 37pts (+1 game in hand)

This week’s results: Barnsley 3-2 Sheffield United

Form: L-D-L-D-W

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

Average position of remaining opponents: 13th

My verdict: There’s nothing like a last-gasp comeback victory to rejuvenate a struggling side. Could this be the turning point for Barnsley? They have a game-in-hand and face four of the Championship’s mid-table clubs, giving them plenty of opportunity for points. They’re the main concern for those looking down nervously.

23rd Sunderland – 32pts

This week’s results: Sunderland 1-3 Sheffield Wednesday, Leeds 1-1 Sunderland

Form: L-L-W-L-D

Next up: Norwich (h), Reading (a), Burton (h)

Average position of remaining opponents: 12th

My verdict: Chris Coleman certainly hasn’t given up hope at Sunderland and they continue to make life difficult for teams. Their next three games are inviting on paper, but the Reading fan in me believes that their quest for survival will end next weekend. They play Fulham and Wolves to conclude a sorry campaign.

Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Jack Thomas/Getty Images

24th Burton Albion – 32pts

This week’s results: Burton 1-1 Middlesbrough, Birmingham 1-1 Burton

Form: L-L-L-D-D

Next up: Hull (h), Derby (h), Sunderland (a)

Average position of remaining opponents: 16th

My verdict: What a devastating blow for Burton, who were a matter of minutes from a much-needed win. As you can see above, they have by far the easiest run-in of any of the contenders for the drop, so it’s still too early to write them off. I think they may be playing Hull and Derby at the wrong time however and fear that they may muster too little too late.