It was the stuff of nightmares…
Reading capitulated this weekend against a manager-less Ipswich with little to play for, gifting momentum to their relegation rivals. Paul Clement summed up the 4-0 defeat in a word: “shameful”. Birmingham also missed an opportunity to consolidate their place in the Championship, losing 3-1 to QPR. Both they and the Royals face promotion contenders Cardiff and Fulham next weekend and may rely on results elsewhere.
That’s because Barnsley and Burton were both victorious. Oliver McBurnie has scored nine goals during his short loan spell with the Tykes and found the net in Saturday’s 2-0 home win against Brentford. Meanwhile, Burton leapfrogged opponents Bolton. Ex-Royal Hope Akpan scored for the Brewers, whilst the away side failed to register a single shot on target. Finally, poor Sunderland lost again, before parting company with manager Chris Coleman.
HUGE 3 POINTS FOR THE TYKES!— Channel 5 Sport (@Channel5Sport) April 28, 2018
Doubt @KRFMoore will claim this as a shot, but a much needed opening goal for @BarnsleyFC today in a good win over @BrentfordFC. #Barnsley #Brentford
➡️ @EFL highlights from 9pm on @channel5_tv. pic.twitter.com/2wpUgk9C26
This is how the table looks with just one game remaining:
19th Reading – 43pts
Goal difference: -22
This week’s results: Reading 0-4 Ipswich
Next up: Cardiff (a)
Position of remaining opponent: 2nd
My verdict: Despite our plight, it would take an extremely unlikely set of results to relegate us. A defeat at Cardiff seems inevitable, but Barnsley and Burton would both need to win and Birmingham would need to gain a point against Fulham to consign us to the drop. How we are going to survive this abysmal campaign, I do not know.
20th Birmingham City – 43pts
Goal difference: -32
This week’s results: QPR 3-1 Birmingham
Next up: Fulham (h)
Position of remaining opponent: 3rd
My verdict: Birmingham may have missed an opportunity on Saturday, but Garry Monk is still likely to complete a ‘great escape’. They’re unbeaten in four home matches, so a draw against Fulham is not out of the question, and that would be enough to guarantee their survival. Barnsley, Burton and Bolton are likely to bail them out regardless.
21st Barnsley – 41pts
Goal difference: -21
This week’s results: Nottingham Forest 3-0 Barnsley, Barnsley 2-0 Brentford
Next up: Derby (a)
Position of remaining opponent: 6th
My verdict: Scrambling out of the relegation zone with a game to play will be a huge psychological boost for Barnsley. A win on the final day will secure their survival, but I still don’t back them. The Tykes have only beaten one top-half team away from home this season, and they play a strong Derby side with playoff aspirations to fight for.
22nd Burton Albion – 41pts
Goal difference: -42
This week’s results: Burton 2-0 Bolton
Next up: Preston (a)
Position of remaining opponent: 7th
My verdict: A remarkable story is unfolding. Burton have now won three-on-the-trot and could yet survive with a win at Preston. Their goal difference is still a massive stumbling block though, leaving their destiny in the hands of others. Preston are also a nightmare opponent, who still have a playoff place to play for and should be too strong.
23rd Bolton Wanderers – 40pts
Goal difference: -36
This week’s results: Burton 2-0 Bolton
Next up: Nottingham Forest (h)
Position of remaining opponent: 17th
My verdict: What a mess Bolton have found themselves in! Several weeks ago, Phil Parkinson’s side looked comfortably clear of danger with a relatively easy run-in, but their form has been hopeless. Fans voiced their anger towards the management and players in Saturday’s defeat to Burton, knowing that they now need the aid of results elsewhere. Their final game is winnable, however, and I have a sneaking suspicion that they could play Championship football next season.
24th Sunderland – 34pts
Goal difference: -31
This week’s results: Fulham 2-1 Sunderland
Next up: Wolves (h)
Position of remaining opponent: 1st
My verdict: Sunderland can already prepare for trips to Accrington Stanley, Luton Town and Wycombe Wanderers next season. They have a task on their hands to avoid one final humiliation next weekend, when Champions Wolves visit the Stadium of Light. It could be a cruel end to a woeful season.