As exciting and exhilarating a promotion battle is, there is often a tendency to focus on the top end of the table and leave the bottom of the table alone.
More fraught with danger and nerves, a relegation battle is often much closer and more exciting than a promotion battle. Whilst the things at stake for promotion all rest as positives, relegation to a lower division brings a whole different series of negatives.
This season’s Championship relegation battle is no different. With teams having between seven or eight games left, 19th-placed Bristol City sit where they are only two wins, six points safe from Milton Keynes Dons – a mere two wins away from a relegation place.
Taking this ‘two wins away from safety’ as a yardstick, here are the teams from the 2015/16 Championship in danger of being in a ‘relegation battle’: Bristol City (19th), Rotherham United (20th), Fulham (21st), Milton Keynes Dons (22nd), Charlton (23rd) and Bolton (24th).
Bristol City – 19th place, 43 points, 1.10 points per game
As long as Bristol continue to scramble points here or there, or put together a spurt of wins, they should be safe from relegation. Their extended form (over 10 games rather than six) has them as the Championship’s 6th-place team with six wins and four losses and a total of 1.80 points per game. Whilst losing heavily yesterday to Hull City, a 4-0 reverse, the Robins have three wins and three losses in their last six games – their two games prior to Hull being a big win (6-0) over basement side Bolton and a narrower win (2-1) over fellow strugglers Fulham.
Current relegation odds: 14/1 with Bet365 and BoyleSports and 18/1 Ladbrokes
Rotherham United – 20th place, 42 points, 1.08 points per game
Under Neil Warnock, Rotherham are like a phoenix in that they are reborn from the ashes of what was almost certain relegation. In terms of extended, 10-game form, Rotherham sit as the eighth best team in the Championship, their six-game ‘short form’ is even more impressive. Over their last six games, the Millers are the top ranked Championship form side with five wins and a draw in their last six games and a 2.67 points per game that even outranks Championship leaders Burnley (2.33 points per game). Rotherham’s next game is a fixture against 19-th placed Bristol City where another three points would set them in great stead.
Current relegation odds: 4/1 with SkyBet and Ladbrokes or 11/2 Coral
Fulham – 21st place, 41 points, 1.05 points per game.
Despite having hotshot striker Ross McCormack (20 goals), Fulham find themselves on the cusp of the bottom three and only four points from safety. Their extended form places them 15th in the table (1.20 points per game) but their short form over six games places them a worrying 21st place in the Championship form table (0.83 points per game). To put this in perspective, Fulham have a record of one win, two draws and three losses in their last six games – their 0.83 points per game of form being bad enough to see a team relegated at the end of two previous seasons before this one. Should Fulham continue on this trend of form, they could very well find themselves sucked into a relegation battle – that is if the teams below them turn their seasons around.
Current relegation odds: 6/1 with BoyleSports and BETVICTOR or 5/1 Stan James
Milton Keynes Dons – 22nd place, 37 points, 0.95 points per game
MK Dons know that winning two games more than Fulham achieve in the rest of the season, for them it’s seven games, will see them safe and looking at a second consecutive season in the Championship. With only a four point gap to close down to draw level, essentially their inferior -20 goal difference making it a five point gap, MK Dons at least have a manageable target to aim at. The danger for them is that their 0.95 points per game total for this season was enough to get Doncaster relegated in 2013/14 (0.96 points per game) and would be perilously close to the total that saw Millwall relegated last season in 22nd place with 0.89 points per game. Their extended form has them placed 19th in the relevant table with an average of 1.00 points per game and in 20th place in the short form (six games) table with a return of 0.83 points per game, the result of only gaining five points ( one win and two draws) from their last six games – losing their last two.
Current relegation odds: 1/3 with bet365 and SkyBet or 3/10 with sportingbet and 888sport
Charlton Athletic – 23rd place, 35 points, 0.90 points per game
It doesn’t look good on first glance for Charlton Athletic, a team beset by fan protests against the owners and dire form at times on the field. A season return of 0.90 points per game would only have seen them save their Championship last season by grace of Millwall’s 0.89 points per game and relegation as the 22nd placed Championship team. To all intents and purposes is that such a return is the stuff of relegation fodder and sees them six points from safety, seven if you count their hugely inferior goal difference (-34) over that of Fulham (-6). The Addicks’ extended form over their last 10 games has them at 18th in the relevant form table, with an average return of 1.10 points per game. Their short form, over the last six games, is much better at 1.67 points per game and sees them in 7th place in the six-game form table with three wins in their last six games. A test of their current form will come on Tuesday evening when they face eighth place Ipswich Town, where a win for the Londoners and a loss for MK Dons and Fulham could really put the fox in the chicken coop.
Current relegation odds: 1/66 with bet365 and BETVICTOR or 1/50 with SkyBet and Stan James
Bolton Wanderers – 24th place, 26 points, 0.67 points per game
There would be few who would disagree but Bolton’s season has been an abject one with very little to give their long-suffering fans much hope. A takeover has been concluded, Dean Holdsworth’s ‘Sport Shield’ consortium, the ex-Bolton player’s £7.5m bid seeing ownership change hands. Alongside this the club have seen long-standing club chairman Phil Gartside die at the age of 63 after losing his battle with cancer; they have also seen the club taken to court by HMRC over an unpaid £2.2m in tax – thankfully now settled. Football-wise, they have been rooted in the basement of the Championship for most of the season, their 0.67 points per game being enough to be relegated in both of the last two seasons by quite a comfortable margin – only Blackpool’s 0.57 points per game being worse than what Bolton currently have. Their extended, 10-game form doesn’t hold out much hope for them with the Trotters again sitting in bottom place in the relevant form table with a worringly bad 0.50 points per game average. Even more worrying is their short, six-game form which has seen them only draw once in their last six games whilst conceding 15 goals and only picking up an average 0.17 points per game over this period.
Current relegation odds: 1/1000 with bet365 and Stan James
Current bookmaker predictions would place the bottom three relegated at the end of the season as:
- 22nd Milton Keynes Dons
- 23rd Charlton Athletic
- 24th Bolton Wanderers