Monday, 10 March 2008

Proceed With Caution

Another day, another match – for all those in tier one complaining about too many matches, it hits home just how many more games there are in the Championship.

I've got to the stage where I'm losing track of matches – in the Prem I hardly missed one. Once a week, regular as clockwork. It's getting so thick and fast in this division that I'm starting to forget we're even playing – last week I forgot my season ticket the day of the Bristol City game. It's nothing to do with the opposition either, as I've genuinely enjoyed this season more than our paint-dry Premier days.

Ironically, the two home games I've missed since the turn of the year were quite apt, as it appears the players didn't either. Colchester and Preston are my no-shows, and my skiing trip next week means I'll be missing out on the West Brom match as well.

It's all a bit frustrating really – the next 3 games are likely to tell us if we'll cruise the run in to the playoff places, or be scrapping for dear life in the last few games to stumble over the line.

Any match is important now, but it's a case of three 6-pointers in the coming fortnight. Burnley, Ipswich and West Brom are all teams aiming for the playoffs or more, and wins in these matches have the obvious effect of stopping the other teams scoring whilst you leapfrog closer to safety in the process.

So, in reflection, perhaps losing to the lower clubs hasn't been as disastrous as it could have been. In fact, we've only lost twice to top-half opposition since December, compared to beating four.

We do have an annoying tendency to play to the level of the opposition, but in the face of our forthcoming opponents, this may not be such a bad thing. Burnley are on a similar run to us and only 4 points behind, Ipswich are fantastic at home this season, and we all know about West Brom.

If we can sneak 5 points from these 3 matches, we'll have done well. The old adage of one win being better than 3 draws doesn't hold true here – if we can stand our ground against the teams around us, we've a good chance of cementing our place.

I'm in no-way advocating playing for 0-0 draws in these games, but I do advocate a more cautious, patient approach. Losing all 3 games is simply unthinkable, and would effectively kill our playoff hopes.

As ever, only time will tell – come 10 o'clock tomorrow night, the playoff picture could be a lot clearer.

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