With twenty four points still left to fight for, the race to survive the drop is well and truly under way in the Sky Bet Championship. The three teams that currently make up the relegation zone are Bolton Wanderers, Charlton Athletic and MK Dons.
Wanderers, who recently sacked Neil Lennon as their boss, have struggled all season both on and off the pitch. They recently avoided liquidation, surviving a winding up order from HMRC, and their on-field life has brought them no joy either. The have won just four of their league fixtures this season, the lowest total in the league, and they look set to pay for that as they are 12 points from safety at the bottom of the table.
Charlton have also struggled this season off the field and on the field. They have the league’s worst defensive record, conceding a whopping 69 goals (only one more than Bolton have conceded) and are the league’s second lowest scorers with 34 goals. This month has been a good one for the Addicks, picking up seven points from a possible 12, with wins over Brentford and Middlesbrough, a draw at home to MK Dons, then suffering a 3-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday.
Karl Robinson’s side make up the final relegation place, having fallen to the drop zone after their 2-1 loss at home to Brighton and Hove Albion. Brighton took a two goal lead in that game when substitute Tomer Hemed converted a penalty and notched a header. After 70 minutes though, Antony Kay’s header brought the Dons back into the game. Just two minutes later however, Kyle McFadzean saw straight red after blocking the run of Hemed. The Dons battled hard with 10 men and seemingly got the luck they deserved when they were given a fortuitous penalty on the brink of stoppage time. It wasn’t to be their day though, as the returning Carl Baker dragged the spot-kick wide and subjected the Dons to their first defeat of the month.
Before that defeat, MK Dons had collected five points from a possible nine after a win against QPR and away draws at both Charlton and Hull City. If they had carried on that form, they could be above Fulham, whose last win came on 20th February at home to Charlton. Since that day, they have collected just a further three points.
How fortunate for the Dons then that their next game, after the international break, is against the free-falling Fulham. They will travel to Craven Cottage without the suspended McFadzean, but will be buoyed by the fact that Joe Walsh is set to return from injury and that winger Baker will be in contention to start for the first time in a long while.
The other positive for MK Dons is that, compared to the teams around them, they have a better run of fixtures in the final eight games. They have four home games, all winnable, against Wolves, Rotherham, Brentford and Nottingham Forest. Their away fixtures pose a bit more difficulty, coming against Fulham, Sheffield Wednesday, Preston and Ipswich.
If you were to speak optimistically, it would be fair to say that at least 12 points from those games is possible, with 15 or maybe even more being far from impossible. Wins against Fulham and Rotherham are a must though, as it drags those two further down the table. If six points aren’t taken from those two games, then it’s most likely goodbye to the Championship.