by Susan Jardine
This weekend marks the end of winter as we spring into British Summer Time. Of course that means we lose an hours sleep but crucially for teams at the bottom of the league tables, the race is indeed on to get out of the mire.
An hour is one thing but Newcastle fans won’t feel the urge to turn back the clock to just before Christmas as it would remind them of a poor home defeat at the hands of West Brom. This weekend they travel to the Hawthorns for the corresponding fixture and the hope of revenge. The Magpies ground out a 1-0 victory against Norwich on Sunday with the help of an audacious piece of skill from Papisse Cisse and some inspired goal-tending from Tim Krul. Maybe that victory has just steadied the good ship St James’s and turning the tables on the Baggies will no doubt go a long way towards snatching a place in Europe next season. Incidentally, for anyone wondering why West Brom are known as the The Baggies, well it is nothing to do with facetious comments of that is what their shorts looked like last time they won anything. My information from a fan of the Throstles(another nickname) is that years gone by a man used to walk around the pitch at the Hawthornes carrying a bag- hence the term Baggie. Will it be three points in the Baggie for the Toon in the West Midlands? I think it will be a draw, which would represent a good result.
Of course now all Newcastle fans eyes are also locked on what Chelsea do as they lie just two points behind the West Londoners who are no doubt still smarting after letting three precious points slip from their grasp at the Etihad on Wednesday. Chelsea now face a home tie against Tottenham, and the North Londoners are also struggling for form so on paper a draw looks a likely result there too.
Across the water Sunderland meet Queen’s Park Rangers at the Stadium of Light. Sunderland fans will not want any reminding of the defeat they suffered at the hands of Blackburn in midweek. On paper it was a winnable match, but this is the part of the season that the formbook may as well not exist. And if you need further support of that you need look no further than what Queens Park Rangers did to Liverpool in midweek. If you are of an Anfield persuasion it may have resembled a horror story as the squandered a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 to Mark Hughes’s side. The shot of confidence that Rangers received against the Merseysiders will see them travel to the North East believing they can pull off another upset and winch themselves clear of the bottom three.
All of which means that David James has kept one clean sheet in thirteen outings.
Following a gusty one-all draw with West Ham Middlesbrough are back on home territory on Saturday against struggling Bristol City. Lying just three points above the relegation zone City come into this match on the back of 2-0 home defeat at the hands of Watford. The Robins have failed to score in seven of the last eleven games, but more worrying from their point of view is the 24 goals they have shipped in the process. All of which means that David James has kept one clean sheet in thirteen outings. Not exactly the sort of form that you want to be showing when you are travelling to face a team in the shake up for a play off place. Middlebrough though are not without their problems. They have injuries to Scott McDonald, Rhys Williams and Faris Haroun. Throw in the fact that Barry Robson serves the last of a three match ban and it could be a nervy ninety minutes for Middlesbrough fans. A look at the Championship table merely underlines how tight the play off race is. Birmingham and Cardiff lie just one point behind the Teesiders, with Hull a further point in arrears.
After a bad home defeat at the hands of Oldham in midweek Hartlepool head to Somerset to face Yeovil. Like Pools Yeovil lie in mid table security. Neither team will be changing leagues this season so what they owe their fans is as strong a finish as possible. A good start would be for Hartlepool to begin taking their chances when they present themselves.
Believe it or not I am not at a match this weekend – I am in the South West at an 8 ball pool tournament. This could well see me being kept away from a TV screen, which in turn may help the region’s teams to win. You see I have this theory that if I am watching none of the North East teams they triumph; keep me away from the box and it has a tendency to result in good news.
But I cannot conclude this preview without a word about Fabrice Muamba. Last weekend was horrific and seeing clips of the incident were even more distressing. Thankfully it seems as though Fabrice is making progress towards a recovery. I am sure everyone would join with me in extending their best wishes to Fabrice – and indeed extend their thanks to the medics who attended to him on the pitch and who continue to care for him in hospital.
Have a great weekend everyone.