Championship Analysis - Leicester closer to promotion after Blackpool win
Leicester moved another step towards Premier League football next season after coming from behind to defeat Blackpool, their fourth straight win and one which extended their unbeaten run to 16 matches.
Mathematically the Foxes still need another 16 points to guarantee promotion but, with a 17-point lead over Derby and QPR in third and fourth, the board at the King Power Stadium are probably itching to order the champagne already.
Indeed, Leicester’s current tally of 80 points is already better than that of Hull, who finished as runners-up last season with 79, and only seven points short of champions Cardiff with 11 matches remaining. Of course, the battle for the title is far from over, although one suspects that a seven-point lead over Burnley with a game in hand makes Leicester huge favourites.
Rather than playing a clichéd straight bat, Nigel Pearson was refreshingly defiant and honest after Saturday’s win. Although praising Blackpool’s resistance - it wasn’t until the 82nd minute that the Foxes turned round the one-goal deficit - the Leicester boss said: “It was a great result for us. It's another game ticked off and another win. Every time we do that it makes it more difficult for sides around us. We showed an awful lot of quality today.”
Like Leicester, Burnley also had the mental toughness to come from behind against Leeds, stretching their unbeaten run to 14 matches. With Derby held by Reading, the win meant the Clarets extended their lead over the chasing pack to 10 points.
The play-off battle is growing ever closer, with just two points separating fifth and eighth places. Nottingham Forest, having been up with the promotion pack for most of this season, are now clinging on in sixth after a goalless draw with Doncaster extended their winless run to seven games. Forest travel to Derby next weekend in what could be a pivotal fixture, particularly as the Rams are on a ropey run of form themselves, without a win in four.
Billy Davies’ side were leapfrogged by Wigan on Saturday. The Latics fell out of the top six last weekend due to being on FA Cup duty but breezed back in on Saturday and have games in hand over all around them.
Although it is possible next month’s FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal may prove a distraction - there are seven league fixtures to fit in before then - there’s no doubt Wigan are peaking at just the right time and the club’s form under Uwe Rosler has been outstanding; Saturday’s win over Ipswich was their seventh on the trot in the league, never mind the staggering result at Manchester City.
At the bottom, the battle for survival looks to have shrunken to four clubs. Blackpool’s win over Millwall in midweek gave the Tangerines a nine-point cushion, one which wasn’t clawed back on Saturday with Yeovil and Barnsley losing.
Charlton overtook both on goal difference but remain three points adrift of Millwall after settling for a draw with their south London neighbours. Nevertheless, with four games in hand, the Addicks’ destiny remains in their own hands.
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