Championship Analysis – Leicester secure promotion after rivals both lose
Leicester were officially promoted on Saturday evening without kicking a ball after both QPR and Derby were defeated. The Foxes did the hard part on Friday night, beating Sheffield Wednesday, and Nigel Pearson’s side were able to celebrate at 5pm on Saturday, although Pearson himself revealed afterwards he was determined to avoid events as they unfolded, refusing to allow family members to listen to the radio as they travelled to Shropshire for a weekend break. “They [his wife and daughter] were texting each other in the car to keep each other up to date,” he said.
Naturally Pearson and co are now setting their sights on the title. Currently, mathematically Leicester only need 10 points from their remaining six games and, as great as Burnley have been this season, the scenario of the Clarets securing maximum points while relying on the Foxes to crash spectacularly is highly unlikely.
Sean Dyche’s side themselves are mathematically only nine more points away from Premier League football. Although they only picked up a late point at Watford, it was enough to stretch their lead over QPR to 10 points. The Hoops were beaten by in-form Bournemouth, who took 19 points from a possible 24 in March and secured their fourth consecutive win on Saturday, becoming one of four clubs to sit five points behind Reading, who remain sixth.
The one negative – literally – is the club’s goal difference, which stands at -1. Despite their recent surge, the Cherries have struggled to fully recover from a rocky start that included 6-1 and 5-1 thrashings by Watford and Huddersfield respectively during August, and it may count against them if points are shared in May. Nevertheless, Eddie Howe’s side have the perfect opportunity to close the gap on Reading on Tuesday as they take on the Royals at Dean Court.
Nottingham Forest are top of the four chasing Reading and have announced the appointment of Stuart Pearce as Billy Davies’ replacement in the summer. Pearce has had a lukewarm managerial career and most recently had a largely unsuccessful spell as manager of the England under-21 side, but he and the City Ground, where he spent so many years as a player, should be a good match. Thankfully he appears to have learned from his first spell as Forest caretaker boss in 1996, when during his preparation at home he infamously picked a team with 11 players but no goalkeeper.
As for the present, the club has gone 10 games without a win and on Saturday lost to a Millwall side that, despite the introduction of the lively Ian Holloway in January, have sunk miserably into the relegation zone. The Lions are still within touching distance of safety, however, and it was another good week for the bottom three as a whole, with Barnsley picking up a point and Yeovil refusing to fall adrift following a 2-1 win at Blackpool. Indeed, Gary Johnson’s side have yet another chance to move outside the relegation zone on Tuesday when they take on Charlton – still the club in 21st spot. A win by two goals or more would see the Glovers overhaul their opponents on goal difference, albeit relying on Millwall and Barnsley failing to win their respective games in order to climb completely outside the bottom three.