Mick McCarthy’s team have hit form at just the right time for a relegation battle. A few weeks ago, they were most people’s picks for one of the three spots but seven points from nine has catapulted them to 16th, with survival now in their own hands. Although Saturday’s opponents, Sunderland, have had a terrible second half of the season, the win at the Stadium Of Light was a thoroughly efficient performance, with Steven Fletcher again finding the target – who will be recognised as a star performer should Wolves survive.
Intriguingly, the team that Saturday’s win put Wolves level with – Blackburn – are the visitors to Molineux on what is sure to be a fiery last day of the season. Blackburn themselves were unable to hold on to a lead that would not only have stopped Manchester United claiming the title just yet, but would have made them all but safe from relegation. Although their current 15th makes them one of the favourites to survive, a defeat to Wolves would give both Birmingham and Blackpool the chance to overtake them, if the Blues aren’t already by the final match day.
Blackpool, who have shown a lot of fight recently, are unbeaten in four and their reward for still being in the hunt for survival is a last-day trip to Old Trafford – the scene of West Ham’s improbable survival in 2007. With the Red Devils being crowned champions, Ian Holloway’s charges will have more of a chance there than they otherwise might, even if the win they need is unlikely. There is, of course, one guarantee – Blackpool will attack, going down or staying up fighting.
Birmingham, who could be all-but safe with victory at home to Fulham, have a very tough final game at Spurs, who themselves are fighting for fifth place in the league.
West Ham’s form has taken on the opposite shape than that of Wolves. Their revival happened just after the New Year and stopped some weeks ago, with one point from 18 now making them almost certainties for the drop. Should Wigan manage to beat the hammers in Sunday’s huge clash then it will leave four teams separated by one point – five, should Birmingham lose or draw to Fulham – any of whom could end either 18th or 19th.
It could well transpire that the teams who have lost more games but have found the knack of winning vital fixtures with daring football – Wolves and Blackpool – might sneak out those who have drawn all-too many – Wigan and Birmingham.