With the end of the regular season just over a month away, statistics and what-if scenarios are more present than ever in the football fan’s brain, especially those supporting a team in the thick of the action, whether at the top or bottom.
Leicester are now just seven points away from guaranteed Premier League football next season. Admittedly, having been held by Blackburn last weekend and minutes away from a shock defeat to Yeovil in midweek, the Foxes were in danger of losing top spot on Saturday after a trio of wins for Burnley had cut their lead to just three points going into the clash with their rivals, but Nigel Pearson’s side restored authority at Turf Moor and, most crucially, cemented the ever-widening gap between themselves and third place, which is now 15 points.
To rub salt into Burnley’s wounds, the result ended an unbeaten record at Turf Moor that had previously stretched back a whole calendar year. Indeed, the last time the faithful left any game tasting defeat was back on Boxing Day.
On the face of it, the result didn’t inflict much damage as QPR were held by Blackpool, meaning the Clarets still hold a nine-point cushion over the Hoops, but the club have been dealt another blow up front after scans revealed that Sam Vokes, who was forced off with injury on Saturday, has suffered a ruptured cruciate ligament, ruling him out for the rest of the season. Vokes and Danny Ings, also currently injured but on the road to recovery, have scored over 40 goals between them so far, so Burnley may yet have to grind out some results without their main men to get them over the line.
Derby’s 3-0 win over Charlton saw the Rams close the gap on QPR to a single point but other than theirs and Leicester’s victories, it was a pretty rotten day for those in and around the chasing pack with no team between 5th and 9th triumphant, leaving the play-off race static.
The numbers game is at its most intriguing at the bottom of the table, where only three points separate the bottom four clubs; usually at this stage of the season at least one team has been cut adrift. The most frustrated manager will be Yeovil’s Gary Johnson, who has watched his side sacrifice leads in their last two outings that would have taken them outside the relegation zone. Instead, the Glovers find themselves bottom again after being thumped 4-1 at Huish Park by fellow strugglers Barnsley.
“It was a poor performance. Barnsley turned up and looked stronger, quicker and cleverer in every department,” said Johnson. “It was like a group of lads off the street that we put together, threw them out there and asked them to play.”
Barnsley’s impressive win lifted the Tykes level on points with Charlton but remain in the drop zone due to the Addicks’ superior goal difference, and Jose Riga’s side have still played two games fewer.
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