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Bolton Nuts » BWFC » Bolton Wanderers News » Bolton, Burton, Barnsley, Birmingham and Reading - who goes down?

Bolton, Burton, Barnsley, Birmingham and Reading - who goes down?

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karlypants

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
It's the day of reckoning in the Championship as Wanderers join four other clubs battling for survival on Sunday.

The odds are stacked against Phil Parkinson’s side after last week’s defeat at Burton Albion but they could still escape the bottom three with a win against Nottingham Forest, provided Burton and Barnsley also fail to win, or there is a four-goal swing on Birmingham City.

Reading could also be dragged in – but not realistically at Wanderers’ expense because of their much superior goal difference.

But how does the land lie at Wanderers’ rivals after last weekend’s results?

We asked local journalists from each respective club, plus our own Marc Iles, to bring us bang up to date.



READING

Jonathan Low Get Reading

Q. On the Ipswich collapse

They very much fell apart for the final 20 minutes or so. The first hour was pretty even, but after the first goal they effectively fell apart, no shape, no organisation.

It was a bit of makeshift back four but I don’t think that was an excuse really. It was shocking.

They had to try and get back into the game but they were caught on the counter attack and mistake after mistake led to easy chances for Ipswich and they converted all of them.

It possibly wasn’t quite a 4-0 game, two of the goals came in stoppage time, but overall Reading were totally outplayed in that final 20 minutes and deserved to lose the game.

Q. What’s the mood there now?

Everyone is pretty despondent but it’s nothing really new this season. There has been week after week of disappointing results and performances and somehow they seem to have got away with it with teams being below them in the table.

For all Reading’s faults they have somehow managed to club enough points together and keep a bit of distance between themselves and the relegation zone.

I think from a fan perspective they are pretty despondent and not expecting them to get anything from Cardiff this Sunday - myself included.

I think it will be down to other results, but I think it is going to have to take a pretty freak run of results for Reading to go down now. But obviously the possibility is still there.

I think everyone is just keeping their fingers crossed that they get over the line this Sunday then have a real re-think of things over the summer.

Q. Have things improved since Jaap Stam left?

There was a slight upturn in results, Clement got two wins and a draw in his first three home games. That was largely better from what they had before he came in - a run of one win in 18 under Stam.

Something had to change, this was the last opportunity given there was an international break and Clement had a bit of extra time to work with them.

His first game with QPR, QPR absolutely battered them then Reading scored with about 20 minutes to go.

QPR had a penalty in the last minute which they missed, which was the turning point of the season really, had they scored that I don’t think Reading would have recovered from it.

They managed to grind out the 1-0 win, got another win against Preston a couple of weeks later and that gave them a bit of confidence and bit of breathing space for the final few games.

But it has been three defeats in the last four now so they are very much limping over the line.

The Ipswich game was reminiscent of the bad of days of Stam of being really disorganised at the back, mistake after mistake. No creativity going forward and a recipe for disaster really.

Q. Don’t expect much from Cardiff but do expect help from elsewhere?

I think so, certainly Bolton can’t catch them because of goal difference, it’s realistically between Barnsley and Burton and fortunately for Reading they are playing against teams who need to get results as well.

I think it will be tight, I think we will do it but only just.



BIRMINGHAM CITY

Brian Dick, Birmingham Live

Q. What happened at QPR?

Blues went to Loftus Road knowing they could secure safety a game early - but the occasion seemed to get to them.

Garry Monk described Blues as playing with fear throughout and not even the boost of an early goal settled those nerves. Perhaps had they held on to their lead for longer than 90 seconds it might have been different.

However, even before that QPR were clearly the sharper team, with several young players wanting to prove themselves and others wanting to leave the club on the right note, they played with the desperation befitting a team fighting for its life.

In the end David Stockdale ended up making several saves to keep the scoreline down.

Q. Where does that leave the mood?

Nerves are jangling. There’s a certain feeling of resignation that Blues always do things the hard way and a fear that they have flirted with last day disaster once too often.

There is also a huge concern about the quality of the opposition, Fulham are arguably the form team in the league. How realistic is it that Blues can stop their unbeaten run?

But you also have to keep things in perspective, Blues have their destiny in their own hands and even if they lose they need a raft of results to go against them. The bookmakers reckon they’ve only a 14/1 chance of going down. Hopefully they’re right.

Q. Have things picked up under Garry Monk?

Massively, despite last Saturday there is a much more upbeat feel around the club. The bond between players and supporters has been restored and Monk is proving himself to be very popular.

He’s played two up front in virtually every game and tried to get on the front foot, especially at home.

The whole feel around the club is more assertive and arguably Blues deserve more points than they have taken in his ten games.

Q. How will they approach the Fulham match?

Well it’s going to be a sell-out, the club have opened areas of the stadium that have been effectively mothballed for three years.

That kind of demands a positive approach from Blues and Fulham have looked vulnerable in the early stages of games in recent weeks.

The fact they probably have to win to have any chance of automatic might help Blues too.

But the presence of players like Sessegnon, Mitrovic and Cairney is obviously a huge concern.

Q. What do you expect to happen on Sunday?

I would never back against a full St Andrew’s and motivated Birmingham City team. As long as the players aren’t fearful and passive.

I think a point would effectively guarantee safety because it’s difficult to envisage Burton and Barnsley both winning away from home against play-off hopefuls.

It wouldn’t surprise me at all, though, if Bolton beat Nottingham Forest and the final few minutes of the season are incredibly nervy.



BARNSLEY

Doug O’Kane, Barnsley Chronicle

Q. Was Barnsley’s victory over Brentford a surprise to you as much as everyone else?

I think there was definitely an element of surprise. The two teams coming into the game had a difference in form.

Brentford won four out of five, Barnsley had won three in 30 going way back to November.

And there was massive pressure on them knowing they could have gone down that day if they had lost or drawn and Bolton had won.

The mood in the build up, you could tell the manager and the chief executive who I spoke to a few days earlier, were kind of worried. They were saying all the right things but you could tell there was a real doubt about what was going to happen.

It looked really tough last two games, Brentford and Derby to get four-six points to stay up, but after the first eight or nine minutes when Brentford were the better team and you thought ‘Here we go again’, Kieffer Moore crossed form the left, it went in the top corner and from that moment Barnsley never really looked back.

Brentford were really poor on the day and Barnsley could have scored quite a few more goals. It’s now taken them out of the relegation zone and completely opened up the race for survival.

Q. What the confidence levels like after that win?

It’s been a massive boost for the team, they are really believing now. They have a tough game - Derby away.

We were there five years ago at Huddersfield Town when Barnsley were in a very, very similar position with five or six clubs battling to stay up. They drew 2-2, it was a crazy day, Peterborough conceded in the last minute and that kept Barnsley up after the goalkeeper Luke Steele kept the ball at his feet with neither side trying to play for the last three minutes.

It was controversial but a big moment for the club. I would have thought it is probably going to be a similar day to that with lots of checking of phones, ‘Is this team winning?’ And ‘Is that team winning? What do Barnsley need to do?’ It’s going to be tense. If they go there and get a win at Derby that will negate all of that and they will stay up.

That’s a big ask because Derby are a good team and they need a point themselves to guarantee their place in the play-offs.

It’s going to be a tense game - but Saturday was a massive boost. It’s given them a second life, which a lot of fans didn’t think they would have.

Q. What do you expect this weekend?

It’s really hard, I am 60-40 to saying that Barnsley will stay up. I think they might get a draw at Derby which would possibly suit both teams and I can’t really see Bolton and Burton both overtaking them - but it is possible.

Possibly all three could draw and I think Barnsley might just get away with it. It’s on a knife edge.



BURTON ALBION

Joshua Murray, Burton Mail

Q. The mood must be buoyant after the last couple of weeks?

It’s funny in football how quickly things change. Just a few weeks ago they were battered 5-0 at home by Hull City and that left them seven points adrift with five games to go and a really flat feeling around the Pirelli.

Everybody was writing them off and it looked as if any chance of a Great Escape had gone.

But one win against rivals Derby from down the road changed everything and there was a renewed belief. It’s three wins on the bounce now, fans are full of belief and confidence - and the players the same.

Whilst it’s technically not in their hands, if would have offered them this situation a few weeks ago, or most of this season, they would have taken it.

Q. Did Burton basically want the game more than Bolton?

That’s certainly what Phil Parkinson said. It was a bit of a cagey opening 15-20 but as soon as Burton got ahead they took total control which surprised me.

It was a day when Burton could have been relegated if Bolton had won but Burton looked confident.

Then a second goal straight after gave them that bit of breathing space and Burton probably should have scored more if it hadn’t been for Ben Alnwick in the Bolton goal.

It was as well as they have played recently and summed up that renewed belief that maybe, just maybe they might pull this off.

Q. Everyone behind Nigel Clough again now?

I think the general consensus is that everybody is behind him, behind the team and what they might be able to achieve.

Certainly after the Hull game there was some frustration, Burton went seven months without a win at home, that’s an abysmal run in any league.

So there was some frustration from some fans but overall consensus has been remembering where Burton are, remembering how much they are punching above their weight.

I suppose they only way they can change any opinion is to get results and in the last three or four weeks they have done that.

The feeling around the club is very, very positive again and that’s the way they want it heading into Saturday.

Q. Hope or expectation going up to Preston?

A little bit of everything, as I am sure the five teams down there will be. It’s going to be nervy, I think you are going to have one eye on the pitch and one eye following the other scores.

Nigel Clough said before the Bolton game they always have to keep their feet on the ground because some people with the momentum they are building are saying ‘This Great Escape is destined’.

But you still have to remember it’s out of their hands, there can be no great expectations. I think they will go there with the same mentality they have had in the last three ‘We just have to keep ourselves in with a fight’.

They will know that Preston have got a lot to play for as well so it’s going to be nervy on both sides.

As the afternoon goes on and the scores drift in from elsewhere they will react accordingly, whatever happens I think the feeling is they have put up a great fight from a few weeks ago.

That game at Birmingham, with that last minute equaliser, hit them hard. They look a different side again now. That’s the position they wanted to be in.

Q. What do you expect to happen on Sunday?

It’s so hard to call. The one that really matters for Burton other than their own is Derby-Barnsley because Barnsley are the team right above them whose result they have to better.

And obviously Derby are the team Preston are trying to catch. If Derby get an early lead at Pride Park and that filters through at Preston that could deflate Preston a bit and urge Burton on.

It maybe just as much as what they are doing themselves that what is happening at Pride Park will affect them.

If that happens Burton will really grow into it.

But Preston are such a strong team to break down if they can get the early breakthrough the Brewers are going to have go hell for leather.



BOLTON WANDERERS

Marc Iles, Bolton News

Q. Was that Burton loss the decisive fixture?

It certainly feels that way, the way Bolton totally capitulated at Burton, smacked of a relegated club.

Hopefully that isn’t the case and other teams can do them favours on the final day of the season.

I think the way they played there was quite unexpected. The one thing they haven’t lacked until Phil Parkinson is character but that was a performance of very little character.

Credit to Burton the way they went about it, they bullied Burton off the park - but not in a bad way, they were stronger, they were first to everything and from a Bolton perspective it was a very worrying time.

Q. Seemed well set two months ago, what’s happened since then?

Genuinely people are struggling to put it down to one thing. Having beaten Villa before the international break I think everyone thought another couple of wins and they are over the line.

It hasn’t turned out that way. They have struggled for goals, they have only scored three in seven games. They are completely deflated but you can’t point to one thing.

The manager is obviously getting flak because of selection issues, that’s always the case when teams lose games.

You can look at the ownership and say ‘Did they invest enough in the playing staff?’ And probably say ‘No’.

There have been a couple of in-house things as well, messages that have been put out by the club that have perhaps been ill-judged.

A mixture of things but ultimately the players have not performed and they shoulder a great weight of responsibility.

Q. Can you make a case for picking up three points this Sunday?

It’s football isn’t it and football has a habit of surprising people. I remember sitting with one of your predecessors and talking about a Birmingham game at Bolton Wanderers a few years back and him saying there is absolutely no chance whatsoever the Blues are staying up.

It was all doom and gloom yet it was an incredible afternoon at the Macron that day and Birmingham managed to survive by the skin of their teeth with Caddis and that famous late goal.

Anything can happen in football.

I think from a Bolton perspective we are just hoping it’s one of those magical days.

Q. What do you expect to happen?

I don’t think Bolton should expect favours. I do genuinely fancy them to beat Nottingham Forest and that’s not me trying to put a positive hat on.

I just hope there are favours from elsewhere. I think the way that Burton played the other day they don't look like they are going to lose that particular game, whoever they are playing.

Whether Birmingham get sucked into it, I very much doubt it, possibly we are looking at Barnsley getting dragged in and Bolton maybe going with them.

I hope that’s not the case. I hope it's Bolton and not Burton would maybe be the ones to sneak out of it.

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