Preston’s lengthy stay in the Championship is over as Phil Brown’s men have been relegated to League One despite having two games left to play. It has looked like a forlorn task for Preston to beat the drop, and although the club experienced a mini-revival under Brown, there was too much ground to make up on clubs such as Crystal Palace. Last weekend, Cardiff’s 1-0 victory at Deepdale confirmed Preston’s fate in front of a shell shocked home faithful. Only weeks before, North End had been given renewed hope with a 3-1 victory over fellow strugglers Sheffield United thanks to a Keith Treacy brace. However, the inconsistency that has plagued Preston’s season resurfaced, to condemn them to relegation.
The battle for Premier League survival is still very much in the balance, with Wigan and Blackpool separated by just one goal in the battle for 17th place. With the season drawing to a close, it looks likely that one of our two top division sides will lose their precious top flight status.
Earlier in the month the two sides faced off in a massively important relegation decider at Bloomfield Road. Wigan’s 3-1 victory was doubly important in that in pushed Blackpool into the relegation for the first time this season. Hugo Rodallega got Wigan off to a fantastic start which proved the catalyst for them racing into a three goal lead and although DJ Campbell pulled a goal back, in was in no way a consolation for Ian Holloway’s side.
The week later, Wigan’s poor league form was encapsulated in their 4-2 mauling at the hands of a striker-less Sunderland side, themselves not safe from relegation. Blackpool managed a welcome point thanks to a 1-1 draw with Newcastle, just their second point from a possible 21. However, the pattern of the game and some questionable refereeing decisions may make Ian Holloway feel that this was a case of two points lost.
While the more illustrious sides in the region have been occupying the lower reaches of the table, the most successful cub has been Fleetwood Town. The Cod Army have secured a play-off place in their inaugural season in the highest level of non-league football, finishing in fifth place to earn themselves a two legged tie with AFC Wimbledon. Although their opponents were the second placed side in the Blue Square Premier division, Fleetwood are in fine form, having won six of the last seven league games. Fittingly Magno Vieira notched the club’s final league goal and his 22nd in the final game against Barrow.
The remaining two sides in the region have coasted to safe mid-table finishes in their respective divisions. Lancaster City have come through a hectic schedule of eight games in 25 days, recording five wins; the most important of which saw the Dolly Blues pick up some silverware. A 3-1 win against Belper in the Presidents cup provided a deserved tonic to what has been a traumatic season for the beleaguered Lancaster club.
Elsewhere, Morecambe are coasting towards retaining their League Two status for next season. Their first season at the Globe Arena may also be the last for current manager Sammy McIlroy who has hinted that he look to move on. He has grown frustrated with his side’s inconsistent form and inability to bring in new faces in January.