The End Of The Weekend
Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea all won over the course of the weekend. Derby lost. Spurs conceded a goal in the last minute and lost at home. Newcastle lost. Business, then, as usual in the all-singing, all-dancing Premier League this weekend. Alex McLeish must be wondering what all the fuss is about, having started his time at Birmingham City with a 3-2 win at White Hart Lane against Spurs, who had Robbie Keane sent off. Meanwhile, Sunderland required a last minute goal to see off Derby County at the Stadium of Light, all of which breathes further life into the ever-growing belief that Sunderland are actually no better than Derby this season.
In the Championship, just when it looked as if Watford might actually be in danger of opening up a decent lead at the top of the table, they’ve thrown away much of their hard work with two home defeats in in five days. Burnley and Bristol Rovers have been the lucky beneficiaries of their recent slump in form. West Bromwich Albion would have gone top of the table had they seen off Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, but Neil Warnock’s team managed to hold them to a draw. Wolves beat Preston North End at Molineux to keep the pressure on but even now there are just ten points between Watford at the top and Southampton in thirteenth place. At the bottom of the table, Blackpool won an important match 1-0 at Bloomfield Road against Queens Park Rangers. You have to wonder whether this was what Flavio Briatore had in mind when he took over at Loftus Road earlier in the season. I wonder if Naomi Campbell made the trip north? Meanwhile, Cardiff City, who have slid down the table towards the relegation places at an amazing pace picked up a 2-2 draw at Hull City, but remain in twentieth place. Look on the bright side, though – at least if they do get relegated, they’ll have their derby match with Swansea City back for the first time in a few seasons. Unless, that is, Swansea get promoted at the same time.
Finally, the FA Cup. This year’s FA Cup has, on the whole, been a somewhat disappointing affair so far, and this wasn’t helped by the weekend’s events, which culminated in one of the worst Third Round draws that I can remember. Aston Villa against Manchester United again? Chelsea against QPR? Burnley against Arsenal? Luton Town or Nottingham Forest against Liverpool? You don’t have to be much of a mind reader to be able to imagine what sort of teams they’ll put out for those matches, though at least Luton, who are back in administration, at least have half a chance of a decent pay-day should they beat Forest. The draw was uniquely cruel to the few surviving non-league sides. Horsham put in an outstanding performance against Swansea City on Friday night and thoroughly deserved their 1-1 draw. What will their reward be, should they pull off a minor miracle and win their replay? A home match against Havant & Waterlooville of the Conference South. It’s a tough draw on both clubs. Conference club Burton Albion held Barnet to a draw – their “reward” for winning the replay would be an away match at Swindon Town. Chasetown managed an excellent draw at Port Vale and will be at home against Cardiff City if they get through. If there is one Premier League that I do think is done for, it’s got to be Middlesbrough. Still in the relegation places in the Premier League, they have got a (for them) horrible trip to Ashton Gate to play Bristol City. It’s probably for the best that you start writing that CV now, Gareth.