Tag Archives: dogfight

Paul Lambert calls on Aston Villa to battle themselves out of relegation trouble ahead of Reading Premier League clash

Lambert calls on Villa to battle themselves out of relegation trouble ahead of Reading clash

By
Neil Moxley

PUBLISHED:

19:06 GMT, 8 March 2013

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UPDATED:

19:06 GMT, 8 March 2013

Paul Lambert says Aston Villa will need to play with 'courage' at the Madjeski Stadium tomorrow as he attempts to drag others into the relegation dogfight.

Villa's boss says he does not sense that his team is playing under pressure and believes that a good result against Reading this weekend, followed by similar against bottom-placed QPR next Saturday will ease the club's lingering relegation issues.

War cry: Lambert believes a couple of wins for his Aston Villa side will pull others into a relegation dogfight

War cry: Lambert believes a couple of wins for his Aston Villa side will pull others into a relegation dogfight

Scrap: Villa are four points ahead of basement club QPR

Scrap: Villa are four points ahead of basement club QPR

Lambert believes two positive results will leave others looking 'edgy' as the Premier League campaign enters its final two months.

'There are loads of teams who will be edgy,' he said. 'It will take courage tomorrow. We will need it all over the pitch. To go and play football and not get caught up with the occasion.

'We certainly don't look like a team that is playing under pressure. We were well in the game against Manchester City – we never allowed them to play their normal fluid game.

In the game: Lambert said his team frustrated Manchester City on Monday, with Gabby Agbonlahor (above) and Christian Benteke (below)

In the game: Lambert said his team frustrated Manchester City on Monday, with Gabby Agbonlahor (above) and Christian Benteke (below)

Christian Benteke

'I would like to think that everyone has fight in them to win a game – it's okay to be aggressive.

'But we need to play the game and not the occasion.'

Lambert has a few injury issues with which to contend. There was some positive news regarding Ron Vlaar who has come through a calf problem and is set to start.

But Fabian Delph's suspension and an ankle injury to Karim El Ahmadi might mean a first start for Yacouba Sylla, signed during the January transfer window from Clermont for 2m.

Aston Villa: (4-4-2) Guzan, Lowton, Clark, Vlaar, Baker; N'Zogbia, Sylla, Westwood, Agbonlahor; Benteke, Weimann.

Suspended: Delph

Injured: El Ahmadi, (ankle) Bent, (foot) Dunne (groin and hip) Albrighton. (toe)

London Welsh 15 Wasps 34

London Welsh 15 Wasps 34: Super Simpson gets his side in contention for top four spot

PUBLISHED:

18:16 GMT, 29 December 2012

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UPDATED:

18:16 GMT, 29 December 2012

A brilliant try from scrum-half Joe Simpson was the highlight of London Wasps' bonus point victory as they did the Aviva Premiership double over London Welsh this season.

Simpson had an outstanding game as Wasps came from behind with tries from wing Elliot Daly, replacement prop Will Taylor and, right at the end, a fourth try for wing Tom Varndell.

Welsh fly-half Gordon Ross kicked all his side's points with five penalties, while Wasps fly-half Nicky Robinson landed three penalties, Daly booted one and replacement stand-off Stephen Jones kicked the only conversion of the match.

Crunch: Hugo Southwell of Wasps is tackled by Franck Montanella

Crunch: Hugo Southwell of Wasps is tackled by Franck Montanella

Wasps were looking for to repeat their win over the Exiles at Adams Park, Wycombe, back in October.

Welsh, meanwhile, needed to bounce back from a 13-6 loss at Worcester.

Although not in any immediate danger at the wrong end of the table after basement side Sale Sharks beat Worcester on Friday night, revenge on their near neighbours would be welcome for head coach Lyn Jones if only to steer them further away from the dogfight below them.

The first half-hour was dominated by the boot, both with positional kicks and shots at goal, as first Welsh took a six-point advantage and then saw it clawed back by their visitors.

There was not a great deal to choose between them up front but the most obvious mistake made by the field kickers, Welsh full-back Tom Arscott a particular offender – was booting the ball straight into touch and losing the territory that would have gained.

Wasps could have led handsomely at the interval had they taken the majority of their goal kicks. Daly missed a long-range effort for the visitors before an excellent scrum from the Exiles and an offside decision given their way saw Ross secure two successes.

On the move: Elliot Daly of Wasps (left) gets going as his side did the double over London Welsh

On the move: Elliot Daly of Wasps (left) gets going as his side did the double over London Welsh

But the lead did not last long as ex-Wales international Robinson levelled matters with two penalties but then sent two more penalties wide of the uprights from similar distances of 25 metres.

Ross, on the other hand, was deadly accurate at that short range. As Welsh frustrated their opponents and the front row of Franck Montanella, Neil Briggs and James Tideswell caused havoc for opponents Zak Taulafo, Rhys Thomas and Phil Swainston, Ross secured another two goals to take his side into a 12-6 interval lead.

But, even though the ball may have been greasy from the earlier rain, there was little excuse for a poor first-half with hardly any invention in attack towards either try-line.

Robinson reduced the arrears after the break to three points with his third penalty before a piece of individual magic took the match up a gear.

In what will surely be one of the contenders for try of the season, Simpson took the ball from a line-out thirty metres from the Welsh line, went through a gap at the back and embarked on a diagonal sprint across the pitch.

Rough and tumble: Ed Jackson of London Welsh is tackled by Joe Launchbury (right)

Rough and tumble: Ed Jackson of London Welsh is tackled by Joe Launchbury (right)

He looked to be going nowhere but somehow found a gap towards the line. The scrum-half ran through three tackles and got past desperate defence on the line to touch down and leave everyone in the crowd amazed.

Robinson failed with the conversion but that put Wasps two points to the good and, when Daly kicked a thumping penalty from fully 53 metres, it was the turning point of the contest.

Wasps were on top and they threatened to leave Welsh with nothing to show for their efforts when Daly sprinted down the right wing to just get in for the second try of the game .

Welsh would not lay down, and Ross' fifth penalty put them within sight of Wasps. But a final killer converted try from replacement Will Taylor saw Wasps home and dry.

Vardnell went over on 83 minutes to get the bonus point and put Wasps challenging for a top four place on Saturday night.

Roy Hodgson"s England must improve in World Cup dogfight

A dogfight! Hodgson happy to scrap for a place in Brazil, but England need to improve

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UPDATED:

22:23 GMT, 18 October 2012

Roy Hodgson accepts England are now ‘in a dogfight’ after another poor display left them scrapping for a place at the World Cup in Brazil with teams they should be beating fairly comfortably.

Rather worryingly, England’s manager appears to see this as a ‘good thing’.

‘There’s nothing wrong with that,’ he said after his side dropped two more qualification points here in Poland. ‘We know we can stay and take part in a dogfight. We took part in a few dogfights during the Euros and we certainly dug in against Poland and showed the right sort of character and determination.

Plenty to ponder: Roy Hodgson watched his side drop two more points in Warsaw

Plenty to ponder: Roy Hodgson watched his side drop two more points in Warsaw

'There will be some groups where one team shoots away and others where it’s going to be quite close to the end,’ Hodgson added. ‘I still think we will improve. If you’d said to me that we’d have eight points and be unbeaten, I’d have been happy to accept that.’

Really Eight points Eight points that will probably leave England two points adrift of Montenegro come the middle of next month Eight points that make the trip to Montenegro in March exactly the kind of ‘must-win game’ that Hodgson seems keen to avoid

Is it not time to remind the players of a responsibility that goes way beyond their new code of conduct To remind them how painful it would be to be 6,000 miles away when 32 teams are in a proper dogfight in South America in the summer of 2014

Heads up: Wayne Rooney put England in front against Poland

Heads up: Wayne Rooney put England in front against Poland

Hodgson did not appreciate the question. ‘They know that,’ he said. ‘It would be teaching my grandmother to suck eggs if I was to stand up in front of them and tell them that. They would regard that as slightly insulting.

‘The bottom line is that this is not an easy group. Poland and Ukraine were at the Euros, we know about Montenegro from the previous campaign. We’ve always been aware of that.

‘It would’ve been lovely to have got off to a flyer and be sitting here with 12 points. But you don’t get what you want by asking for it. You get what you want by playing for it. Ukraine played very well at Wembley and deserved their point. Poland played well and deserved their point. We’ve got to be disappointed because we couldn’t produce good enough performances in those games to get six points.

Blow: Kamil Glik scores Poland's equaliser on Wednesday

Blow: Kamil Glik scores Poland's equaliser on Wednesday

‘But sometimes you’ve got to fight for something, rather than just sail through, and that can help. If you look at the Euros, Russia and Holland sailed through but neither of them got out of their group, even though they’d qualified unbeaten.’

Point one — Poland and Ukraine were at the Euros because they were the tournament hosts.

Point two — sailing through qualification is always better than fighting to the death in a group of this quality. It means the team are playing well and it does not ‘help’ when they are performing as they have done against Ukraine and Poland.

But England do have six games in which to improve and two friendlies, against Sweden in November and Brazil in February, that Hodgson can put to good use before returning to the serious business of qualification.

Tough start: Hodgson's England face a fight to make the World Cup finals

Tough start: Hodgson's England face a fight to make the World Cup finals

So what does he need to do

Identify his best players and stick with them.

Hodgson was informed on Wednesday night that, in his 11 games in charge so far, he has used 35 players.

‘That’s a lot,’ he said. ‘But I think we’re quite close to bedding down a team.’

Danny boy: Welbeck in action for England in their World Cup qualifier against Poland

Danny boy: Welbeck in action for England in their World Cup qualifier against Poland

It is time to identify Danny Welbeck as the best option as partner to Wayne Rooney and stick with him, just as it is time to identify Andy Carroll as the best alternative and Jermain Defoe as an option should he need a goal when international defenders are tiring.

Hodgson is right to regard Rooney as a No 10, and he can only hope he does not have too many more games like Wednesday night’s. But it would help Rooney if he builds a partnership with one player, and an understanding with a small group of wingers. Tom Cleverley on the left is not something Hodgson should consider again.

Make the best use of Sweden next month.

Hodgson has suggested that he will take an experimental team to Stockholm, but he must use the game to work on his first team.Rooney has said he wants to play ‘all the games, if that’s possible’.

Hodgson does not seem convinced. ‘I don’t intend to go to Stockholm with a weak team,’ he said. 'But I’m also conscious that a lot of players, the Gerrards and the Rooneys and the Carricks, will be right in the middle of European football and I don’t know how much I can bash them.’

Introduce some younger players, by all means. Bring Arsenal right back Carl Jenkinson into the group. But give the first team 45 minutes, and with it, the opportunity to build a bit of confidence and understanding. It’s Brazil after that, and without the right preparation that could be brutal.

The defence needs work.

It was not an easy night for Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka in Warsaw and it was difficult for them against Ukraine, too.

Understandably, England are suffering in the absence of John Terry and Rio Ferdinand. And not just defensively. These are quality players who are comfortable on the ball, and it was the hesitancy that Lescott and Jagielka displayed on the ball that contributed to a stuttering performance from England.

The return of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling could improve things. It would at least create competition for places. But has Hodgson been too hasty in all but ending Ferdinand’s international career I would recall him for Sweden.

Disappointment: England's players after the match in Warsaw

Disappointment: England's players after the match in Warsaw

Jack Wilshere

PEARCE'S PLEDGE TO PLAY JACK

Manager Stuart Pearce is willing to give Jack Wilshere his first taste of tournament football as part of the England Under 21 squad for the European Championship in Israel next summer, saying: ‘It prepares these boys for the senior team.’

On a training pitch at London Colney, a 20-year-old midfielder is working tirelessly to return from a long-term injury. Hodgson does not want to put Jack Wilshere under any kind of pressure.

‘When he broke into the team before, he was a revelation,’ said the England manager. ‘But he’s been out of football for a long, long time. He’s a wonderful talent and, of course, it would be terrific if he could reproduce that form when he becomes involved again. But I’m also keen, like Arsene Wenger, to play down the expectations.’

And rightly so. But the return of Wilshere might just enable England to play with more fluency and finesse. A midfield with Gerrard and Wilshere is a far more balanced one, and Wilshere’s eye for a pass would certainly benefit Rooney.

/10/18/article-0-0B5AEB2500000578-99_634x436.jpg” width=”634″ height=”436″ alt=”The real deal: Wilshere in action for England against Wales last year” class=”blkBorder” />

The real deal: Wilshere in action for England against Wales last year

Alex McLeish slams Aston Villa squad

Pull your fingers out! McLeish slams Villa squad ahead of summer rebuilding

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UPDATED:

13:57 GMT, 7 May 2012

Aston Villa boss Alex McLeish has demanded a big improvement from his players next season after effectively making sure of avoiding relegation from the Barclays Premier League with one game remaining.

Villa's 1-1 home draw with Tottenham on Sunday lifted them three points clear of Bolton and there would have to be a 17-goal swing on the final day for the midlanders to go down.

McLeish can point to a shortage of experience, a lengthy injury list, blooding too many youngsters and having to drastically reduce the wage bill as mitigating circumstances.

Under pressure McLeish has endured a poor first season in charge at Villa Park

Under pressure McLeish has endured a poor first season in charge at Villa Park

But the former Birmingham boss will still expect better during 2012/13.

He said: 'We are assessing next season. It's all been ongoing. We've been assessing it every single week. We've got to start putting a plan of action in place.

'Listen, I have taken a lot of weight on my shoulders this season. I was happy to take pressure off the players.

'I am not going to again next season though. They had better get their finger out.

'We've had to be in a bit of a dogfight all season.

'Our early-season form wasn't too bad but, since the New Year, we've had problems to contend with injury-wise.

'To lose two of your most experienced players (Darren Bent and Richard Dunne) for such a long time will hurt any team.'

Young blood: McLeish has had to rely on the youth team to bolster his squad

Young blood: McLeish has had to rely on the youth team to bolster his squad

McLeish has struggled to win over the Villa fans and there were again calls for his sacking in some quarters after Sunday's clash with Harry Redknapp's side.

But he said: 'I think the Villa fans in general have been excellent. I met some nice people at the end-of-season dinner the other night.

'I felt the guys I met were genuine, they knew what I was working with. If I get that kind of understanding, then great.'

McLeish added: 'I would certainly look to be strengthening the squad for next season.

'This season we have taken the plunge into the reduction of wages. It's hopefully helped the finances a little bit.

'It has put us through the mill, no doubt about it, but we're planning and we can rise. At clubs I've worked with before, with proper planning, we've done well.

Protests: Villa fans let their feeling be known on Sunday

Protests: Villa fans let their feeling be known on Sunday

Protests: Villa fans let their feeling be known on Sunday

'If I can go through that this season, I will have to have a crack at the big time and try and enhance the quality of the squad.

'At the end of the day, it's down to the players.'

McLeish received backing from Redknapp who said: 'Alex has had a hard season here. The league is getting tougher, everyone is having a go.

'They need to have a bit of a go next year to try and get back to where they were to give Alex a chance otherwise it's a hard.

'Villa keep producing good young players and have got a fantastic youth set-up.

'But Alex needs one or two players to strengthen his team.'

Former Villa midfielder Paul Merson claimed: 'If Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho or Arsene Wenger were in charge, Villa would still be where they are.'

Paul Lambert blasts Aston Villa speculation

Norwich boss Lambert blasts 'unfair' speculation linking him to Villa hotseat

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UPDATED:

14:49 GMT, 27 April 2012

Norwich manager Paul Lambert has labelled speculation linking him a summer move to Aston Villa as 'extremely unfair'.

The pressure is increasing on Villa boss Alex McLeish as the Midlands club struggle to stay clear of the relegation dogfight, having been beaten 2-1 at home draw by Bolton in midweek.

/04/27/article-0-12979861000005DC-890_468x315.jpg” width=”468″ height=”315″ alt=”Impressive first season: Paul Lambert has kept Norwich in the Premier League in their first season” class=”blkBorder” />

Solid start: Lambert has kept Norwich in the Premier League in their first season

The former Celtic midfielder, 42,
accepts transfer rumours about players and even managers is all part and
parcel of the game, but insists reports suggesting he was being lined
up by Villa owner Randy Lerner as a summer replacement for McLeish were
unwelcome.

'Speculation about players is
something you can never do anything about. It happens with managers as
well and you can never stop that,' the Norwich manager told a press
conference.

'If my players get linked with other teams, there is not a thing I can do about that. It is the same situation about myself.

'However, it is extremely unfair with
me being linked with Aston Villa when they have got a really good
manager up there who is doing everything he can to stay in the league.

'It is an unfair comment for me to say anything on that.'

Liverpool may not be challenging for
the championship, but they have already brought the Carling Cup back to
Anfield and next weekend have another Wembley date as they aim to beat
Champions League finalists Chelsea to win the FA Cup.

Seven defeats in 10 Premier League
games – including a 1-0 home reverse to West Brom last time out – have
left the Reds well off the pace in the race for a top-four finish.

Looking for a change: Alex McLeish has struggled at Villa this season

Looking for a change: Alex McLeish has struggled at Villa this season

Lambert, though, is not expecting
anything other than another stern test of how far his own squad have
come since rising up through succesive promotions from npower League
One.

'It is more highlighted because of the club they are,' said the former Colchester boss.

'I don't need to lift the players because the game itself will lift them.

'We will certainly have to lift it because I think Liverpool are a top side.

'Some of the players they have got
are outstanding. The history and the tradition they have got is such
that we have to step it up.'

Lambert added: 'Liverpool have won
the Carling Cup, they are in the final of the FA Cup. The fan base is
huge, Kenny (Dalglish) is a massive presence and they are still a
fantastic side. I don't think anybody should underestimate that.

'Their performances have been good,
but the results have gone against them, which happens, so I am under no
illusions of how hard it is going to be. 'We will have to play to our
max.'

Norwich have struggled for
consistency in recent weeks, winning at Tottenham on Easter Monday only
to then be thumped 6-1 at home by title-chasing Manchester City and
losing 2-0 at relegation battlers Blackburn last time out. Lambert, though, remains positive.

He said: 'The Manchester City match
was perhaps a game too far because we had played Everton and then on the
Monday after we played Tottenham. Maybe the three games took their
toll.

'The energy was there against
Blackburn. I just thought we never got up to the standard we had set.
“We have to bounce back and I am sure we will.'

Jez Moxey: Appointing Terry Connor at Wolves was not a mistake

Moxey: Handing Connor reins at Wolves was NOT a mistake… despite five defeats in a row

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UPDATED:

15:36 GMT, 2 April 2012

Wolves chief executive Jez Moxey has defiantly stood by the club's decision to appoint Terry Connor as manager.

Connor has so far presided over six games following the sacking of Mick McCarthy, and after a draw in the first of those, Wolves have since lost five in a row.

The Molineux club now stand on the brink of relegation as they are six points adrift of safety with just 21 available.

Thumbs up: Connor has received the backing from chief executive Moxey

Thumbs up: Connor has received the backing from chief executive Moxey

Asked if handing Connor the reins was the correct move, Moxey said:

'Yes, and we still support him. We were losing games, and we're continuing to lose, but we made our decision and we're sticking to it.

'I believe, in the last two games against Norwich and Bolton, the team is performing better than before.'

Despite Wolves' dire position – they have also lost a club record seven successive league games at home – there is a bigger picture that cannot be overlooked.

Even with relegation looming, Moxey is adamant there are building blocks being put in place to guarantee the club's future.

'We don't want to be giving post mortems out yet,' Moxey told the Express & Star.

Dogfight: Wolves were well beaten in the relegation clash with Bolton

Dogfight: Wolves were well beaten in the relegation clash with Bolton

'We're confident that regardless of what happens this season, this club will prosper.

'We have the foundations in place for success and the huge disappointment of this season will not create a situation where we are knocked off course from the medium to long-term objectives of the club.

'Those objectives are to establish this club in the Premier League by continuing to invest money in new players by being a club that develops its own players through the academy to the first team.

'We also want to provide supporters with better facilities in a stadium with stands close to the pitch that gives us a competitive edge, while ensuring we comply with UEFA financial fair play rules and run the club on a sound footing.

'This is a long-term project and we will not be thwarted from our aims. We have the desire to win every game on a week-to-week basis, but nothing will knock us off our belief to deliver success in the medium to long-term.

'And if we look back at the last five to six years, this club has progressed enormously.

'We have the determination to give fans what they want on and off the field.'

Terry Connor is not to blame for Wolves" plight, says Stephen Ward

Connor is not to blame for Wolves' plight, the players need to save club from relegation, says Ward

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UPDATED:

16:00 GMT, 26 March 2012

Stephen Ward has cleared interim manager Terry Connor of blame as Wolves stare down the barrel of a gruelling relegation dogfight.

After a run of four months without a home win and just one success in 2012, Wolves are bottom and four points shy of safety with eight games left.

Defender Ward, though, does not hold Connor, who replaced Mick McCarthy last month, responsible.

Mauled: Wolves players are to blame for their predicament, says Ward

Mauled: Wolves players are to blame for their predicament, says Ward

'It's nothing to do with TC why we are in this position,' he said. 'We weren't exactly firing on all cylinders before he was appointed, but, if you ask all the boys, they would all say TC has been the right man.

'I don't think anyone could have done better. When the decision was made, we all backed it straight away.

'Anyone else coming in would have taken a couple of weeks to have a look at the boys to get to know us, find out his best team and who he wanted and who he didn't.

'At least TC knows us inside out and it's nothing to do with TC or the staff, it's the players.'

Ward claims Connor's tactics and approach to the job could not have been better.

He added: 'TC has done fantastically well with us since he's been in the job, from his tactics to his training to keeping the lads fresh.

Dogfight: Wolves are fighting for their Premier League lives

Dogfight: Wolves are fighting for their Premier League lives

'That is important at this stage of the season because there's been a lot of football played and a lot of tired legs.

'He's kept us all going but the boys have to hold our hands up and say we've not been good enough this season.

'It's down to us and we've got to hold our hands up.'

Ward is adamant the Wolves players will not throw in the towel, even though some bookmakers are now making them 1-10 to be relegated.

He said: 'We'll still give 100 per cent to the end and fight like we always do.

'We know that and we've got to be better and for the last eight games, if we can perform like we did on Saturday at Norwich, then we'll give ourselves a fighting chance.

'It's important that the fans realise we're as disappointed as they are. We do feel we're letting them down but we're Wolverhampton Wanderers and once we pull that shirt on, we give it everything.'

'We still believe we can stay in this league. One result could still change everything.'

Gary Neville: Only two from five can escape, and I fear for my neighbours

Only two from five can escape, and I fear for my neighbours

PUBLISHED:

00:00 GMT, 11 March 2012

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UPDATED:

00:00 GMT, 11 March 2012

In my 20 years in football, I was
fortunate enough never to have experienced relegation. And while there
is the pressure of expectations at the top of the league, at the bottom
it comes in fear and trepidation, which is almost worse.

Having spoken to lads who have moved
to or been out on loan at clubs that are struggling, and having played
against teams in the dogfight, you can sense at this time of year the
joy of playing, the love of football, the freedom of expression that
comes in players’ best moments has been crushed by the threat of
relegation.

The relegation rivals: In detail

Going into this weekend’s games, the
relegation fight was as tight as it has been for 18 years, which means
all those feelings will be magnified in the five teams affected: QPR,
Blackburn, Wolves, Bolton and Wigan.

And living in Bolton, 12 miles from
Blackburn and 11 miles from Wigan, I’m surrounded by fans fretting over
relegation. I fear for the Lancastrian clubs around me. Despite
Bolton’s and Blackburn’s wins, my feeling is they have the
biggest struggles ahead of them.

Drama: Clint Hill nods home against Bolton... only to see the effort wrongly disallowed

Drama: Clint Hill nods home against Bolton… only to see the effort wrongly disallowed

When I look at teams fighting
relegation, I always feel the determining factors are: How good are the
forwards and can they score the necessary goals to lift the team out of
trouble How intimidating is the atmosphere at their home ground How
much quality do the players have How much experience does the manager
and team have in fighting relegation And, lastly, what is their run in
like

You can see from the panel how I’ve
rated the bottom five and when I look at Bolton, Blackburn and Wigan in
those opening three criteria, I find them lacking in comparison to
Wolves and QPR. Blackburn have Yakubu, who has been excellent for them
with 14 goals, but their next highest scorer in the league is Junior Hoilett with five, after his two vital goals.

Priceless: Junior Hoilett hits his second to give Blackburn a vital victory

Priceless: Junior Hoilett hits his second to give Blackburn a vital victory

Bolton’s top scorer, Ivan Klasnic, is
on eight goals and, before Saturday, last scored in the league on
December 10. Wigan are the lowest-scoring team in England. /03/10/article-0-121BAEA1000005DC-79_634x316.jpg” width=”634″ height=”316″ alt=”Firepower: Ivan Klasnic beats Paddy Kenny to edge Bolton past QPR” class=”blkBorder” />

Firepower: Ivan Klasnic beats Paddy Kenny to edge Bolton past QPR

Contrast QPR’s approach with that of Swansea and Norwich, who came up with them. Brendan Rodgers said at the start of the season the bookies had better odds on Elvis being found than Swansea staying up and yet his team and Paul Lambert’s are close to securing safety in March. Those two should be joint manager of the year for what they have achieved.

Equally, the owners of those clubs have kept the community feeling there and built sensibly on the squad they had. And they haven’t built up enormous debts, so that they wouldn’t be in danger if they went down. I like the way the two clubs do business. (Maybe there are a few owners among the bottom five who could learn something from their model).

Wolves did make a mistake in sacking Mick McCarthy, who has invaluable experience of these campaigns. They have replaced him with a popular man in Terry Connor, a coach whom the players clearly want to play for and who has sat alongside McCarthy during these kinds of battles.

In at the sharp end: Terry Connor has been tasked with keeping Wolves up

In at the sharp end: Terry Connor has been tasked with keeping Wolves up

Despite a poor home record this season and yesterday’s defeat, Molineux is a difficult ground to go to. Last season, on the final day, Wolves showed they had spirit with their second-half comeback against Blackburn. It looked like they needed two goals to stay up and they scored them. As it turned out, Birmingham lost in the last minute and would have been relegated anyway. But they weren’t to know that. And Wigan, who also secured their survival on the last day, were just as strong under pressure. Those experiences will be important in the run-in.

But otherwise the only positive about Wigan’s season is, that having played so badly, they are in still in touch. In that respect, Roberto Martinez will be happier than the managers around him.For Blackburn, the negative atmosphere around Steve Kean at the club won’t help. And though Bolton have a reasonable run-in, their lack of experience in these situations could cost them.

In touch: Despite not playing to their potential, bottom of the table Wigan are just three points from safety

In touch: Despite not playing to their potential, bottom of the table Wigan are just three points from safety

Every relegation battle throws up some extraordinary results. There will be a team among those five that string together three or four wins. As a Lancastrian I hope I’m wrong. But as it stands, I fear for Bolton, Blackburn and Wigan.

Relegation special – guide to the run-in for QPR, Blackburn, Bolton, Wolves and Wigan

So, who's going to survive On the eve of a crunch weekend in the relegation dogfight, Sportsmail assesses who's staying alive

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UPDATED:

23:01 GMT, 8 March 2012

The Barclays Premier League relegation scrap hots up this Saturday with two big clashes.

Bolton face Queens Park Rangers at the Reebok Stadium, while Blackburn travel to Molineux to take on Wolves.

This could be the tightest relegation battle ever, with five teams separated by just two points with 11 games to go.

Here, Sportsmail assesses the run-in and predicts which clubs will survive – and which clubs are heading for the Championship…

Chicken Blackburn fans have been protesting against the board as their club fight to stay up

Chicken Blackburn fans have been protesting against the board as their club fight to stay up

QPR (CURRENTLY 16TH)

10/3: Bolton (A) – D
21/3: Liverpool (H) – W
24/3: Sunderland (A) – L
31/3: Arsenal (H) – L
8/4: Man United (A) – L
11/4: Swansea City (H) – W
14/4: West Brom (A) – W
21/4: Tottenham (H) – D
29/4: Chelsea (A) – L
6/5: Stoke (H) – W
13/5: Man City (A) – L

Predicted points total: 36

BLACKBURN (17TH)

10/3: Wolves (A) – D
20/3: Sunderland (H) – W
24/3: Bolton (A) – L
2/4: Man United (H) – L
7/4: West Brom (A) – D
10/4: Liverpool (H) – W
14/4: Swansea (A) – L
21/4L Norwich (H) – W
29/4: Tottenham (A) – L
6/5: Wigan (H) – W
13/5: Chelsea (A) – L

Predicted points total: 36

WOLVES (18TH)

10/3: Blackburn (H) – D
18/3 Man United (H) – L
24/3: Norwich (A) – L
31/3: Bolton (H) – W
7/4: Stoke (A) – D
11/4: Arsenal (H) – L
14/4: Sunderland (A) – D
22/4: Man City (A) – L
28/4: Swansea (A) – D
6/5: Everton (H) – W
13/5: Wigan (A) – L

Predicted points total: 32


BOLTON (19TH)

10/3: QPR (H) – D
20/3: Aston Villa (A) – L
24/3: Blackburn (H) – W
31/3: Wolves (A) – L
7/4: Fulham (H) – W
9/4: Newcastle (A) – L
15/4: Tottenham (H) – D
21/4: Swansea (H) – D
28/4: Sunderland (A) – L
6/5: West Brom (H) – W
13/5: Stoke (A) – D

Predicted points total: 33

WIGAN (20TH)

11/3: Norwich (A) – L
17/3: West Brom (H) – W
24/3: Liverpool (A) – L
31/3: Stoke (H) – W
7/4: Chelsea (A) – L
11/4: Man United (H) – L
14/4: Arsenal (A) – L
21/4: Fulham (A) – L
28/4: Newcastle (H) – W
6/5: Blackburn (A) – L
13/5: Wolves (H) – W

Predicted points total: 32

AS THEY STAND…

QPR – 22pts
Blackburn – 22
Wolves – 22
Bolton – 20
Wigan – 20

PREDICTED FINISH…

QPR – 36pts
Blackburn – 36
Bolton – 33
Wolves – 32
Wigan – 32

SIX KEY CLASHES…

Bolton v QPR – March 10

Bolton face QPR at the Reebok Stadium with both sides desperate for a win – or to avoid defeat. The Trotters have only won two home games this season, while QPR have only won twice away from Loftus Road.

Wolves v Blackburn – March 10

Blackburn travel to Molineux with fond memories of last season’s relegation escape in this fixture on the last day. Goals from Jason Roberts, Brett Emerton and Junior Hoilett kept Rovers in the Premier League.

Bolton v Blackburn – March 24

Blackburn will looking to avenge defeat from this season’s reverse fixture. Mark Davies and Nigel Reo-Coker heaped the pressure on Rovers boss Steve Kean, who kept his job against all the odds.

Wolves v Bolton – March 31

Bolton will look to match their triumph from last season – a 3-2 win thanks to an own goal, Stuart Holden and Johan Elmander. The Trotters have won three of the last five meetings between the sides.

Blackburn v Wigan – May 6

Blackburn have a good record in this fixture, winning five of the last six times at Ewood Park. The last being a 2-1 win in 2010.

Wigan v Wolves – May 13

This could be a nerve-wracking affair for both sets of supporters on the final day. Wigan stayed up TWICE before on the final day of the Premier League season, so have experience of handling the huge pressure.

QPR sack Neil Warnock

Warnock axed! QPR line up Hughes after calling time on under-fire boss

Neil Warnock has been sacked as Queens Park Rangers boss.

The 63-year-old was under mounting pressure to halt the decline at Loftus Road as fears grow over being sucked into the relegation dogfight.

Former Fulham and Manchester City manager Mark Hughes is the early frontrunner to take over.

Under pressure: Neil Warnock is struggling to revive QPR

Under pressure: Neil Warnock is struggling to revive QPR

Owner Tony Fernandes said on his Twitter account on Sunday night: 'Very very hard decision. I will continue to be open and as transparent as I can. The board and myself had to put the club first and the future.'

Warnock said: 'Obviously I'm very disappointed, but having achieved so much, I leave the club with a great sense of pride.

'I have enjoyed my time here more than anywhere else and the QPR fans have been brilliant with me – they deserve success.

'My biggest regret is that the takeover didn't happen earlier, because that would have given me the opportunity to bring in the targets I'd pinpointed all last summer and probably given us a better chance to succeed in the Premier League.

'The board at QPR are hugely ambitious and I wish them every success for the future.

'I've been involved in the game a long time and I will be spending the immediate future with my family and friends before deciding my next career move.'

Difficult time: QPR have had a tough few weeks and have slipped to fourth bottom of the Premier League

Difficult time: QPR have had a tough few weeks and have slipped to fourth bottom of the Premier League

Chairman Fernandes added in the statement: 'This decision has been made in the best interests of the club and I can assure everyone that this is not a decision that was made lightly.

'Sadly, our recent run of poor form has seen us slip alarmingly down the table and the board felt it was the right time to make a change.

'Neil has acted with honesty, professionalism and integrity throughout his time at the club, and I would personally like to thank him for his significant contribution to QPR over the last 22 months.

'I genuinely wish him all the very best for the future and he will always be welcome back at Loftus Road.'

Next in line Mark Hughes is believed to be the front runner for the job at QPR

Next in line Mark Hughes is believed to be the front runner for the job at QPR

Vice-Chairman Amit Bhatia added: 'It is with a very heavy heart that we make this announcement. I played a key role in bringing Neil to Loftus Road and consider him to be a close personal friend and a great professional.

'I would like to place on the record my thanks to him for transforming us from a Championship club to a Premier League club.

'As a club we have gained enormously from Neil's wisdom, experience and leadership. He has always performed his managerial duties to the very highest of standards.

'I wish Neil every success going forward and he will always be welcome at QPR. I now look forward to the future and the rest of the season as we work towards stabilising our position in the Premier League.'

QPR sit just one point above the drop
zone after taking just 17 points from their opening 20 Barclays Premier
League matches. They have lost six and drawn two of their last eight
league matches.

Loan star: Federico Macheda is the only arrival so far in January

Loan star: Federico Macheda is the only arrival so far in January

Owner Tony Fernandes is keen to invest news players during the transfer window and earlier this week denied that Warnock was on his way out.

But the manager's position was increasingly unstable as the club faced some critical decisions.

Fernandes was worried over the quality of the signings made towards the end of the summer transfer window.

On Twitter last week, Fernandes wrote: 'Guys at
qpr. There is no freeze of cash. We are disappointed where we are in the
league. This is a journey not a sprint. Along the way we learn. But we
continue to develop and along the way hard decisions need to be made.
But we never stop moving. Never.

'It’s important to note that no one’s job is safe. Results are key. If I don’t deliver I would be the first to step down as chairman. We owe it to the fans. Good money is paid and results are key.'

Decision time: Owner Tony Fernandes opted to sack Warnock to try and help QPR climb up the table

Decision time: Owner Tony Fernandes opted to sack Warnock to try and help QPR climb up the table

After Saturday's FA Cup draw at League One side MK Dons, he tweeted: 'Driving back to London. Lots to think about.'

QPR have already signed Federico Macheda on loan from Manchester United, and have lined up bids for Blackburn defender Chris Samba, Fulham striker Andy Johnson, Manchester Cit centre-back Nedum Onuoha and Spurs’ Jermain Defoe.

Former Fulham boss Hughes is the believed to be in the frame to take over at Loftus Road.

Hughes has been out of work since he walked out on Fulham in the summer and would be available to take over straight away and QPR would not have to pay any compensation.

Hughes has plenty of Premier League experience with Blackburn, Manchester City and Fulham, and has stated his desire in the past to work for an ambitious club.