Bottoms up next as critical time looms

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remaining fixtures of the bottom four in The Championship

WITH delicious irony, the bottom four clubs in The Championship will undergo their own personal relegation battle on Saturday.

As those who have glanced ahead will know, it is bottom (Sheffield United) away to next-bottom (Preston) and third-bottom (Scunthorpe) at fourth-bottom (Cyrstal Palace).

The three teams to drop into League One will come from these four although Doncaster Rovers are not yet completely safe yet although nothing that a decent result wouldn’t sort out.

For Blades followers, the agony seems to get prolonged match by match.

Another home defeat on Tuesday - the 11th of the season - only deepened the gloom amongst their followers, the majority now having written off their chances of staying up.

Perhaps Preston followers feel the same way about their side. They’re only a point better off.

Scunthorpe, under new boss Alan Knill, are only a further point better off. Have they been written off too by their fans?

It’s the points gap up to Palace which is daunting for the bottom three. It dictates what must happen next for the troubled trio.

Scunthorpe go to Selhurst Park on Saturday knowing they MUST become the first side since Swansea on October 30 to win there. Lose and the gap would be nine points (and effectively 10 because of the massive goal difference advantage) with only four games left.

Sheffield United cannot get relegated this weekend but their followers have no doubt identified the following weekend, Easter, when the dreaded drop will be confirmed.

Unless, of course, the miracle happens. And for a side with one paltry point from their last 11 away matches, it would mean starting with a win at Preston who have started to pick up a few points recently under Phil Brown.

It is possible United could be relegated on Good Friday when Palace are at Doncaster but that would require, firstly, the right combination of results this Saturday involving all three clubs including a Doncaster win at Hull whilst United lost at Deepdale.

Where there’s hope, of course... but United could be relegated in their next home game against Bristol City on Easter Saturday. If not, it looks odds-on the daunting Easter Monday trip to Reading who this week notched their seventh straight league win with the 2-0 success at Scunthorpe.

The only hope for the Blades from now on? To win!

remaining fixtures of the bottom four in The Championship

SHEFFIELD UNITED

Apr 16: Preston (A)

Apr 23: Bristol City (H)

Apr 25: Reading (A)

Apr 30: Barnsley (H)

May 7: Swansea (A)

PRESTON

Apr 16: Sheffield Utd (H)

Apr 23; Millwall (A)

Apr 25: Cardiff (H)

Apr 30: Ipswich (A)

May 7: Watford (H)

SCUNTHORPE UTD

Apr 16: C Palace (A)

Apr 22: Coventry (A)

Apr 25: Millwall (H)

Apr 30: N Forest (A)

May 7: Portsmouth (H)

CRYSTAL PALACE

Apr 16: Scunthorpe (H)

Apr 22: Doncaster Rvrs (A)

Apr 25: Leeds (H)

Apr 30: Hull City (A)

May 7: N Forest (H)