TO slightly vary a famous footballing saying: “They thought it was all over.”
Yes, Sheffield United were going to be relegated sometime over the Easter weekend. Well, here they are, still alive - if only just!
Their fate rests not only in their own hands but also depends on the results of the two other clubs they can catch, Crystal Palace and Doncaster Rovers, who are both six points ahead.
The other downside is United’s goal difference being decidedly inferior. United’s is -21 whilst Doncaster’s is -13 and Palace’s -12.
So should the three finish on the same points there has to be a nine goal ‘swing’ in United’s favour for them to survive. But first of all, the drop scenario . . .
If United don’t beat Barnsley at Bramall Lane on Saturday, they are relegated.
If Doncaster avoid defeat at home to Leicester City and Palace avoid defeat at Hull, then United are down.
If United win and both or either of the other two lose, then it goes to the final day.
It is the slimmest of slim possibilities but let’s look at the sort of (improbable) scenario that might just enable United to close the goal difference gap.
United must now think they can do most things after Monday’s remarkable win at Reading. At 2-0 down against a side who have been outstanding recently, it looked hopeless.
Pulling one back barely hinted at a shock, but when Lee Williamson equalised right on half-time, United’s hopes were transformed and they could suddenly believe. If they can win that one, why not pull off the Great Escape?
Barnsley haven’t got the greatest of away records so for purposes of being positive, let’s say United win it 2-0.
So, off to Swansea for the final game. The Welsh club are already in the Play-offs, Key players are rested (including Ian Britton!), their performance is down a notch and a battling United get in front and hang on for a 1-0 win.
Palace go to Hull on Saturday. Palace have been rubbish away all season whilst Hull have been among the most improved teams in the second half of the season.
Hull get in front, Palace then have to come out and the Tigers enjoy the extra space and go on a last-home-game goal spree. They win 4-0.
On the final day, Palace are at home to Forest who still need three points for the Play-offs. They go one up, Palace push forward frantically late on, get caught on the break and lose 2-0.
They end on the same points as United and the goal difference is the same - minus 18. But the Blades stay up because they have scored more goals than Palace. Simple eh?
Donny? Safe. They got a point against Leicester!
Chesterfield will be League Two champions if they win at Torquay tomorrow and Bury fail to win at home to Wycombe on Saturday.
In the Play-offs, Rotherham must win their final two games and Stevenage or Gillingham must lose theirs - then it’s down to goal difference. Torquay are also involved.