This year’s relegation battle is becoming more intruiging by the day and, with a free day before previewing our tie with Cambridge on Tuesday, RDFC Fans takes a look at what’s going on at the foot of the table.
By Christmas it seemed already settled. Droylsden, Stafford, Northwich and Alty all occupied relegation places, with only Alty being given a realistic chance of survival. However, three months or so later, the scene is much different.
April sees Droylsden and Stafford still cemented to the bottom, but with Weymouth and administration bourne Halifax now accomponying them. With Alty and, incredibly, Northwich (a team who were at one stage 13 points off safety) now safe, and Farsley Celtic also thrown into the mix, RDFC Fans, takes a look at each team’s individual chances.
(Above: Rushden players warm-up head of a 4-1 victory over Droylsden earlier in the season)
DROYLSDEN (19 pts.)
Sitting in bottom position with just 19 pts. from 40 games does not herald a team who have enjoyed a mini-revival of late. The Bloods have recently held Rushden, Aldershot and Exeter to draws, and have beaten Halifax 2-0. The gap between themselves and relegation, is 18 points. To survive, Droylsden would have to win most, if not all, of their remaining games to stay up, and hope that those above them lose. Unfortunately, this just does not seem likely.
VERDICT: A return to BSN, after a solitary season in the sun.
(Above: Rushden face Stafford earlier in the season)
STAFFORD (19 pts.)
Of all the relegation situations, Stafford’s is the most pathetic. With just one win in 12 games, and their previously untheatened 2nd-from-bottom-perch now under attack from the revitalised Shots, Stafford have no chance of survival and, now it seems, no chance of surviving the merit of finishing bottom. A final day bout with Droylsden could settlthe wooden-spoon spectacle but, one imagines given both teams current form, it will be decided before then.
VERDICT: Relegation, and bottom-spot finish.
HALIFAX (34 pts.)
Each of the four times Rushden have faced Halifax this year (in September, twice in February, and in March), Halifax’s league position has been different. While their form has been poor this term, prior to their falling into administration relegation never looked likely. Now, however, with the mandatory 10-pt. penalty, Halifax are in the midst of the battle, 3 points from safety but with 3 games in hand of Alty.
Perhaps most worryingly for Halifax fans, in their last eight games Town have had a worse record than Alty, Weymouth, Farsley and Northwich. To pull themselves out of the mire Halifax will have to fight hard and earn difficult points against teams like Aldershot and Stevenage.
Halifax have been somewhat unfairly thrown into the mix. It is yet to be seen whether this will spur them on or cripple their BSP status.
WEYMOUTH (36 pts)
Weymouth currently occupy the final relegation place. With a friendly enough season run-in, and with two games in hand to make up the one point to safety, things do look bright for the team. However, after failing to beat Farsley (twice) and Northwich in recent games, both must-wins when at the foot of the table, I don’t feel confident about their chances of survival.
Playing Alty on the final day of the season could make all the difference. Unfortunately, I think they will fail to make the best of their easy-ish final games, and the final fixture may be immaterial.
Alty (37 pts.)
Alty find themselves in the uncomfortable position of being just one point off the bottom-4, and having played two games extra. Having achieved a few credible results recently, including draws with Kiddy and Torquay, Altrincham have dragged themselves out of the relegation places. They will need to continue their run of results, and hope that neither Weymouth or Halifax pick up too many points in the remaining games.
VERDICT: Having cheated relegation last season I think that Alty will finally go down this season. A karma soaked relegation.
NORTHWICH (37 pts.)
When Rushden travelled to the Victoria Stadium in November, the Vics were the last team in the division without a win; indeed, the team had gained just 3 points all season. Even after their shock defeat of Rushden, Northwich were still 11 points off of safety.
Now, the Vics have staged a miraculous escape and are sitting pretty in 19th place, two positions off the bottom-4. The Vics, incredibly, have not lost a game since early-February and, since then, have gained points off of Woking, Droylsden, Crawley, Weymouth, Farsley, York, Oxford, Histon and Stafford. Their form, in the last 8 games, is beaten only by Aldershot. It is an incredible turn of events that will be put to the test in the season’s run-in, in which Northwich face FGR, Exeter, Torquay, Stevenage and Cambridge.
VERDICT: An inconceivable survival story, on goal difference, on the last day.
Farsley (39 pts.)
Having already announced their intention of going full-time should they survive this season, Celtic have an extra incentive for battling it out for BSP status. A three point gap is a slight comfort to FC fans with just six games to go, and the gap could be extended when Droylsden visit Throstle Nest on Tuesday.
Being one of the few teams to have lost to Rushden twice this term, FC’s record is hardly enviable. Nonetheless, Celtic have shown ambition beyond this season, and have every chance of keeping their BSP perch.
VERDICT: Safety, although only just.
So, RDFC Fans predicts an incredible survival story for the Vics, heartbreak for Alty, and indifference for Stafford. Do you agree with our views? Comment is free.
Staying up? Northwich, Halifax, Farlsey.
Going down? Droylsden, Weymouth, Alty, Stafford.