Bad Weekend for: Lions, Magpies, Seagulls and Tykes
It was a Bad Weekend for...
Millwall Football Club
Oh, Millwall. They were never going to be the darlings of the domestic cups; despite the Lions' run to the FA Cup semi-final, the public had already been besotted with League Cup heroes Bradford and Liverpool's FA Cup conquerors Oldham. But, still.
Their fans famously sing that no one likes them and they donÃ¢ÂÂt care, but it's hard to believe that the vast majority of Millwall fans are indifferent to the effect on their club's public image when a global audience of millions saw supporters attacking each other, then stewards and police, during their 2-0 defeat to Wigan at Wembley.
Can anyone truly say that they donÃ¢ÂÂt care that the defining image of the game Ã¢ÂÂ and possibly this year's FA Cup Ã¢ÂÂ is that of a young Millwall fan, crying her eyes out at the violence going on around her?
No, surely the vast majority of Millwall fans will be sick to their stomachs that their club, who have done so much in the past 20 or so years to restore their reputation, once again face the ire and disgust of the footballing public.
The club were quick to distance themselves from the violence Ã¢ÂÂ Ã¢ÂÂOur position is clear. Anyone associated with our club found guilty of violent behaviour will be banned indefinitely from Millwall matches in addition to any punishment they receive from the authoritiesÃ¢ÂÂ Ã¢ÂÂ there is no doubt that the weekend of their FA Cup exit was a bad one in more ways than one.
Newcastle Ã¢ÂÂ and Sunderland's relegation rivals
Management's very easy when you think about it. Rock up to a club, shout at the players in a mixture of English and Italian and watch the points come rolling in. Very simple.
Perhaps thereÃ¢ÂÂs more to it than that, but thereÃ¢ÂÂs no doubting that Paolo Di Canio has had an effect at Sunderland. The second-most "winningest" manager in England over the last 18 months has had exactly the galvanising influence that Black Cats owner Ellis Short hoped, leading Chelsea at half-time at Stamford Bridge in his first game before masterminding yesterdayÃ¢ÂÂs stunning 3-0 victory in the Tyne-Wear derby.
ItÃ¢ÂÂs 13 years since Sunderland won at St. JamesÃ¢ÂÂ Park and although only a few points separated the sides, Newcastle's home record has been the difference between a poor season and a rotten season Ã¢ÂÂ albeit a better one than their visitors, who started the day separated from the relegation zone only on goal difference.
But Sunderland, swashbuckling, running and counter-attacking as though their survival depended on it, ransacked the Toon with three tremendous goals to leave the home side stunned Ã¢ÂÂ and the visitors vaulting above Villa, who had been held at home by Fulham, and the increasingly worried Stoke City, outclassed by Manchester United.
Of course, things change quickly in football and if Sunderland lose at home to Everton this coming weekend, the jury will be back out for Di Canio. But right now, after a derby win, you wonÃ¢ÂÂt find many Sunderland fans grumbling about the controversial ItalianÃ¢ÂÂs appointment.
High hopes in the lower regions of the Championship
The current Championship bottom three reads Barnsley, Wolves and Bristol City. Although City have long seemed doomed, recent form had given succour to the other two: Wolves had won three on the bounce and pulled themselves up to 18th, while Barnsley had suffered just one defeat in seven.
But this weekend has put a stop to all that optimism as both sides suffered miserable afternoons. The three teams that now sit just above the drop zone all won: Peterborough surprised Watford, Blackburn eased past DerbyÃ¢ÂÂ¦ and Huddersfield won 3-1 at Wolves, who lost two goals and sent-off midfielder Jamie O'Hara within a suicidal three-minute spell.
Meanwhile Barnsley had a much more drawn-out trauma against Charlton, who are putting together a late play-off charge. The Tykes can point to two red cards as part-cause of their 6-0 home defeat, but they were 4-0 down at the time of the first red. The truth is that Charlton dominated for the entire game, scoring twice before half time and then at will thereafter.
Both Barnsley and Wolves have four games to save their skin; with five of those eight games coming against teams with genuine promotion hopes, you have to fear for both of them.
Bury's survival hopes
Last weekend, League Two leaders Gillingham become the first Football League side to win promotion this season. This weekend, Bury replaced them, becoming the Football League's first relegated side by dropping from League One.
Like most relegations, this had been on the cards for weeks before the home defeat to Oldham confirmed their fate. Oldham needed the three points to put themselves beyond BuryÃ¢ÂÂs reach (although they're by no means safe from the drop) and was the latest wretched result in a wretched season for the Shakers, racked by financial crisis and desperate for a saviour.
It was a bad day too for the Oldham ticketing department as hundreds of ticketless fans were left locked out of Gigg Lane despite the LaticsÃ¢ÂÂ reassurances that turnstile entry would be available on the day.
Commiserations then to Bury, who can still play a part in the relegation skirmish when they take on fourth-bottom Scunthorpe at home tomorrow night.
You know youÃ¢ÂÂve had a bad day when your season gets worse without you kicking a ball. ThatÃ¢ÂÂs what happened to poor old Torquay on Saturday; thanks to a waterlogged pitch, the Devon side couldnÃ¢ÂÂt play their highly-anticipated relegation scrap with Barnet (the game has now been rearranged for tomorrow). And while the players rested, their rivals set about making the most of the break.
York travelled to high-flying Northampton sitting second from bottom of the Football League and knowing that, with an inferior goal difference to most around them, the outlook was bleak. However, they will have also known that with Torquay out of action, a point would take them out of the relegation places and strike a huge psychological blow to their rivals.
With this in mind, York played with a freedom and verve belying their lowly position, out-passing, out-shooting and out-scoring opponents who had won 10 in a row at home. All of which meant that Torquay slipped into the bottom two, without even playing.
So it's all eyes on Plainmoor tomorrow night, when a Torquay win would make things very interesting; indeed, if it were matched with a home victory for bottom-placed Aldershot against midtable Southend, and a Plymouth loss at playoff-chasing Chesterfield, it would leave the entire bottom six separated by a single point with two games to go.