It was a bad weekend forÃ¢ÂÂ¦
On Saturday, Southampton hoped to celebrate manager Mauricio PochettinoÃ¢ÂÂs birthday with a home win over QPR that would put clear air between themselves and the bottom three. An entertaining game, which Southampton controlled almost throughout, proved not to be the birthday present Pochettino wanted as the visitors grabbed three vital points with a 2-1 win.
That should have been a nice gift for the other birthday boy, Harry Redknapp. Although he was given an understandably hostile reception from the home fans, RedknappÃ¢ÂÂs fist-pumps of joy at the final whistle painted a picture of a very satisfied birthday boy. But Redknapp used his post-match interview to rage at the Ã¢ÂÂdisgustingÃ¢ÂÂ Daily Mirror for printing an article claiming that a recent Dubai training break had descended into a Ã¢ÂÂstag partyÃ¢ÂÂ.
So both men had a bitter birthday Ã¢ÂÂ unless of course they got home to a One Direction birthday cake.
With Sir Alex Ferguson widely expected to heavily rotate his Manchester United squad ahead of the crunch Champions League tussle with Real Madrid, SaturdayÃ¢ÂÂs home game against Norwich was all set to be Ryan GiggsÃ¢ÂÂ 1,000th senior appearance.
To that end, bloggers, columnists and proper journalists across the land were briefed to write glowing tributes, career retrospectives and, on The Guardian website, a list of every player to have ever been a teammate of the Welshman (a long day at work for somebody there).
Alas, all that work was wasted as Giggs wasn't even named in the squad for UnitedÃ¢ÂÂs 4-0 stroll, with Ferguson proving once again that he holds no truck with media considerations. The reason for GiggsÃ¢ÂÂ exclusion? It seems that Ferguson is a sentimental old fool after all, and wanted to save the special milestone for tomorrow night. HeÃ¢ÂÂs just a cuddly granddad at heart.
Since New Year, Middlesbrough have featured heavily in this column by making it their mission to undo all of their early good work. And here they are again, but this time in the guise of conquering heroes, flipping the finger to the form-book and giving league leaders Cardiff a good old beating.
OK, perhaps that verges on hyperbole, but BoroÃ¢ÂÂs form has been so wretched of late that the entirely unexpected 2-1 home victory will have been welcomed by players and fans alike with joy not seen since the return of Juninho. Goals from Kieron Dyer (no, really) and on-loan debutant Sammy Ameobi gave Middlesbrough a deserved first-half lead before an Aron Gunnarsson header pulled Cardiff back into the game midway through the second half.
With a goal difference decimated by poor results, Boro have work to do to cement a play-off place Ã¢ÂÂ but with their next four games all against sides in the bottom half, all may not be lost from a season that was sailing away down the Tees.
Bournemouth's South Coast bubble
Preston North End stunned League One a fortnight ago with a 2-0 victory over league leaders Bournemouth just days after losing their manager. It was a good day for Preston Ã¢ÂÂ who have since recorded creditable 1-1 draws with Swindon and MK Dons Ã¢ÂÂ and a very bad one for Bournemouth. But things have since gotten much worse.
In a league where just a handful of points separate seven promotion hopefuls, a couple of bad results can cause a terrifying slip down the table (the case in point being former runaway leaders Tranmere who, after six defeats in 10, find themselves clinging onto a play-off spot), and Bournemouth have had more than a couple of bad results.
SaturdayÃ¢ÂÂs 3-1 defeat at Leyton Orient was BournemouthÃ¢ÂÂs fourth loss in a row, with all but one of the defeats coming against sides below them in the table. Next weekend they face Doncaster, who now lead the pack, before taking on the only side in the division on a worse run: Stevenage.
Neither Up Nor Down
Without a win in 11 games, York City are on the edge of being drawn into the League Two relegation fight, and a 2-0 home defeat to League Cup finalists Bradford on Saturday saw the end of manager Gary Mills.
Mills was the man who guided York back into the Football League last season via the Conference play-offs but with the team struggling for goals, confidence and points, sentiment could not be a factor for the City board.
A statement released by the Minstermen said that a new manager should be in place in time for next SaturdayÃ¢ÂÂs game against Wimbledon. With the Dons having slipped to bottom place following their defeat to Cheltenham on Saturday, the fixture could be one to watch.
Manchester City, Middlesbrough, Tranmere and Bournemouth have all somewhat mapped out handy guidelines for anyone looking to derail their own championship challenge. ItÃ¢ÂÂs not recommended reading, and itÃ¢ÂÂs guaranteed to upset your supporters, but League Two Port Vale look to be the latest club to fade as the season enters its final weeks.
Reverses against Morecambe and Exeter and draws with Barnet and Wimbledon in recent weeks meant that Vale went into SaturdayÃ¢ÂÂs visit to Oxford two points behind leaders Gillingham.
Though OxfordÃ¢ÂÂs home record is quite poor, and Vale were without a defeat on the road since the autumn, the visitors managed only one shot on target in the entire game and were deservedly beaten 2-1.
Fans will hope that the defeat acts as a wake-up call ahead of tomorrowÃ¢ÂÂs visit of Bradford with a gang of teams just below them desperate to steal their promotion spot.
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