Sheffield Wednesday boss Brian Laws was today predicting a nerve-jangling race to the wire after the Owls once again were forced to settle for no more than a point in their home clash with Plymouth Argyle last night.
Wednesday's survival campaign ends, of course, with a home clash with Norwich by when everyone of a yellow and green persuasion will be fervently hoping that their own situation will have been sorted – that the back-to-back home games against West Bromwich Albion and Queen's Park Rangers will have produced the three last points that the Norfolk side need to survive.
City boss Glenn Roeder, speaking after Sunday's miserable 2-1 derby defeat at Portman Road, was setting his sights rather higher – to finish with 61 points on the board, let alone the current 52. Wednesday, for the record, are now three points below on 49. Albeit now without a game in hand.
“We've got nine points to play for and we want to try and achieve all nine points,” said Roeder, with this weekend's home clash with title-chasing West Bromwich Albion next on the agenda.
The Baggies have, however, other business to attend to before that – a right royal Black Country scrap with Wolves tonight. Victory and Tony Mowbray's men will head to Carrow Road on Saturday with their eyes firmly on the big prize; defeat and Ipswich's play-off hopes will once again be back in the spotlight as they prepare for their own trip to Molineux this weekend.
It is, indeed, the business end of the season.
“We've got to be very positive and it's the sort of game next week against West Brom that's often brought the best out in us this year – so we're looking forward to it.
“And against what I think is the best footballing side in the Championship,” added Roeder, who has long backed the Baggies to come out smiling in the end.
“I think they have the most quality – that's for sure.”
Back at Hillsborough and Laws will be desperately hoping that that quality shines through at Carrow Road on Saturday and keeps the Canaries there or thereabouts for the last two weeks of the season.
Before the pair meet, Wednesday have two huge away games to go – their trip to the Bloomfield Road home of Blackpool this weekend being followed by the mother of all six-pointers away at Leicester City the week after.
Psychologically and The Owls could have been all but down last night after Peter Halmosi's second minute free-kick gave Plymouth a shock early lead.
It wasn't until nine minutes before the end that 20-year-old Tommy Spurr gave Hillsborough hope with his 81st minute leveller. The point was enough to send Leicester back into the bottom three. They travel to in-form Barnsley on Saturday.
“They way this season has gone, it's going to go right to the wire,” Laws told The Sheffield Star after last night's potentially priceless point. Now, he said, is not the time for faint hearts as he echoed Roeder's 'Be positive…' line.
“We have to be confident in ourselves. Certainly the players have a lot of belief in their ability to do it,” said Laws. “It's all about keeping your nerve. Everybody's going to be nervous, down at the bottom.”
Wednesday can't win a game to save their life.
“We're having too many draws. But we're confident and in good form,” said Laws, with last night's stalemate being Wednesday's seventh straight draw. Inch by inch, point by point they claw away from the bottom. They, you suspect, will certainly still need something come the first Sunday in May.
“I think that at the top end of the division it's going to go to the last game, and it could be the same at the bottom, unless somebody falls away in the last three games, which I don't expect.
“Everybody's fighting. Nobody's going to give it up,” he added, heaping the pressure now on The Foxes who, of course, have got the prospect of an away trip to Stoke on the final day of the season to look forward to.
“Leicester are below us; changing places could be key; the pressure's now back on them. They didn't handle it very well against Colchester [a 1-1 home draw] last Saturday, and two of their games will be away.
“Everybody was saying Blackpool were safe; now they've come into it, from nowhere. They've not won in eight games. Are they looking nervous? Can they handle the pressure?
“We've been handling the pressure quite well. I've told the players: 'Keep your nerve…', and I think they will, because they're so used to being in this situation.”
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