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Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The View Outside The Premier League: Yeovil Confound The Bookies While Middlesbrough Slip Up Again


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The four or five regular readers of the View might recall that back in August this column looked at Yeovil Town's battle to stay in League One. Back then the Glovers were favourites for the drop but the View tipped them to once again confound expectations.

This weekend Yeovil took another huge step to retaining League One status with a hard-fought win over Walsall which puts considerable daylight between the Somerset squad and the drop zone. The odds are now very much in favour of Yeovil staying up.

Ever since they made it to League One the Glovers have clung tenaciously to their berth and their status as the best performing side to be promoted out of the Conference. Stevenage and Crawley are challenging that position but with club legend Gary Johnson back in the manager's office, hopes are high for the future.

Johnson came back in January after the club hit trouble but Terry Skiverton, another famous name at the club, has stayed on as assistant. The former captain performed heroics to drag Yeovil away from the drop last season and its a measure of his status in that part of Somerset that he's still there with Johnson, in what is something of a dream team for Huish Park fans.

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While Yeovil were easing the worries of their fans, Middlesbrough were deepening the gloom on Teeside. After last Sunday's tame capitulation to Leeds United at the Riverside, Boro were dismantled on the road by Birmingham City.

The Blues went past Boro in the table and Tony Mowbray's side are now only sixth and locked in a battle between six teams for three play-off places- just two points cover the six and teams like Birmingham have the momentum.

Boro have nestled comfortably in the top six for most of the campaign but life has become uncomfortable since Reading bolted from the pack and Birmingham surged up from mid-table.

Mowbray's side look like a squad who have the potential to enjoy the space for their passing game that Swansea have enjoyed in the Premier League, but getting out of the Championship in the first place is beginning to seem like a big ask. The likes of Birmingham, West Ham and Blackpool are playing a more direct game to good effect.

A trip to West Ham on Tuesday night threatens to add more pressure and next Saturday's home match against struggling Bristol City could become a must-win game to stay in the top six places.

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Crawley Town managed a first win in eight matches to stabilise their position in the League Two play-off berths. The Reds' Cup exploits and the transfer of leading scorer Matt Tubbs to Bournemouth seem to have halted the momentum that seemed to be carrying them to automatic promotion.

Steve Evans has been able to bring in the likes of Karl Hawley and Sanchez Watt to balance his losses (Tyrone Barnett has gone to Peterborough on loan) but the sticky spell has caught most observers by surprise. There's every chance that Crawley will still be in the end of season mix but back in January they were odds-on to be in a top three slot come May.

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Leaders Swindon Town came unstuck for only the second time in 2012, going down 2-0 at improving Crewe. As ever Paulo Di Canio shunned the usual platitudes about focussing on the positives and preparing for the next game.

He blamed himself for losing 'humility' and professed a determination not to 'burn down' everything that has been achieved this season. He described his players as 'silly lads' on the day.

The Robins squad might be in for an interesting Monday morning training session but overall this is still a stunning first season in management for the ever-controversial but entertaining Roman.

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Hugh Larkin

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