By Alec Johnson
Before we look forward to the final four crucial matches, let's briefly take one last glance at last Sunday’s encounter - the 1-0 loss to Chelsea.
After starting so brightly and competing for possession, our tempo and movement gave us real hope of picking something up from the ‘bonus’ game that nobody expected anything from. We won every challenge for the first 15 minutes, except the two that Chico lost. How cheap they were and how expensive they could be.
The Terry and Jose anger tactics played the part necessary to see our pantomime villain sent off once again. What happened next was a mistake in my opinion - hauling off Pablo (who had started with real purpose) and leaving Dyer on (who had started poorly) was an own goal in itself. The logic I get - keep the pace and hard-working runner on - but I felt we needed the form player to sit in the middle and hurt when necessary. We lost, but not without heart and spirit.
So where does that leave us? A strange bag of results threw my ‘super six’ predictions off course and the blew the bottom wide open. We are now a game away from level points in the trap door.
Newcastle United (away) - Sat, 19 April
First up, a trip to Newcastle. St James Park isn’t what it used to be. The Geordies have turned on Pardew showing their lack of appreciation for the punchy cockney with a set of banners last weekend. Their form is poor having lost the last four, while their record of lowest goals scored and most conceded in the top half isn’t a proud medal to carry.
Therefore it’s all about the start. If we get at them early on and unsettle the crowd, breaking the confidence, we can get a grip and win by a couple as we did last season. I do feel that there will be a reaction and a fight, but I cannot see us getting beat, so I will throw in a nervy 1-1 draw. Probably something that both clubs would take before of the game.
Aston Villa (home) - Sat, 26 April
Next up is Villa at home. The away fixture over Christmas ranks as one of my most frustrating in recent years. We battered them for 80 minutes, keeping almost 99% of the ball and the Jack Army were awesome from start to finish. We deserved better, but took a point. This is payback and I believe we can boss this and hurt them at home, hopefully through our three winger approach, which is so effective at the Liberty. I will go for a 2-0 win, edging us towards safety on 37 points with two games to go.
Southampton (home) - Sat, 3 May
Are they on the beach yet? Some are already at the World Cup and going through the motions. On their day they can be devastating and I do feel that they will be up for it on their last away game of the season. Assuming we have collected the four points from the previous two fixtures, I can see us losing this one as they play with freedom and flair. So it’s a 2-1 defeat in my eyes, leaving a nail-biting finish.
Sunderland (away) - Sun, 11 May
The finale! I haven’t considered the other results going on around us but I assume the bottom three will consist of Sunderland, Norwich and either Cardiff or Fulham on the final day. Wouldn’t it have been great to go to the Riverside leaving Sunderland win to send Cardiff down? I would have celebrated each goal flying in past Vorm.
However, given their run of games and shocking form I think they will be down before kick-off. That can only help us, so I see the Swans picking up something and celebrating survival - an ugly point or three will do nicely sitting on 38 points, or even the targeted 40. I'm going for a 2-2 draw.
Then we can all breathe and regroup, before a summer that will undoubtedly see considerable change at our beloved football club.
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