The expression a 'must win game' has become prominent in recent times, so much so the question asked of our manager recently appeared to cause him some angst on a local radio station.
How do you answer that question? If your team suddenly finds itself in 16th place and only 5 points clear of the third from bottom club, then arguably all games by definition must be 'must win' although if we lose our next match against Palace at home this Saturday we will stil have 11 matches remaining with 33 points on offer. Our team currently on 40 points will therefore somehow need to find 3 wins and 1 draw to reach the 50 points tally, the minimum normally accepted for safety.
It should also be pointed out that we have the best goal difference in the bottom nine by some distance and barring any thumping defeats this could well be worth one or two places in itself
16 Burnley -2
17 Ipswich -6
18 Norwich -11
19 Barnsley -19
20 Luton -14
21 Hull -13
22 QPR -15
23 Southend -22
24 Leeds -24
Mathematically therefore probably not a 'must win' game this Saturday against Palace but lets face it from a fans perspective, whichever way you look at it, this is a must win game !
We have had nothing much to cheer now in 15 matches, 14 in the League with our last win of any kind back in Novemeber when we beat Leeds at home.
The manager faces increasing pressure to resign from a vocal minority of fans (estimated 20-30%) and if there is no significant improvement soon those calls will only increase. The vast majority of fans however so far believe either Steve Cotterill should see out his current contract (20-30%) or in the main are apathetic believing the Club Board should review the situation in Summer 2007 (40-60%)
A number of fans, including myself feel this is also a must win game therefore to stop this minority unrest at the moment. I believe Steve Cotterill needs to be judged on what he can do over a full season with a fully fit, improved squad in terms of quality and quantity. That process started in the January window when for the first time in many seasons, the Board 'walked the talk' regarding ambition and freed up some investment for players leading to the signings of Ade Akinbiyi, Joey Gudjonsson and Steve Caldwell. Our only problem at the moment seems to be that some of the signings and Andy Gray, who has just started playing again, are still only firing on three cylinders and are still not fully match fit. Ade Akinbiyi and Andy Gray in particular, need to start working as a strike pair and return to the form that saw both players banging them in for fun during various stages of their careers for the Clarets.
There have been signs of improvement recently particularly in defence and midfield. Steve Caldwell is looking solid and providing some stability as the new captain. Our last three matches despite only securing one point all had something to encourage the fans.With a little bit more luck that points tally could have been much higher.
Ah yes that luck factor, well there is certainly one area where we have not had any and that is being awarded penalties!
In recent memory, we should have had a cast iron penalty against Wolves and only last Saturday, Gudjonsson had another penalty appeal turned down by another of the increasing number of referees called Mr Magoo!
It is now 56 matches since we actually had a penalty. I am not even sure anymore who would take one if we ever got one again!Can anybody remember which match it was when we last had one?
The most remarkable thing about Saturday's match is that our 55 stretch is not even a current record and we face a team that holds it! Crystal Palace by all accounts have now gone 59 matches without a penalty.
There is certainly the chance of some irony in this match. Whats betting someone gets a penalty in this match? What's betting it is not us?
Up the Clarets and lets get three points with one of the goals a penalty!!