Here’s something to ponder when you’re considering Richard Scudamore’s claim that it is vital that the Premier League plays matches abroad because they only have 335,000 consumers at home: last night, on a bitterly cold Tuesday night in March and with Champions League match available on non-PPV or subscription television, 169,592 turned out to watch matches in the Championship. These are impressive figures for the second tier of the game – an average crowd of 16,959 per match.
The big match was at The Valley, where Bristol City came from a goal behind to draw 1-1 with Charlton Athletic. The result leaves Gary Johnson’s team (who, you’ll remember, were only promoted up from League One at the end of last season) three points clear of the chasing pack at the top of the table, with just ten games left to play. I keep looking at the results, expecting the inevitable collapse to start, but it just doesn’t (it briefly did last autumn when they lost 6-0 at Ipswich, but they soon recovered from that). It says something for the extent to which they have developed this season that a draw at Charlton might be regarded as two points dropped, and the chasing pack failed to gain any ground on them. Stoke City weren’t playing, whilst Watford were held 1-1 at home by Norwich City. Norwich were at the bottom of the table at Christmas, and their transformation has been no less extraordinary that Bristol City’s. Last night’s result took them up to thirteenth place – it’s probably too late for them to make a bid for the play-offs this season (they’re ten points off the pace with just ten matches to play), but it might be worth keeping an eye on them next season. West Bromwich Albion were dependent on a last minute goal from Kevin “Super Kev” Phillips (that’s his nickname for himself, not mine) to beat League One-bound Sheffield Wednesday.
The other surprise package of the season, Plymouth Argyle, continued their push for promotion with a 4-1 win against bottom of the table Colchester United at Home Park last night. Argyle might have reacted badly to losing manager Ian Holloway to Leicester last year, but they have pushed up the table impressively since then, and last night’s results saw them open up a small gap between themselves and Ipswich (held 1-1 at home by Sheffield United) and Hull City (2-0 winners of a bad-tempered match against Burnley that saw four players, including Jay Jay Okocha and Joey Gudjonsson, sent off). Wolverhampton Wanderers missed out on a chance to close the gap on the clubs in the play-off places after failing to hold onto the lead twice in a 2-2 draw with Southampton at Molineux. If you close your eyes, you can just imagine Mick McCarthy’s big, angry head exploding with rage.
Finally, in League One, Brighton & Hove Albion continued their late push for a play-off place with a 4-2 win against Gillingham at The Withdean Stadium. They’re now three points of the promotion places and with two games in hand on the teams above them. What price Brighton & Hove Albion vs Newcastle United as a league fixture next season?