Time running out

25 March 2009 11:06
With just 10 points separating the bottom nine clubs, and only eight games to go until the end of the season, the relegation dogfight is hotting up. Tony Gayle runs the rule over the sides still looking over their shoulders as crunch time approaches.

BoltonGary Megon's doing a decent job. They had a sticky period where they lost six out of seven games but that's happening to everyone. It is how you come out of that and how your confidence is restored that makes the difference. I saw them draw 1-1 with West Brom at the weekend and they were very unlucky not to take all three points.

I think their style of football will ensure they get out of this position in the relegation dogfight. Kevin Davies and Johan Elmander up front are a real handful and Matty Taylor, who scored his 50th league goal in 350 league appearance on Saturday, is getting his fair share of goals as well. There are enough goals still to come from those three for Bolton to stay up.

PortsmouthPaul Hart has brought a lot of organisation to Portsmouth's play. That great win against Everton last weekend has got them to 32 points, three points off the drop zone. They've also got two crucial home games coming up in the next four weeks. They have got one against Bolton and one against West Brom - two victories there will keep them up. The fact Peter Crouch is scoring goals is also important.

BlackburnI believe Sam Allardyce will do it again, as well. If you look at Blackburn's strikers they'll be good enough to keep them up. They have Benni McCarthy and Jason Roberts at the moment, with Roque Santa Cruz to come back from injury. Add Morten Gamst Pederson into the mix and the different, more direct, style of play Allardyce has brought to the team and they are so hard to play against. I can see them picking up more victories both at home and away which will get them to safety. I think Allardyce is going to do the trick.

SunderlandI think Sunderland, three points off the relegation zone, is about where they should be. There is obviously no time to invest now so they've just got to get on with what they've got - and I think that's enough. The likes of Kenwyne Jones and Djibril Cisse upfront may get the goals to get them out of trouble. If you said are they going down? I would say 'no'. Sunderland to survive.

Newcastle I do fear for Newcastle. The fact Joe Kinnear got ill hasn't helped and it has been a difficult task for Christ Newton and Colin Calderwood to fill in. If you look at their run-in it is not an easy one at all and the ones they might think as 'gimme' ones at home are not too easy. The games the fans might expect them to win against Fulham, Boro and Portsmouth are not so easy, for me. I see big problems for Newcastle.

MiddlesbroughMiddlesbrough have been the same all season - they can't score goals. That's been their problem. Afonso Alves hasn't really worked for me and as a team they simply haven't scored enough goals. They've been playing enough decent football between the penalty areas but conceding silly goals, as they did against Stoke City at the weekend, and I think they are leaving themselves too much to do. I think that's sad from a club that is brilliantly run from the top. I think they are right to stick with Gareth Southgate, believe they will stick with him should they go into the championship and I think that would be the right choice.

HullThe season started off brilliantly for Phil Brown. He couldn't have envisaged it was going to go so well. Then they hit that rocky period - which everyone knew was going to happen - where they has six or seven games on the trot where they didn't get a victory. The win against Fulham was vital and maybe just turned things around a little bit and, although they lost to Wigan it wasn't such a bad performance. They will look at their home form to pick up the last five points and I think they'll be ok.

Stoke CityWhat a feat that would be for Tony Pulis and Dave Kemp his assistant. They, out of all the teams in the relegation battle, have been working with the least talented players but they've done well this season. That's down to organisation, discipline and a style of play which really gives teams problems. Their victory at the weekend against Middlesbrough, which was crucial, was in typical Stoke fashion. You know what is coming with the Rory Delap long throws, but can you stop it? I think they can produce that for two more games at the Britannia, get two more wins and they will be ok.

West Bromwich Albion If Tony Mowbray had his time again he would do things differently. His philosophy on football is great but the creation of chances and bad defending at the other end haven't been good enough. You might get away with it in the Championship but you can't in the Premier League. I'm afraid it is too late for them but I think he'll be a better manager for his time in the Premier League and they will bounce back I'm sure. I hope they do because they are a good club.

Source: SKY_Sports