Automatic or play-offs?

Date published: Wednesday 25th January 2012 9:00

Anders Lindegaard: Joined West Brom from Manchester United

All Sheffield decider would be agony

The state of play is uncomfortably tight at the top of League One. With the realistic prospect of four teams being tied on the same points, from second down to fifth, it is an unsettling time for fans of all the clubs concerned. Throw in the fact that two of the teams are bitter inter-city rivals and even those who don’t like or understand football may begin to grasp the tensions involved.

The Blades have been on an electric run of form of late, despite the loss to Charlton – where the performance warranted at least a draw. So what is it to be, automatic promotion or being resigned to purchasing a ticket for the play-off lottery?

In light of United’s impressive run of form, my prediction is the former. The red and white wizards have been playing with a fluency and freedom going forward, that is superior to just about anything that most Unitedites will recall from the last decade. The style of play is exactly what was demanded at the start of the season and with Kevin McDonald pulling the strings in the centre of midfield and Lee Williamson chipping in with regular goals, the signs are very promising.


Coupled together with a solid back four, a slightly improved – if still very unreliable – goalkeeper and the form of Ched Evans, putting your money on the Blades to bounce back to the Championship automatically isn’t a bad way to spend your money.

However, it is not the play-offs that Blades fans should fear the most. Yes, United have lost in the final of this format at the old and new Wembley, as well as the Millennium stadium without even scoring, but that isn’t the greatest concern this season.

What should be feared the most is an all-Sheffield play-off final. On some levels it would almost be preferable to see Wednesday go up automatically at the Blades’ expense, than see the two clubs pitted together in what would be one of the most nerve-wracking matches in footballing history.

This is not to say that United couldn’t come out on top on such an occasion, rather that the weeks of agonising anticipation and the day of sickening nerves and heart-stopping close-calls would not be worth the hassle.

Let’s just hope and pray that United can do the job inside of the allotted 46 matches, avoiding all the worry and uncertainty.

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