If I Were a Betting Man

BILLY'S CONTRACT assesses the form

It is now that time of the football season when both promotion and relegation contenders alike start to take an unhealthy interest in their rivals fixture lists, in an attempt to predict where their own team will finish ...or be finished at the end of the season.

I must confess that I have spent several hours contemplating/speculating how each of our rivals,  and indeed 'Pools, will fare against their forthcoming opponents.

To that end, to use a racing parlance, lets take a look at the runners and riders in the relegation stakes.
Starting from the bottom up with only seven games left to play:

Cheltenham Town 
Probably have the toughest fixture list of all our rivals, having to play three teams from the top seven as well as two from just outside the play off zone. To make matters worse they have to face fellow strugglers York City at Bootham Crescent.
Current form over their last ten games: Won 1, Drew 4, Lost 5

Tranmere Rovers
Almost on a par with Cheltenham for the tough programme they are about to embark on. They are looking at facing five matches against teams in the top nine places.
Current form over the last ten games:Won 2, Drew 1, Lost 7

Easier fixture list than the two teams below, but Newport away will be a tough call, as is Southend at home. The two so-called derby games against York and Carlisle will be tasty enough, and could go either way.
Current form over their last ten matches: Won 6, Drew 0, Lost 4

Have to face Burton away as well as playoff contenders Plymouth at home and Stevenage away, not forgetting on-form Pools at home
Current form over their last ten games: Won 2, Drew 6, Lost 6

York City 
On paper, probably the easiest run in of all the relegation 'hopefuls'. I see Shrewsbury away and Pools at home being their hardest matches.
Current form over their last ten games: Won 3, Drew 2, lost 5

Cambridge United
Every race has a dark horse. If, as intended, I had written this piece before Pools' win over Cambridge, I had Oxford United down for taking this role. However, after having seen Cambridge United at the Vic, then speaking to their fans after the game, I quickly gave Cambridge's current form the once over and, despite them being seven points clear of Tranmere, they are currently in free-fall, having only picked up seven points out of a possible thirty over the last ten games. A far cry from when they gave Man United a run for their money in the F.A. cup earlier in the season.
Current form over the last ten games: Won 1, Drew 4, Lost 5

All this could be turned upside down if any of these teams hit a similar rich vein of form that Pools are presently enjoying.
I think Carlisle will survive based on their ability to get a result when you least expect it. Hopefully not against us.
York have just signed two strikers from higher divisions on loan, and last Saturday's game, when they beat Mansfield Thugs 1-4 away from home with ten men, will have done their confidence no harm.

Cambridge having already amassed a cushion of points in the bank over the bottom two might just get out of the mire. Bet they wished that they hadn't loaned us Ryan Bird.

Pools have a number of factors in their favour to avoid the drop
"Whilst having ridden their luck at times, on their four-match winning streak, Pools' confidence has returned by the bagful."
Four wins on the trot. Only Burton can match that and they are top of the league. Whilst having ridden their luck at times, on their four-match winning streak, Pools' confidence has returned by the bagful.

It was a major blow losing Michael Woods with a broken leg, but Nicky Featherstone has stepped up to the plate. Brad Walker, whom I have criticised for most of the season, is like a new signing. Indeed when I saw him sat in the stands a few weeks ago at the reserve game against Gateshead, I remember thinking to myself that that was his best position. 

Scott Fenwick is only a couple of weeks away from coming back and the lad Ebby Nelson Addy, who has just signed an 18 month contract with Pools, looks as if he could be a handful once fully match fit. The other major advantage Pools have is a certain Mr Ronnie Moore, The Silver Fox.
One of the Cambridge fans I spoke to said that if Ronnie Moore keeps Pools up he should be made manager of the season. I replied that we had other plans in mind for him if such an event occurs, in that we are going to have him canonized even if he is not dead!

My predictions for the drop
Odds on favourite for bottom spot is Cheltenham. Last laugh. When we beat Cheltenham at the Vic I can recall their then manager going ape at being beaten by the club who were bottom of the league. Hopefully they won't give the teams above them the same medicine as they received from Pools now that they are bottom of the league.

Tranmere will finish second bottom and wish that they had allowed to let Ronnie Moore to have had his bet. I wonder if Ronnie has had a bet on them going down?

My prayer now is that I just hope that Pools continue in the way and manner in which they are doing, and that no major loss of form occurs. Which should not only ensure Pools' survival, but also go a long way to erasing from the memory the Colin Cooper and buddies era.