The View Outside The Premier League: Blackpool Shake The Saints And Sheffield Pair Are Locked Together
Blackpool reminded everybody what a progressive side they are by steamrollering league leaders Southampton at Bloomfield Road. The result shouldn't have been too much of a surprise - the Tangerines performed superbly when they visited St Mary's earlier in the year.
Consistency has eluded Ian Holloway's side this season but they are still a squad well capable of rising to the big occasion. This campaign is very like the one two years ago when they made it to the Premier Leagu; then they came late to the play-offs and carried their strong form through the end of season games.
This time they aren't coming from so far back but this could still be a season when the play-off berths are only decided on the last day, as four sides are locked on 63 points behind West Ham. The reappearance of Scott Dobbie in Blackpool's ranks is a reminder that a good proportion of the squad know exactly how to handle the end of season pressure.
Ian Holloway's team selection on Saturday showed again that he is a brave manager, always capable of throwing a curve ball at the opposition. The attacking talent at his disposal could well carry the club on a another famous run to Wembley and the Premier League.
What a last hurrah it would be for Kevin Phillips, who was part of Sunderland's amazing play-off adventure in the 90s, and all season the former England man has demonstrated hunger and desire despite his drop to the Championship.
Southampton probably earned the right to have one off day and it's still theirs to lose with a six-point gap to third place. Not so West Ham though, who could ill-afford a home loss to the Royals who have accelerated past them to the second spot.
Such is the form of Brian McDermott's side they are even putting pressure on Southampton for the title and they show few signs of weakening. Discontent is showing in the stands at West Ham who seem likely to be consigned to third.
Hammers fans accepted the Sam Allardyce style if it guaranteed promotion but now that this is in doubt, the disquiet in the fan base will rumble on.
In League One the two Sheffield clubs are still at it hammer and tongs for the second automatic promotion spot. Charlton have wobbled in recent weeks but they steadied the ship at the weekend by beating London rivals Leyton Orient.
That leaves the Addicks still six clear of Sheffield United and eight to the good on Sheffield Wednesday; the Sheffield pair are still really chasing one place. Early on Saturday, Wednesday saw off Preston to move second but Ched Evans found the goal at Hartlepool to but the Blades back in the driving seat.
Next Saturday the Owls have to travel to Huddersfield, who have slipped backwards in the race for the top two places. Nevertheless, the Terriers still have hopes and with Sheffield United hosting Bournemouth, Owls fans will be happy to just not lose any ground next weekend.
In the League Two basement the picture begins to look ever grimmer for Macclesfield Town. After another defeat on Saturday the Silkmen are staring at a three point gap to Barnet and safety.
Plymouth Argyle and Dagenham & Redbridge both squeezed out vital 1-0 wins and Northampton carried on their improvement with a battling draw at Crewe. It's Barnet and Bradford City who are coming back to the pack but at the moment Macclesfield look unlikely to ever take three points again.