So we reach the 'Business end of the Season' and we find ourselves in fifth place, one win (and a little goal difference) from second and a massive two wins from seventh.
The playoffs look relatively safe, especially as Huddersfield still have to play Colchester who are sixth. Thus they can't both win all their remaining games, and Colchester still have to face Millwall, Swindon and ourselves while Huddersfield have to face Millwall. We have a few tough games ourselves let's not forget, but having spent a while looking at the fixtures I'm inclined to predict that it will be Colchester who miss out. I, actually, don't care, just as long as it's not us.
As for making the top two, it looks, to me, a little unlikely. The suggestions that Millwall have peaked too early could well have been said about Norwich two months ago, but they just kept on going winning game after game.
Millwall don't have the easiest run in as they have to face Swindon as will as the already mentioned Colchester and Huddersfield. The rest of their games look winnable. We need to take into account here that in recent weeks Millwall have been winning all their winnable games. Leeds, Swindon and ourselves have not managed to do that. A quick look at the form tables (last six played) and Millwall (and Norwich) have managed five wins and a draw - 16 points. In the same six games Swindon have managed 10 points, we have managed 8 and Leeds have managed a miserable 5. I know you can't read results from the table, and form tables can be distorted based on who the six games you play are against, but Millwall look to be in pole position to me. Also we should point out that their six games included both us and Leeds, the later was away.
Thus it looks like Millwall are going to be uncatchable for us, despite the fact that I suspect both Leeds and Swindon are within our reach. Swindon have to go away to both Millwall (last game) and Leeds - who they beat 3-0 t home.
Anyway, that's enough of the stats. They don't really mean all that much anyway, I believe that if we win all our remaining games (and let's face it we won our first six and seven of our opening nine with two draws) we will make second place. If we lose at Southampton and at home to Colchester, Norwich and Leeds then I suspect we will be looking over our shoulder and may miss out on the playoffs.
However, before we take on those 'giants' of the third Division there is the little matter of MK Dons. I didn't agree with the 'Franchise' of Wimbledon, but to be fair there was little chance of the club surviving once they left Plough Lane. Strangely if that happened these days (or a couple of years ago) they would have been able to fund some alternative home, but at the time there wasn't enough money in football. We learned, the hard way, that ground sharing is not really viable in English football. It is just ironic that we both shared with Palace.
I'm sure that there are those that will disagree with my prognosis, as they did when New York Addick covered the subject, and I'm not making a definitive statement, but their future looked bleak, and with the cost/value of land in London (Wimbledon and it's surrounding areas included) the odds of survival were staked against them.
That aside I had complete respect for the achievements of Wimbledon. I have never been that interested in other clubs football history so I'm not that familar with their rise from non-league. However, Wimbledon's promotion to the old First Division, their ability to stay there much longer than we did with fewer resources (something that took away from our achievements at the time) and their success in the FA Cup in 1988 made Wimbledon, in my view, a credible and established member of the top flight. Their relegation, all be it predictable, took years to happen. Sure they played unattractive football at times, but that is allowed, and it wasn't half entertaining. I remember a game we won 1-0 at Selhurst Park (when we played there) and Wimbledon dropped the ball in our box all afternoon. How we managed to win I'll never know. They were all over us!
I point that out because as far as I'm concerned this is not the same club. There are no head to heads, other than the game we won 5-1 in November. The formation of MK Dons and, frankly, everything about them I disapprove of. I have no problem with Milton Keynes having a team. My sister used to live in Milton Keynes, and for a while I made regular visits there on business. What I do have a problem with is MK Dons 'inheriting' Wimbledon's history. There was a debate a few years ago about the replica FA Cup that MK Dons have following Wimbledon's success in 1988. This is a disgrace. MK Dons should be stripped of Wimbledon's history. Frankly they should be stripped of their league status too.
Had Wimbledon gone insolvent, possible, or fallen out of the league completely, likely if the former didn't materialise, their place should have been allocated via the league pyramid. How exactly would have been open to debate. In the event of liquidation there would needless have been a dispute between a team at the bottom of one division and a team at the top of the division below, but ultimately it should have been awarded on success that season. The players that MK Dons took and, in some cases, sold on should not have been allowed to be transferred to a different club. MK Dons are a different club.
Anyway this subject has been done to death. Sadly, AFC Wimbledon were forced to start their life in a division well below that in which Wimbledon FC 'died' and MK Dons are never going to be stripped of their current league status. They even have a former England Captain as their manager.
Irrespective as to how we feel about the club, the team is more than adequate, and like us have won 2, drawn 2 and lost 2 of their last 6 games. At home MK Dons have won 3, drawn 1 and lost 2 of their last 6 and away we have managed 1 win, 3 draws and 2 defeats. These stats fail to look convincing either way, but with MK Dons being 8 points from Colchester in 6th place it is a massive game for them. Add in the fact that we literally took them apart at The Valley and the 5 we scored could well have been 10, makes this a game that they really need to put on a show.
We have been in, at best, average form since Christmas, so I am in a bit of a dilemma. With games at Southampton and at home to Colchester, Norwich and Leeds I am tempted to write off the automatic promotion that I have been desperate for all season. With that in mind, and with just eight games left do we go for broke to try and win this game to give us a chance of catching Leeds, Millwall and Swindon, or do we go there looking for a point to keep up our chances of making the playoffs?
If I'm honest, based on our recent form and the quality of the opposition (they might be a farce of a club, but that have a decent side) I think I'd be happy with a draw. A win and we go into the visit of Carlisle looking to push on for second place. Parkinson has demonstrated recently that he has no intention of switching back to 4-5-1, so I guess it will 4-4-2 and we will have to hope we can score ourselves out of trouble.
Despite probably accepting a draw, I think we might just sneak it. I think I'll go for a 2-1. I know we are not very likely to score many, but I just can't see us keeping a clean sheet - much as I'd love us to.
Up the Addicks!