WHITE-KNUCKLE ride is the operative phrase when it comes to analysing the Championship survival fight for Yorkshire’s clientele in recent years.
But this season at least, respite looks refreshingly at hand.
Granted, the likes of Rotherham United, Huddersfield Town and, to a much, much lesser degree, Leeds United are not quite mathematically safe yet, but it would take a remarkable and cataclysmic chain of events for any of the aforesaid trio to be relegated now.
The fourth-from-bottom Millers – after an astounding upturn under Neil Warnock which has been the talk of the Championship and beyond – and 19th-placed Town are both nine points clear of the bottom three with five games left, their buffer over third-from-bottom MK Dons a considerable one.
Leeds are now 14 points clear and home and hosed and while head coach Steve Evans may have claimed ‘We are not safe yet,’ after his side’s excellent away-day win at Birmingham City, his comments are taking caution to the nth degree.
The sight of White Rose sides a fair way from the relegation quicksand in 2015-16 is certainly a marked departure to previous campaigns.
Last season, the Millers survived by the seat of their pants, handling the adversity of a three-point deduction for fielding an ineligible loanee in the 1-0 victory over Brighton on Easter Monday, 2015 by clinching safety in their penultimate match of the season in a memorable 2-1 success over Reading in late April.
In the previous campaign of 2012-13, it was a far gloomier Spring with both Barnsley and Doncaster Rovers meekly acquiescing en route to League One.
All told, in the past six seasons, a team from the Broad Acres has either been relegated from the Championship or stayed up by a very narrow margin amid heavy-duty late-season tension.
The piece de resistence arrived on ‘Survival Saturday’ on May 4, 2013.
L ate developments at Peterborough’s game at Crystal Palace enabled Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield and Barnsley to both save their Championship skins in a 2-2 draw on a nerve-shredding afternoon in West Yorkshire that no-one present will ever forget.
In the previous three campaigns of 2011-12, 2010-11 and 2009-10, a side from the county were not so lucky with Doncaster, Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday each going down.
Fast forward to now and barring a late implo sion, a serene finale looks to be on the cards for the Millers, Town and Leeds, who currently lead the aforesaid pair by four points.
Not that Huddersfield’s competitive juices are not stirring, with head coach David Wagner, whose side have just negotiated a quartet of games against Yorkshire opponents Hull City, Boro, the Owls and Leeds, having openly spoken of a desire to finish above the Whites, something Town have not managed since 1961-62.
The most arduous game of Town’s run home appears to be on Tuesday when they visit the Millers, unbeaten in eight after a staggering upturn which has yielded 20 points from 24 – a remarkable haulconsidering they were six points adrift of safety on the morning of February 27.
Then it all changed with Rotherham now posessing an outside chance of finishing in their best placing since the halcyon days of 1981-82 under Emlyn Hughes.
Funny old game...