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 League One play-off chasers get twitchy in race for top six

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PostSubject: League One play-off chasers get twitchy in race for top six   Fri Mar 30, 2018 10:09 pm

ANOTHER week, another managerial bullet – football fans should be desensitised to it by now.

Scunthorpe’s firing of Graham Alexander last Saturday night came after their winless run had stretched to an eighth game.

The Iron were still in fifth but owner Peter Swann decided something had to change and duly, if reluctantly, loaded the gun.

It means four of the half-dozen clubs effectively battling it out for the final two play-off spots, City included, have changed at the top during the season.

Portsmouth’s Kenny Jackett and Derek Adams at Plymouth are the exception.

Adams has recently passed 150 games in the Home Park hot-seat, a notable achievement given the torrid start his side had following promotion.

That faith at the top has been rewarded with a push towards the top six that seemed unthinkable in mid-December. How football fortunes can soon change.

The same could be said for Neil Harris, who is currently performing a cracking job with Millwall in the Championship.

Alexander’s departure two months after Stuart McCall means both clubs the Lions vanquished in last year’s play-offs have pulled the plug on the manager – while occupying a top-six spot on each occasion.

Harris, meanwhile, oversaw a losing Wembley final in 2016 and then a sticky run early last season when Millwall claimed only two points from six games.

The hierarchy at the Den stuck by their man when it might have been tempting to make the change – and they continue to reap the rewards 18 months on.

But the trend for removing managers from teams who, from the outside looking in, appear to be in fairly robust health is growing.

Before, the chop-and-change mentality at the hint of one bad run seemed to be the preserve of the Championship in the constant obsession to jump aboard the Premier League gravy train.

But it appears to be seeping down. Nerves are fraying as the end-game approaches.

“It just seems to be happening (more and more) in the last few years,” said Simon Grayson. “People make these decisions because they think it’s going to improve them.

“Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t.

“Obviously I’m here off the back of a run and a decision from this football club. I went to Huddersfield off Dean Hoyle’s decision to sack the manager when they were third.”

Huddersfield’s call to axe Lee Clark in 2012 when they were sitting pretty caused shockwaves at the time – though all ended well when Grayson steered them to promotion in a penalty shoot-out against Sheffield United three months later.

Grayson added: “Dean probably started it all off. He’s got a lot to answer for with us managers!

“It is difficult, but in this day and age you never know when your job is safe.

“For whatever reason, Scunthorpe must think the change of manager is going to work for them. But, as always, the proof will be in the pudding.”

Scunthorpe’s stuttering form has dragged them back into a race that looks impossible to call.

With the picture changing so regularly, and likely to remain that way over the final five weeks, it does appear that the tally needed to make the final cut will be below the 74-point average for the past decade.

Not that Grayson has a particular number in his mind – or at least, he’s not saying.

“I’ve never been one for statistics or targets of what you need.

“It can change all the time. If you set something, you can fall short and still get in.

“Even if it means the last game of season and you’re in on goal difference, it doesn’t matter.

“Just do whatever is required. Get as many points as possible to get in there regardless of any targets.

“In all honestly, I don’t look at the table that much. I couldn’t even tell you our goal difference or where we are.

“But I did say a few weeks ago that the top six wouldn’t remain the same and that has been the case.

“It’s not where you are now but on May 5 that matters. Let’s see where it can take us.

“I don’t want to keep going back to history. But when I was at Blackpool we won the last seven games and then two semi-finals and a final.

“That shows anything is achievable and I’m sure every manager will be saying the same.

“Plymouth and other teams have shown already this season that you go on a run and you don’t know where it’s going to take you.”

Or, in an increasing number of cases, who with
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