Akpan on Relegation Battles & Yeovil Town
In my second column with Africa Football Shop, I remember a remarkable match last weekend and give some insight into what it means to be part of a relegation battle.
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Over the past two weeks we have had two home games and a real chance to earn six points. Unfortunately, we lost at home to Blackburn through a solitary goal on the counter attack from them after we started the game really well. Substitutions were made after the break but the opposition were happy with their lead and were willing to sit back and hold on to what they had, which they did.
The following week against Yeovil once again we seemed in control of the game before conceding a sloppy goal from a set piece. In the Championship, I feel the first goal is always important as it gives the team who scores it extra impetus and confidence. I was substituted at the break so could only watch from the sidelines as the second half unfolded.
We won a penalty through Royston Drenthe and a Yeovil player was dismissed, but the penalty was missed by Adam Le Fondre.
Seconds later we had the ball in the net and were looking strong to go and get the three points. Yeovil, in their endeavour, had another two players sent off and were down to eight men (!), something I had never seen in a professional game before. We threw everything at them but didn’t get the rub of the green. Their keeper made a save and there were some good last ditch blocks, particularly from an old Everton team mate of mine, Shane Duffy.
To not get the three points at home left me and my team mates feeling sour. Yeovil, on the other hand, who are in a relegation battle, will have been delighted with the single point. Battling relegation is a very hard situation to be in. Every game becomes a cup final, scrapping and fighting for every point; as they games go by the points become more and more priceless.
Last season we ended up on the wrong side of a relegation battle and ended up being relegated from the Premiership, so I have first hand experience of the tension around the teams and players in those situations. The fans, players and staff can all feel it, but it’s all about sticking together and fighting tooth and nail for each point available.
This year, my team Reading are in a different sort of fight. A fight to be promoted. You can expect us to be fighting for every available point with a lot of big games coming up against teams around us.
With so few games left of the season every game becomes a cup final for us as well, so we will be doing all we can to stay in the play-off race! It is this drama, at both ends of the table, that makes the Championship such a fantastic division to play in and watch.