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Thursday, 26 April, 2001, 10:34 GMT 11:34 UK
Relegation battle hots up
Who will be relegated to the Nationwide Conference?
BBC Sport Online's Howard Nurse looks at the battle to avoid relegation from Division Three - and predicts trouble for Halifax.

The Premiership title may have been settled at Easter, but the scrap at the bottom of Division Three promises to go right to the very last moments of the season.

With just two weeks of the season remaining, no less than six clubs are jostling to avoid finishing bottom of the Football League.

Halifax, Torquay, Carlisle, Barnet, Lincoln and Exeter all face a nervous run-in.

As it stands, Halifax are most in danger of becoming the first club to be relegated out of Division Three on two occasions.

Crucially, they have games in hand on their fellow strugglers which could help them scramble out of 24th position in the division.

However, Halifax must play their last four games in just eight days and history is not on their side.
Paul Bracewell
Paul Bracewell faces a tough task

They were dumped into the Conference in 1993 and it took them until 1998 to regain their place among the 92 professional clubs.

The Shaymen slumped to the bottom early in the season after a dismal start but the appointment of Paul Bracewell saw them improve and seemingly claw their way out of trouble.

But results in the final third of the campaign have been poor and the West Yorkshire club are again facing the drop.

Town's final games are against Darlington, Lincoln, Brighton and Chesterfield - no easy prospect to say the least.

Torquay United have been in this position before.

They have flirted with relegation several times but have always got out of trouble when it mattered.

The Gulls recorded an important 2-1 win over Darlington on Tuesday - just 24 hours after terminating Habib Sissoko's contract for disciplinary reasons.

Torquay's remaining games are against lowly York and finally Barnet in what could turn out to be a relegation decider.

Carlisle United are looking to avoid
Jimmy Glass
Jimmy Glass saved Carlisle's bacon in 1999
relegation for the third season running.

They looked down and out in 1999 until escaping the drop deep into injury time in their final game of the season.

On-loan goalkeeper Jimmy Glass scored the winner against Plymouth and sent Scarborough down in the process.

Last season, the Cumbrians survived on goal difference ahead of Chester, again on the final day of the campaign.

Manager Ian Atkins - ironically in charge of Chester at the time - is now fighting a similar battle at Brunton Park. Unlike Halifax, history is firmly on Carlisle's side.

Carlisle's final games are at Lincoln, Southend and at home to play-off hopefuls Hull City.

Barnet find themselves in the bottom four after an amazing slump which resulted in the departure of manager Tony Cottee.

The Bees, now under the guidance of John Still, enjoyed a 3-0 win over Rochdale last Saturday - a result which kept them out of the bottom two.
John Still
John Still has bags of experience

Barnet surely have enough talent to survive and the same should go for Lincoln and Exeter.

Lincoln - under recently-appointed boss Alan Buckley - have shown recent signs of improvement, while Exeter have done superbly well to climb off the bottom thanks to the coaching skills of Steve Perryman.

So who is for the drop?

I predict Halifax will go down, mainly because of their final fixtures against Brighton and Chesterfield - two daunting tasks which could well prove beyond them.

Second-bottom by the narrowest of margins, of course, will be Carlisle United!

See also:

22 Apr 01 |  Carlisle United
Atkins happy to make a point
25 Apr 01 |  Football
Say hello, wave goodbye
22 Apr 01 |  Torquay United
Lee remains upbeat
Links to more Eng Div 3 stories are at the foot of the page.


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