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Last Updated: Monday, 9 May, 2005, 09:12 GMT 10:12 UK
The Premiership's final countdown

By John May

There has never been a Premiership relegation scrap like it.

For the first time in Premiership history, the final day will not dawn with at least one team definitely relegated.

Instead, any three of the four contenders could be relegated - or any one of the quartet stay up.

Only Norwich have the dubious luxury of going into the climax with their fate in their own hands.

NORWICH

After a potentially shattering last-gasp defeat at Southampton the previous week, Norwich began last weekend at the bottom of the table.

They now effectively control the destiny of the other three teams, thanks in no small part to Birmingham's Damien Johnson.

His dismissal changed the course of the game at Carrow Road where Norwich made their extra-man advantage count.

Last game: Fulham (a).

Form guide: It depends entirely on which Fulham team turn up, but Norwich could not pick a better time to pluck out their first away win of the season.

What they have: The worst goal difference of the four.

What they need: A win ends the argument - sealing their survival and relegating the other three. A draw would be enough if West Brom, Saints and Palace all fail to win. A defeat would be enough only if all the other three below them lose.

SOUTHAMPTON

Began last Saturday outside the bottom three, but were heading towards a fatal defeat until Danny Higginbotham's dramatic injury-time equaliser.

Last game: Manchester United (h)

Form guide: Second place and automatic Champions League may be beyond Manchester United and they will have one eye on the FA Cup final. But is there any such thing as a weak Man United team? Recent United results against Norwich and West Brom may give Saints hope.

What they have: The slimmest of better goal differences of the bottom four.

What they need: A win would relegate West Brom, but would be immaterial if Norwich win. If Norwich fail to win and Crystal Palace win, Southampton would need to win by the same margin as Palace win at Charlton.
If Norwich fail to win, and Palace win, a Saints victory by one goal less than Palace's margin of victory would keep them up on the next criteria, goals scored. A draw would be enough if Norwich lose and Crystal Palace lose or draw and West Brom lose or draw.

CRYSTAL PALACE

Palace were seconds away from a win which would have kept their fate in their own hands until Danny Higginbotham scored a timely first goal for Southampton.

Last game: Charlton (a)

Form guide: Charlton are mentally on their holidays, but would not be in the mood to give their neighbours and former landlords any favours.

What they have: The second best goal difference - by one goal - behind Southampton.

What they need: A win would relegate West Brom but be rendered irrelevant if Norwich win. If Southampton and Norwich fail to win, victory would keep Palace up.
If Norwich fail to win but Southampton win, Palace would have to better their margin of victory by two goals. A draw would only be enough if both Southampton and Norwich lose and West Brom fail to win.

WEST BROM

Albion would just about have been relegated had they not been awarded a rare visitors' penalty at Old Trafford to claim a point that at least keeps their heart beating.

Last game: Portsmouth (h)

Form guide: Pompey are safe and have got the brochures out. Are they really going to try that hard to get a result that could help their neighbours survive?

What they have: A goal difference considerably worse than Saints or Palace, but possibly significantly better than Norwich's.

What they need: A win would be enough if none of the other three teams win. Draw or lose and the Baggies are down.


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