Peter White on the desperate fight for Premiership survival

IT'S said that the bookmakers rarely get it wrong and Blackburn Rovers supporters could be praying that is the case at the end of the season.

For, despite the presence of Brian Kidd's men in the relegation places - and they have been there for nearly three weeks now - Nottingham Forest, Southampton and Charlton are still favourites to take the drop.

The men who make the odds have stopped taking bets on Forest to go down, while the best you can get on Saints is 4-11 and Charlton 8-15.

Considering Rovers' present precarious position, some might feel the bookies are being generous with prices ranging from 2-1 to 3-1 for the Ewood side to be relegated.

When you look at the run-in, their remaining fixtures are by far from being among the easiest of the six clubs who are at the heart of the relegation struggle.

There is still reason to believe that Leicester, Sheffield Wednesday or even Middlesbrough could yet be dragged into the struggle.

But the consensus of opinion is that the three who take the plunge will come from the current bottom six.

And a quick glance at the remaining games shows that Rovers have to visit two of their main rivals - Charlton and Southampton.

Kidd, however, will probably point to that being a positive factor as it gives Rovers the chance to inflict damage directly on their opponents' chances.

He is also fully prepared for the rigours of the run-in, emphasising that the club have been playing crucial games ever since he took charge.

"When I got the job, we had nine points from 15 games and we were rock bottom," he said.

"Yet, all of sudden, everybody keeps saying we have some big games coming up.

"Didn't we have big games when I took the job in December? "And I knew the pitfalls. They were there for all to see but it didn't put me off because I think this is a cracking job."

Rovers got a taste of what is to come at Coventry last Saturday but they handled it well when Jason Wilcox's equaliser crowned their comeback.

They will know that they must show similar nerves of steel at Charlton and, in particular, the Dell where they haven't won for 60 years.

Although they would probably have taken a draw before the game, Rovers ended up disappointed that they didn't manage to beat Coventry and climb out of the bottom three.

"I thought we controlled the game and that it was two points dropped rather than one gained," said Kidd.

"The players were disappointed and so was I."

Despite being four points ahead of Rovers and with what looks to me to be an easier run-in, Coventry boss Gordon Strachan is still feeling the tension.

He was frustrated not to win on Saturday and said: "You can only look back at the end of the season and say whether it has been a disaster or a great point.

"There's always going to be anxiety. People can't come along and have a laugh and a joke. "We feel the anxiety because we would rather be further up the league and the crowd's the same as the players."

Nottingham Forest look doomed, which could be interesting as they visit Ewood on the penultimate weekend of the season and might already be down by then.

Southampton have been in this position so many times before and will relish the fact that they have to entertain two of their fellow strugglers at the Dell, where they are so difficult to beat.

Saints, with James Beattie carrying a major burden for such an inexperienced player, will be looking to their home form to see them to safety.

What a pity their only away victory was gleaned at Ewood. It was the final straw that cost Roy Hodgson his job and could yet prove a watershed in the season.

It will be interesting to see how Charlton react to the fact that they are now without a game for three weeks as they were due to play Tottenham - Worthington Cup finalists - this weekend.

That match has now been re-arranged for Tuesday, April 20.

If only Rovers had been able to beat Everton at Ewood last week, or even drawn with them after getting off to that flying start with Ashley Ward's goal.

For they would now be sitting much more comfortably, especially in view of Everton's remaining fixtures.

Their away programme looks a real test and they have to play two fellow-strugglers, Coventry and Charlton, at home. Once again, the battle to beat the drop could well go to the final kick of the season.


COVENTRY Home: Southampton, Middlesbrough, Wimbledon, Leeds.

Away: Arsenal, Sheffield Wed,

Everton, Leicester, Derby.

EVERTON Home: Sheffield Wed, Coventry, Charlton, West Ham.

Away: Manchester Utd, Liverpool, Newcastle,

Chelsea, Southampton.

CHARLTON Home: Chelsea, Leeds, Tottenham, Rovers, Sheffield Wed.

Away: West Ham, Middlesbrough, Everton, Aston Villa.

ROVERS Home: Wimbledon, Middlesbrough, Liverpool,

Nottingham F, Manchester Utd

Away: Arsenal, Southampton, Charlton, Newcastle.

SOUTHAMPTON Home: Sheffield Wed, Arsenal, Rovers, Leicester, Everton.

Away: Coventry, Aston Villa, Derby, Wimbledon.

NOTTINGHAM FOREST Home: Middlesbrough, Liverpool, Tottenham, Sheffield Wednesday, Leicester.

Away: Leeds, Derby, Aston Villa, Rovers.

Converted for the new archive on 14 July 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.