Who will be the fallers in the Premier League survival stakes?

First published in Sport The Bolton News: Photograph of the Author by , chief football writer

Wanderers will be left behind in the stalls while the other relegation runners and riders attempt to negotiate the next hurdle in the survival stakes this Grand National weekend.

Wolves, QPR, Blackburn and Wigan are all in action over the next few days as the race to climb out of the bottom three goes into the final furlong.

The going appeared to be good for Owen Coyle’s side after three consecutive wins lifted them before Easter.

But successive defeats against Fulham and Newcastle over the Bank Holiday have left the Whites on the rails and in danger of losing touch with the pack.

Blackburn have lost their last four games to halt their earlier progress through the field, while Wolves are rank outsiders after failing to produce any wins under new manager Terry Connor.

By contrast, QPR and Wigan have found fresh legs in the last few days to make their own timely charge for the line – but have they peaked too early?

We asked the local newspaper football correspondents of each club for their views, and how they thought the next month would pan out.

Who will end up riding to victory? Who are the mane men, and which manager looks like he is flogging a dead horse?

MARC ILES, Chief Football Writer The Bolton News: HOW’S THE GOING?

It had been smooth running up until the Easter weekend with three successive wins, but Wanderers came a cropper at home to Fulham and away to Newcastle to sink back into the bottom three.

BIGGEST HURDLE TO CLEAR?

A home clash with Spurs won’t be simple, but successive away games at Aston Villa and Sunderland will decide matters.

STAYING POWER?

We’ve got a game in hand for starters, but despite what happened against Fulham, I still fancy Wanderers to get the job done at home against Swansea and West Brom.

NAGGING DOUBT Has Owen Coyle got a natural born goalscorer in his stable? And how does the fact so many first-team stars are out of contract in the summer affect their mentality at this stage of the season?

THOROUGHBRED Nigel Reo-Coker. Born winner and arguably Wanderers’ most consistent player through this whole topsy-turvy season. If his attitude rubs off on the others, they’ll get over the line.

ODDS Odds-on to stay up last weekend, but the price is going out with each missed opportunity.

FALLER OR FINISHER?

Finisher.

ANDY CRYER, Sports Editor Lancashire Telegraph HOW’S THE GOING?

Soft. Very soft. Rovers keep showing signs of finding harder ground with glimpses of recovery before sinking back into the quagmire again. Recent performances have been poor.

BIGGEST HURDLE TO CLEAR?

Rovers’ away games look very tough. A trip to Swansea tomorrow looks the easiest before games at Spurs and Chelsea. If Rovers don’t beat Norwich and Wigan at home they are in deep trouble.

STAYING POWER?

Having lost the last four games in a row, there is the fear Rovers have run out of stamina. Only time will tell, and they do have firepower in Yakubu and Junior Hoilett. Those two can keep the side up.

NAGGING DOUBT Rovers’ strength in depth. A lack of quality on the substitutes bench means Rovers are very much reliant on their starting 11. Any injuries or suspensions and they are in real trouble.

THOROUGHBRED Junior Hoilett. The Canadian is almost certain to leave in the summer, but could give Rovers the perfect leaving present – top flight survival.

ODDS 2/1, but drifting out all the time.

FALLER OR FINISHER?

Finisher – by a photo finish.

PAUL KENDRICK, Wigan Athletic correspondent, Wigan Evening Post HOW’S THE GOING?

Wigan have lost just two of their last 10 matches, winning four. Even one of the defeats (at Chelsea) should have been a point.

BIGGEST HURDLE TO CLEAR?

The next one up (Arsenal away on Monday night) is obviously as tough as they come, but Wigan won’t fear anyone after the way they saw off Manchester United in midweek.

STAYING POWER Wigan have probably got more going in their favour than any of their relegation rivals. Firstly, there’s the form, there’s also stability at the top, and thirdly, the fact they know how to deal with the unique pressures of a relegation dogfight.

NAGGING DOUBT The continued lack of anyone to regularly put the ball in the back of the net. Wigan’s highest goalscorers (Gomez/Moses/Di Santo) have just four league goals apiece.

THOROUGHBRED The upturn in results has coincided with the signing of Jean Beausejour, and the emergence of Shaun Maloney can’t be underestimated.

ODDS Odds on to stay up. As long as their fate remains in their own hands, there’ll be no shortage of confidence at the DW.

FALLER OR FINISHER?

Finisher, of course.

PAUL WARBURTON, Chief Sports Writer, Fulham & Hammersmith Chronicle HOW’S THE GOING?

The 3-0 win over Swansea was just the thing for the final furlong. They were previously brought down at the first fence by a dozy linesman and a Bolton ref (ahem...) BIGGEST HURDLE TO CLEAR?

The trip to Chelsea on April 29 could be seen as such. Rangers fans will hope the noisy neighbours won't fancy it as much as they do the Champions League.

STAYING POWER Their names are Samba Diakité and Adel Taarabt. The former is playing out of his skin, and the latter can produce the type of mazy runs that bring goals.

NAGGING DOUBT Away form. As good as they have played at Loftus Road, Rangers have struggled out of the paddock. Perhaps West Brom on Saturday will produce a nice low fence to hop over.

THOROUGHBRED As above, but it also offers a chance to add Jamie Mackie to the mix. Sired through the lower leagues he is proving a revelation in the top flight.

ODDS Two home games, and a winnable one away could produce the magical 40 points. 2-1 should do it....

FALLER OR FINISHER?

Finisher, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was in 17th.

TIM NASH, Wolves correspondent, Express and Star HOW’S THE GOING?

Despite seven straight defeats, and one win in the last 19 games, Wolves have played well in their last four. But, no matter how well they play, they can’t stop conceding.

BIGGEST HURDLE TO CLEAR?

They’re all must-win, but if I had to pick one, it would probably be the home game against Manchester City a week on Sunday. The timing of that game means they could be relegated by then anyway.

STAYING POWER?

Results suggest otherwise, but they don’t give up easily, as their opponents in the last four games will testify.

NAGGING DOUBT Er, look at the league table for this one! Nine points adrift of safety with only 15 to play for tells its own sorry story.

THOROUGHBRED Tricky one given the state they’re in. But the wingers have really come to the fore recently. Matt Jarvis has had an excellent few months after a poor first half of the season, and Michael Kightly has come into his own after two years of injuries.

ODDS I don’t like to say this, but wafer-thin. They need five wins and have only won five all season. So, it’s a tall order.

FALLER OR FINISHER?

Faller.

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