Boro's fixture pile-up is bad but Dagenham's is worse

The severe fixture congestion which is threatening to engulf Middlesbrough's bid to avoid relegation eased marginally yesterday, in spite of confirmation from the Premier League that an extension to the season was out of the question.

The Middlesbrough manager, Bryan Robson, had feared that his side would face five games in the last nine days of the season after Chesterfield's late equaliser in Sunday's FA Cup semi-final. Next Tuesday's replay means their League game at Tottenham, due to be played on Monday, has to be fitted into an over-busy schedule.

The Premier League said yesterday that the game would be played on the Thursday or Friday following the cup replay rather than during an already hectic final week.

Robson claimed the impending fixture pile-up was placing an undue burden on his team. "I don't think you can play three matches in seven days, let alone five," he said. "Players need at least 48 hours to recover and that is a medical fact"

The Middlesbrough squad will have a break of more than three days between matches only once after tomorrow's Coca-Cola Cup final replay against Leicester. That comes during England's preparation for their World Cup qualifier against Georgia at Wembley on 30 April.

Chesterfield's hopes of attaining promotion from the Second Division have also been hampered by their impressive cup form. With games in hand on most of their promotion rivals, the Spireites retain an outside chance of qualifying for the play-offs. However, a run-in of eight games in 19 days, beginning at Brentford tonight, suggests that Chesterfield's final League position will better reflect their level of endurance rather than their skill.

Such congestion pales into insignificance when compared with what Dagenham and Redbridge, of the ICIS League Premier Division, face in the remaining three weeks of their season. Their progress to the semi-final of the FA Trophy has left them with 10 matches in 18 days.


FA Carling Premiership

LIVERPOOL: Tomorrow: Everton (a); 19 April: Manchester United (h); 24 April: Paris St-Germain (h, Cup-Winners' Cup); 3 May: Tottenham (h); 6 May: Wimbledon (a); 11 May: Sheffield Wednesday (a). Six games in 25 days

MANCHESTER UNITED: 19 April: Liverpool (a); 23 April: Borussia Monchengladbach (h, European Cup); 3 May: Leicester (a) 6 May: Middlesbrough (h); 8 May: Newcastle (h); 11 May: West Ham (h). Six games in 22 days

MIDDLESBROUGH: Tomorrow: Leicester (Coca-Cola Cup final replay); 19 April: Sunderland (h); 22 April: Chesterfield (FA Cup semi-final replay); 3 May: Aston Villa (h); 6 May: Manchester United (h); 8 May: Blackburn (a); 11 May: Leeds (a); TBA: Tottenham (a). Eight games in 22 days

NEWCASTLE: Tomorrow: Chelsea (h); 19 April: Derby (h); 3 May: Arsenal (a); 6 May: West Ham (a); 8 May: Manchester United (a); 11 May: Nottingham Forest (h). Six games in 25 days

WIMBLEDON: Tomorrow: Leeds (h); 19 April: Sheffield Wednesday (a); 22 April: Chelsea (h); 3 May: Nottingham Forest (a); 6 May: Liverpool (h); 11 May: Sunderland (h). Six games in 25 days

Nationwide League Second Division

CHESTERFIELD: Today: Brentford (a); 19 April: Millwall (h); 22 April: Middlesbrough (FA Cup semi-final replay); 24 April: Watford (a); 26 April: Crewe (a); 28 April: Stockport (h); 30 April: Bristol City (a); 3 May: Notts County (h). Eight games in 19 days

STOCKPORT: Tomorrow: Gillingham (a); 19 April: Preston (a); 22 April: York (h); 26 April: Wycombe (h); 28 April: Chesterfield (a); 3 May: Luton (a). Six games in 18 days

GM Vauxhall Conference

STEVENAGE: Tomorrow: Woking (FA Trophy semi-final replay); 19 April: Southport (a); 21 April: Rushden (h); 23 April: Gateshead (a); 26 April: Stalybridge (h); 29 April: Altrincham (a); 3 May: Halifax (a). Seven games in 18 days

WOKING: Tomorrow: Stevenage (FA Trophy semi-final replay); 19 April: Gateshead (h); 22 April: Macclesfield (a); 24 April: Farnborough (a); 26 April: Northwich Victoria (a); 29 April: Rushden (a); 3 May: Morecambe (h). Seven games in 18 days

ICIS League Premier Division

DAGENHAM AND REDBRIDGE: Tomorrow: Gloucester (FA Trophy semi-final replay); 19 April: Yeading (h); 22 April: Dulwich (a); 24 April: Enfield (a); 26 April: Oxford City (a); 28 April: Grays (h); 30 April: Hendon (a); 3 May: Sutton (h); TBA: Chertsey (h) and Hitchin (h). 10 games in 18 days

Dr Martens League Premier Division

GLOUCESTER CITY: Tomorrow: Dagenham (FA Trophy semi-final replay); 19 April: Gravesend (h); 22 April: Dorchester (a); 24 April: Atherstone (h); 26 April: Gresley (a); 29 April: Dorchester (h); 1 May: Baldock (a); 3 May:Salisbury (h). Eight games in 18 days