Football: We need a slice of luck, says Burley

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The Independent Online
GEORGE BURLEY, the Ipswich manager, is giving his side an even- money chance of securing promotion to the Premiership. Burley takes his side to face Sheffield United at Bramall Lane tomorrow, knowing they must beat the Blades and hope Bradford City fail to win away at Wolves if they are to return to the top flight after an absence of four seasons.

Ipswich were in the driving seat until a fortnight ago, but successive defeats at the hands of Crewe and Birmingham have seen them slip to third, a point behind Bradford. But Burley - who will be without injured midfielder Adam Tanner - said: "It really is 50-50 between the two of us now. We've got to win against Sheffield United no matter what, but Bradford will have to be going for the victory too because they know we can catch them. It's going to be tough for both clubs.

"We'll certainly need some luck; we need the ball to run our way. It's a very important game, but we'll have to make sure the basics are still there."

It will be no walkover for Bradford either, with Wolves needing a win to keep the chasing Watford and Bolton at arm's length in the scramble for play-off places. Watford - who were promoted to the First Division 12 months ago - host Grimsby, while Colin Todd's Wanderers travel to Portsmouth.

The Watford manager, Graham Taylor, whose side are unbeaten in nine games, said: "Our recent games at home have certainly been big games, but this is a truly massive match for us. It's been terrific to see people queuing for tickets all week; the people of Watford seem to be supporting us fully."

Sunderland, already confirmed as champions, have set themselves the task of breaking the record for total points in one season - they currently share it with Swindon at 102 - as they host Birmingham.

Down in the relegation battle, Bristol City, who host Norwich, are already down and Oxford, who host Stockport, look set to join them unless there is a freak set of results. Bury need to do better than Queen's Park Rangers - who are at home to Crystal Palace - when Port Vale visit Gigg Lane if they are to stay up.

In the Second Division, Manchester City will be watched by their biggest crowd of the season - more than 32,000 - as they warm up for the play- offs at home to York, who still need a point to guarantee safety. Bournemouth will hang on to the last play-off spot if they beat visitors Wrexham, while chasing Wigan - two points behind but having scored more goals - must win at home to Chesterfield and hope the Cherries slip up at Dean Court

In the Third Division, Carlisle and Scarborough are 90 minutes away from dropping out of the Football League. The Cumbrian club are a point behind their rivals, having scored eight goals fewer, and need to beat Plymouth at Brunton Park and hope the Seadogs fail to win at home to Peterborough, who could still qualify for the play-offs.

Scarborough beat Argyle on Wednesday to move off the foot of the table and the Carlisle manager, Nigel Pearson, said: "We've now got to believe we can win our game and hope that they don't take all three points."