Joy or pain as leagues edge closer to thrilling climax

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The Independent Football

The champagne is on ice in Swansea, Milton Keynes, Peterborough and Aldershot. However, at Scunthorpe, Luton and Burslem the only reason to raid an off -licence is to drown probable sorrows.

It is that time of year, when the promotion and relegation issues begin to clarify. In the Championship, Colchester United are already down and Scunthorpe United will follow if they lose at Selhurst Park.

Nigel Adkins, the physio-turned-manager who took Scunthorpe up last season, said enigmatically: "Life is evolving – life is revolving. That's what life is all about, win or lose." The other Championship issues are as opaque as Adkins' phrasing. Just two points separate the top five, who are chasing two automatic promotion places. Five points separate the next eight, all of whom will harbour hope of pinching the final play-off place.

The rest of the division are worrying about relegation with seven points splitting Leicester City in 22nd and QPR in 14th.

Such uncertainty makes planning for the future tricky. Thus the impasse at West Bromwich between Kevin Phillips, the Championship's top scorer, and the club who would rather award the 34-year-old a one-year deal with a year's option, than a new two-year contract.

The closeness of the division also makes for tension and nerves though two men who should be able to put a football match in perspective are the Ipswich manager Jim Magilton and his chairman David Sheepshanks. Both escaped with minor injuries from a car crash on Thursday. They will be pleased just to be at tomorrow's East Anglian derby with Norwich.

In League One Swansea City will go up if they win at Gillingham this afternoon while relegation could be confirmed for Luton Town and Burslem's Port Vale. Bournemouth cannot go down this week but the drop appears unavoidable making yesterday's partial unveiling of their new owners more significant than today's match with Bristol Rovers.

Only two of the four directors of EU UK were revealed. The pair, Ian Mathison and Tom Frost, have not seen Kevin Bond's team play but insisted their partners were local businessmen who were "keen Bournemouth supporters". The takeover is due to be completed on Monday.

The ascension of Paul Ince's MK Dons to League One could be settled today. This is not an event all football supporters will celebrate, but their progress, and gates, will nevertheless be intriguing. So, too, will be the continuing development of Darren Ferguson who may take cash-rich Peterborough up today.

At the other end of the table Brian Little signed a new two-year deal at Wrexham despite the club's probable drop to the Conference.

Aldershot Town will be promoted to the League, 16 years after Aldershot FC went bust and were expelled, if they win today and Torquay do not. They have climbed back from the Ryman Division Three.

Ups & Downs: The movers

* CHAMPIONSHIP

Colchester are relegated. Scunthorpe will join them in League One next year if they lose at Crystal Palace.

* LEAGUE ONE

A win for Swansea at Gillingham would see them gain promotion to the Championship. Luton will be relegated if they fail to beat Brighton. Port Vale will be relegated if they fail to better either Gillingham or Crewe's result.

* LEAGUE TWO

MK Dons are promoted if they beat Wycombe, or if they draw and Stockport fail to beat Peterborough. Posh will go up if they win.

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