McMahon well placed for another promotion

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The Independent Football

Wigan Athletic may have turned the Second Division championship into a one-horse race but the contest for the second automatic promotion slot and the four play-off places appears likely to be much more competitive, with all teams down to ninth place at least in the running.

Tranmere Rovers occupy that spot with a five-point cushion between themselves and 10th-placed Plymouth Argyle, but it is the team just above the Wirral club who are beginning to provide their supporters with some long overdue excitement.

Blackpool have not played outside the bottom two divisions in 25 years, yet have emerged with a strong chance of making the play-offs and further enhancing the reputation of manager Steve McMahon.

McMahon, who won three League titles and two F A Cups as a Liverpool player, steered Swindon to the Second Division championship in his first full season as manager in 1996 and already has one promotion with Blackpool under his belt, having won through the Third Division play-offs two years ago.

For all his collection of medals and caps, McMahon judged that triumph as his finest in football, his side having stormed up the table to snatch seventh place in the table and then going on to beat Leyton Orient 4-2 in the final.

Now he has the Tangerines much more handily placed. Defeat at Tranmere last weekend knocked them back slightly but a run of 11 unbeaten matches preceded that result.

Looking ahead to today's visit of Wycombe Wanderers to Bloomfield Road, McMahon said: "I was disappointed with the way we defended against Tranmere but there is no reason we cannot go on another run if we put those things right." Elsewhere, Crewe Alexandra will be anxious to return to winning form against Peterborough at Gresty Road, having lost to Wigan in midweek. The leaders will expect another three points at home to Chesterfield, while Luton and Queen's Park Rangers can give their chances a significant boost if they win at Notts County and Swindon respectively.

Critical Third Division points are up for grabs at Gigg Lane, where fourth-placed Bury meet third-placed Bournemouth, and at Nene Park, where second-placed Rushden meet York City, well placed in fifth despite teetering on the brink of extinction.