With Chelsea now seemingly set to clinch the Premier League title for the 2014-15 campaign, attention now focusses on the other end of the table where relegation issues are now becoming keenly contested with as many as eight teams involved in attempting to preserve their top flight status. Four successive victories by Leicester and seven consecutive defeats for Newcastle has ensured that no team has yet to be confirmed as relegated with more teams becoming embroiled in the anxiety of trying to avoid a bottom three position. However, as the weekend matches demonstrated, there is often a fine line between success and failure during such tense times.
A case in point was the encounter between Burnley and Leicester, two teams considered as favourites to be relegated just a few weeks previously. Leicester had won their three previous league games and had netted ten goals in four games prior to arriving at Turf Moor whereas the home team had beaten Manchester City 1-0 in early March but had failed to score a goal since that game in losing three of their four matches.
After a goalless first half during which chances were limited, Burnley forward Danny Ings was denied by fine Kasper Schmeichel save only for the loose ball to arrive at the feet of Matty Taylor who was fouled in the penalty area. The resulting penalty offered hope for a Burnley team occupying 20th position in the Premier League and Taylor decided that he would assume responsibility for the spot-kick.
However, Taylor fired his shot against the woodwork after appearing to lose his balance, with the Leicester players clearing the loose ball. Worse was to follow for Burnley as just seconds later, Mark Albrighton crossed a dangerous ball into the home penalty area only for defender Michael Duff to divert the ball towards his own goal. It is debatable whether ‘keeper Tom Heaton succeeded in preventing an own goal but the onrushing Jamie Vardy ensured that Heaton was eventually beaten.
No further goals were netted despite valiant efforts by Burnley to equalise, with Leicester now moving out of the relegation zone after their 1-0 victory to be replaced by a Sunderland team which failed to capitalise on a first minute goal scored by Conor Wickham in drawing 1-1 at Stoke.
There was also further misery for second bottom club QPR as they hosted West Ham in a London derby. A penalty miss by the normally reliable Charlie Austin denied the home team all three points as they were forced to share the honours with the Hammers in a 0-0 draw while Aston Villa recovered from being two goals adrift at Manchester City only to concede the winning goal during the 89th minute in a 3-2 defeat.
For some teams, five matches remain for this season while for others four games need to be played, contests which will decide the three teams to be eventually relegated in what is becoming an increasingly unpredictable end of season thriller.