Southampton are threatening to gatecrash the EFL Championship automatic promotion party.

For the longest time this season, the race for automatic promotion has looked like a three-way tussle between current leaders Ipswich Town, Leicester City (2nd) and Leeds United (3rd).

However, the inexplicable loss of form by the three front-runners in recent weeks has allowed fourth-placed Southampton, who have a game in hand, to close the gap to the leaders to just five points.

The Saints thumped Preston North End 3-0 on Tuesday night to haul themselves into the automatic promotion reckoning. The win moved Southampton within four points of Leicester City, who occupy the second and final automatic promotion berth.

Under the radar

While the top three have been trading slip-ups, dropping points left right and centre, Russell Martin’s Saints have been quietly marching up the table and closing the gap to the front-runners.

Between them, Ipswich Town, Leicester City and Leeds United have dropped 21 points from the last 27 on offer.

By contrast, Southampton have a 100% record from the same period. The Saints are now right in the title mix with almost as good a chance as any of their rivals.

Game in hand

In the context of the title race and automatic promotion, it is not without significance that both Southampton and Leicester City have played a game less than Ipswich Town and Leeds United.

To add to the intrigue, two of Southampton’s remaining four matches are against fellow Premier League dropouts Leicester City and Leeds United.

Whether the results of those two matches will boost Southampton’s promotion chances or put paid to their dreams remains to be seen. What is now apparent is that the Saints will have a big say in the outcome of the race for automatic promotion

Winner takes all?

The prospect of a final day clash between Leeds United and Southampton with an automatic promotion spot at stake is looking increasingly likely.

If Southampton beat Cardiff City on Saturday they will move level on points and games played with Leeds United, although the latter have a vastly superior goal difference.

What Southampton do have in their favour, however, is form and momentum.

By the time Leeds United travel to  Middlesbrough for their next match on April 22, there is a big chance Daniel Farke’s men will only be above Southampton on goal difference.

Even with only three or four games to play, the expectation is that top spot will change hands a few times before the title race is finally decided.

We have definitely seen the last twist of the tail in this intriguing Championship title race story.

What odds the meeting between Leeds United and Southampton at Elland Road on the final day of the season will be a winner-takes-all contest for automatic promotion?


I'm Barrie Jarrett, born in Leeds, lived over a decade in South Africa, CEO And Co Founder of Planet Sport Limited and Planet Bet Limited.

Write A Comment