The Football League Paper - - CHRIS DUNLAVY -

HAS any sea­son ever left more sides feel­ing hard done by? It’s cer­tainly dif­fi­cult to re­mem­ber one where so many ex­cel­lent sides went un­re­warded.

Take the Cham­pi­onship. Derby went into yes­ter­day’s round of games with 84 points and a goal dif­fer­ence of +34. Twelve months ago, that would not only have as­sured pro­mo­tion but also have given them a fi­nal-day shot at the ti­tle.

This sea­son, it was good enough only for home ad­van­tage in the play-off semis, scant re­ward in any­one’s book.

League One is even worse. Si­mon Grayson’s Pre­ston have lost just six of their 45 games this sea­son, a record that speaks of in­cred­i­ble con­sis­tency. In­deed, last sea­son, they’d have clinched the ti­tle with a game to spare.

Now? They couldn’t even dream of au­to­matic pro­mo­tion, with Wolves clock­ing a century and sec­ond­placed Brent­ford notch­ing 91 points. Spare a thought, also, for Ley­ton Ori­ent and Rother­ham. They, too, would al­ready have beaten Bournemouth to sec­ond spot last sea­son.

I know it means noth­ing. As the say­ing goes, if ifs and ands were pots and pans. Ex­cel­lence is mea­sured by the team at the top and as the rest scram­ble to keep up their own per­for­mance is raised ac­cord­ingly.

One thing, though, is cer­tain. These should be the most high qual­ity play-offs for many years.

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