Championship Review 17th-18th March

Another weekend has passed in the Championship and there has been no shortage of thrilling action. Highlights included a thrilling 5-3 win for Brentford at Burton Albion, where the Bees recovered from a 3-1 half- time deficit, and a pulsating East Midlands derby saw a 2-2 draw between rivals Nottingham Forest and Derby County, both of whom had new managers in the dugout. Both managers will be pretty pleased with the result, despite Forest scoring a 94th minute leveller to deny the Rams. Other important results were a 2-0 win for Reading at playoff rivals Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United’s vital home win against Brighton.
Let’s have a look at who the big winners are losers were this week.

Who were the winners?

In terms of importance, the title of the week’s biggest winners will have to be shared between Leeds United and Reading. The promotion chasers both managed priceless victories over promotion rivals in the two big Championship games this weekend. A Chris Wood double helped Leeds to a huge three points in front of a bumper crowd at Elland Road. Many Premier League fans will hope to see the Whites join them in the top tier come May, simply due to their huge following and guaranteed full house every week in the Premier League. Gary Monk has worked wonders at the club, putting together a squad who genuinely look capable of going up. The side now sit comfortably in the playoff places in 4th. They are 8 points clear of 7th placed Fulham, who were humbled by Wolves 3-1. image

As for Reading, they sit just 2 points worse off in 5th place, 6 points clear of 7th. Led by Jaap Stam, their possession based style has served them well and although not the most popular club in the country, it would not be a huge surprise to see them back in the Premier League come next season. Despite not having a regular goalscorer, top marksman Kermogant, with 10 goals, knows how to cause defenders problems. They are backed by a strong defence and they are a club who know how to get results at the business end of a season, having gained promotion twice in the past ten seasons.

Accolades must also go to Brentford, who staged one of the comebacks of the season against Burton Albion. Brentford have enjoyed another solid season, despite losing the services of John Swift and Scott Hogan over the course of the year. However, mainly due to other teams picking up at the bottom, the table did not make handsome reading for the club at half time. This must have spurred them on though, as they went on to win the second half 4-0, which secured a superb 5-3 victory. It could prove to be a priceless three points as they now sit on 50 points, the usual mark which survival chasing sides hope to reach. They are ten points clear of the bottom 3 and it would take a monumental collapse for them to be relegated.
Conversely, Burton will now be looking over their shoulders at 22nd placed Blackburn who are just one point below them after their home draw with Preston North End. image However, they will draw hope from the fact that their form is generally solid, having gone 6 games without defeat before this fixture. Their forward partnership between Cauley Woodrow and Marvin Sordell appears to be proving fruitful. If they retain their Championship status, manager Nigel Clough will deserve many accolades, especially considering the size of his budget and also the fact that they were playing non- league football less than ten years ago.

Who were the losers this week?

The honour will have to be awarded to Sheffield Wednesday. Recent weeks have been very tough for the Owls, as they continue to watch the gap between themselves and 7th place become smaller. In fact, had Fulham have beaten Wolves they would have fallen out of the playoffs for the first time in recent memory. The season has been up and down for the Hillsborough outfit, despite occupying 6th spot. This 2-0 defeat by Reading has fans were worried that they might not get the playoff berth they expected before the season commenced. Popular boss Carvalhal had been expected to deliver at least playoffs, having led them to within 90 minutes of the Premier League last season. With the huge coup of Jordan Rhodes to add firepower to Gary Hooper, fans are justified in expecting a good shot at promotion. However, one win in six has left them clinging onto a place in the playoffs, and perhaps the manager clinging onto his job.

Huddersfield Town have been winners for the vast majority of this season, occupying an incredible 3rd place in a league where they usually languish around the 18th place mark. However, their 4-0 defeat at Ashton Gate against relegation threatened Bristol City was just not their day. Having lost Jonathan Hogg to a horrible neck injury in the 14th minute, the players appeared to let it distract them, and they were battered from then on. The pick of the goals saw Tammy Abraham claim his 22nd goal of the season, although it was the first time he had scored in a victory since the 1st October. Huddersfield will be ruing the performance especially given that top 2 Newcastle ambled to a draw against Birmingham at St Andrews and Brighton were well beaten at Leeds. At the same time, knowing the great optimism of boss David Wagner, he will consider it to be a let off rather than a missed chance.image

Rotherham United have endured one of the worst Championship seasons in living memory, having only garnered a miserable 17 points from 38 games, with only 4 wins all season. The 5-1 defeat against QPR at Loftus Road meant that they were effectively relegated with 8 games remaining. A goal difference of -54 means that they would need a Jesus resurrection style miracle to stay up this season. After being saved in miraculous circumstances by Neil Warnock last year, some fans may still harbour dreams of retaining their status, but maybe only after a few pints of Yorkshire ale. QPR on the other hand, are improving dramatically. They also looked like a side who could go down for long periods of the season, but Ian Holloway has worked his magic again at the London club. The club seems to be finally recovering from their disastrous relegation season from the a Premier League, and now have a squad of hungry players who want to play for the club. They still have players from those days such as Onouha and Mackie who provide the quality to a solid side. Jake Bidwell provides a solidity to the midfield and they will be hoping for a strong start to the season in 2017/18 under the charismatic Holloway.

What’s next?

The Championship will take a breather next week due to international fixtures, but will return on the weekend of the 1st April. The standout fixture is a clash between Reading and Leeds United at the Madjeski Stadium, where the winners will move another step closer to promotion. Stuttering Newcastle will hope to get back to winning ways against lowly Wigan Athletic, while at the bottom Nottingham Forest will be looking to earn their first win under Mark Warburton when they travel to Deepdale to play Preston.

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