There is now just a third of the season left in the Championship and there is excitement at both ends of the table, as teams battle to gain promotion to the Premier League, or avoid the dreaded drop to Division One.
Here, FantasySports.co.uk takes its regular look at the weekends action :
VILLA GIVE BIRMINGHAM THE BLUES AND TAKE SECOND PLACE
Despite a battling performance, Birmingham City couldn’t prevent deadly local rivals Aston Villa claiming a 2-0 victory at Villa Park on Sunday and moving into the second automatic promotion place, on the back of this, their seventh consecutive Championship win. A win over their second city rivals is always sweet, but the climb up the table will feel even sweeter for Steve Bruce’s men, who took full advantage of Derby County’s home slip up against Norwich, with Albert Adomah opening the scoring not long after half time, and then Conor Hourihane completing the victory with ten minutes left. Birmingham’s misery was compounded when N’Doye was sent off in injury time. Whilst Villa have been in perfect form recently, tests in their next two games against Fulham and Preston will see if their automatic promotion claims are for real.
WOLVES ALMOST THERE
Whilst the scrap for second place and the play off places below them heat up, league leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers saunter on their own merry way, and will already feel that they have one paw in the Premier League – almost certainly as Championship champions. Saturday’s 2-1 home win over QPR was the Wolves 22nd win in 31 games, and leaves them twelve points clear of Villa in second. They will feel that seven more wins from their remaining 15 games will be more than enough to gain them promotion – and there seems little sign of them failing to do this as a minimum.
DRAWS – ONE POINT GAINED OR TWO POINTS LOST?
Win at home and draw away was the old adage used by Italian clubs of yesteryear in gaining promotion or titles…and this still holds true today. But when the draws come at home, clubs chasing promotion are left with mixed feelings about whether to be happy with the point picked up, or rue to two lost. On Saturday, all the teams now in the play off places picked up draws against teams they will feel they should be beating. Derby drew 1-1 at home to enigmatic Norwich City with a lacklustre display, Cardiff felt aggrieved to only claim at draw at lowly Millwall on Friday night, Fulham could only pick up a point at relegation threatened Bolton, whilst Bristol City looked to cruising when 3-0 up against Sunderland – but were pegged back for a 3-3 draw. These points may prove valuable in the long run….but they may also cost teams promotion or a play off place.
MID TABLE TEAMS ON THE SLIDE NOW NERVOUS
Whilst the bottom four or five have remained largely unchanged for most of the season, there are a few clubs that have seemed safe in mid table – but wretched runs of form now leave them looking nervously over their shoulders as the bottom teams close the gap. Reading, Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest are all in desperate runs for form – each of them having only one win in their last ten Championship games. Worrying times for all three clubs who will be disappointed at the season they are enduring, having harboured ambitions of much better pre season or – in Forest’s case – having started the season very well.
BOTTOM TEAMS FIGHTING FOR CHAMPIONSHIP LIFE
It would have been very appropriate for the theme tune from Rocky to have been played in the dressing rooms of the relegation threatened clubs on Saturday…with all of them picking up valuable points and fighting for their lives. As mentioned, Sunderland staged a staggering fight back at Ashton Gate, coming from 3-0 down to draw 3-3….Burton Albion gained a great point at Ipswich, whilst Barnsley held Sheffield Wednesday at Oakwell. Hull City finally found some form away as they despatched Nottingham Forest 0-2 at the City Ground, whilst Bolton fought back from a goal down to claim a point off high flying Fulham. As mentioned, these points are now making what was a six team race into a 9 team battle, with some huge clashes upcoming – including Burton Albion v Nottingham Forest this weekend.
Join us next week for our next review of the results and updated standings from the Championship!