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The Championship : Five things to take from latest games takes its regular look at the madness that is the Championship – as the scramble to reach the promised land of the Premier League and avoid the drop into Division One heats up, as the teams approach the final stretch of the season:

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Five wins on the spin with only one goal conceded have propelled Aston Villa up the Championship table so much so that they are now just one point off the second automatic promotion spot. Last night the Villains just prevailed in a high quality game against Sheffield United, who will feel aggrieved not to have come away with at least a point, but also know they pushed the pre season favourites all the way and ultimately were beaten by a superbly taken goal from Villa winger Robert Snodgrass. With Burton Albion and Birmingham City up next for Villa, their winning run could (should?) yet be extended as they look to pile the pressure on second placed Derby and, to a lesser extent, leaders Wolves.


Birmingham City gained a much needed win as they clambered out of the relegation zone, even leaping above Hull City, by despatching sorry Sunderland 3-1 at St Andrews. The win means the Blues have now taken 10 points from their last 5 games and are one of the division’s form teams across the last five games. This form has given real hope and impetus to Birmingham as they look to preserve their Championship status and look to once again re-establish themselves as a force in English footballs second tier.


Whilst Wolves continue to look nailed on for automatic promotion as Champions, the race for the second automatic spot is hotter than a ghost chilli. Just six points separate Derby in second from Fulham in sixth, with all five teams in very good form. The Rams will feel hard done to after seemingly dropping four points to decidedly controversial refereeing decisions – a cast iron penalty not given against Sheffield United and a goal ruled out for offside that looked level at worst against Millwall last night. But Derby remain in excellent form with just one loss across their 14 Championship games. They are still the team to catch and pass….but this looks like a race that will go right to the wire.


Equally as much of a race is for promotion, the race to avoid the drop is as exciting and close. Here, just THREE points separate Barnsley in 19th and Burton Albion who currently reside in 24th. The Brewers took another home defeat last night, with a 1-3 reversal to Reading, that win giving the Royals a little breathing space themselves with now a five point gap established over Barnsley. Bolton picked up a valuable point and continue to keep the scoreboard ticking over….but the team in real danger look to be Hull City, who although drawing at home to Leeds United last night, have now only one win in 15 and have scored less than a goal a game in that time. They are now out of the bottom three on goal difference only….and have two awkward looking away games up next at Preston and Nottingham Forest – and Hull have been shocking away from home this season. But this again looks a race that will not be concluded until the season end…..just as it should be!


There hasn’t been many jaw dropping transfers across the Championship clubs in this winter window – and all signs point to activity today being limited rather than manic, with clubs seemingly set on what they have to see the season out. Derby County landed veteran striker Cameron Jerome from Norwich City and promptly allowed Darren Bent to join Burton Albion on loan, and signs pointed to a scramble for Chris Martin, with Sunderland, Reading and Fulham all apparently interested – but no deal has been forthcoming. Middlesbrough may well have landed the best signing – taking Manchester City starlet Jack Harrison on loan after the Premier League leaders landed the player themselves from New York City, where he has been a sensation. Millwall welcome back Tim Cahill for a final stint in English football at 37, whilst Leeds United have landed WBA striker Tyler Roberts for £2.5m in a bid to reignite their season. We expect further movements as the final transfer day expires – but largely fringe players being moved on, rather than anything of real significance.

Join us next week as we take our next look at all things Championship – pound for pound the best league in World football!!