Its time for our regular look at the Championship, where fresh off the back of the usual weekend’s fixtures, we had a full midweek programme to enjoy also. Lets take a look at the headlines coming out of those games as teams hit the home straight in the charge for the Premier League, and look to avoid Division 1.
PADDY PILING ON THE POINTS FOR BORO
Its been a stop start season for Middlesbrough, who have laboured around mid table for most of the season. But just when push comes to shove, they have found some form and made a real move up the table – so much so that Tuesday nights victory over Birmingham at St Andrews catapulted them into sixth place and a play off position. The winner was scored by Patrick Bamford – hitting his 7th goal in his last four games. Upcoming games against Barnsley and Brentford will leave Boro fans feeling very positive about claiming a play off berth yet, although they do face a stiff schedule in the run in.
TOP TEAMS UNSTOPPABLE – WITH ONE EXCEPTION
As we move into the final stretch of the season, the top teams are not letting up in the slightest, with the top four all in superb form and relentless in their Premier League pursuit, making this Championship season one of the most exciting of recent years. Of the top four teams last 5 games each, they have combined for 14 wins, with 4 draws and just 2 defeats between them. True promotion form and whilst Wolves continue to look secure at the top, the scramble for second looks like a three horse race, with Cardiff fighting off the Aston Villa and Fulham charge. Sadly, the pressure has been too much for Derby County to handle, who have fallen away spectacularly – and with deadly local rivals Nottingham Forest next up for the Rams, it could yet get much worse before it gets better.
CHASE FOR PLAY-OFF PLACES HOTTING UP
Many teams are also in fine form as they all battle to creep into the playoffs and, as has happened many times in the past, be the surprise team to claim Premier League spoils from their higher placed opponents. As Middlesbrough moved into 6th place as mentioned, Bristol City, Preston and Sheffield United all remain within a win of taking that spot, with Brentford and the uber hot Millwall also clinging onto hopes. It is some indictment of the Championship that with less than a quarter of the season remaining, nearly half of the division still have a more than reasonable hope of getting into the Premier League.
RELEGATION LOOMING FOR MANY TEAMS
As intense the pressure is at the top, it is as suffocating at the foot of the table, with as many as eight teams hearing the trap door to Division 1 squeaking open and knowing they could be one of the three teams to fall through it. Whilst consistent bottom three dwellers Sunderland and Burton Albion looked all but doomed, they will be heartened enough to know they are still within striking distance of the teams above them. Birmingham City are in another desperate run of form, on the back of six straight losses and scoring just one goal in the process. Yet the stuttering form of Barnsley, Hull, Bolton, Reading and now even Sheffield Wednesday mean its still anyone’s guess as to who will drop.
MORE CRUNCH GAMES THIS WEEKEND TO RELISH
Key, crucial games in the Championship are played every gameday it seems, and this weekends set of fixtures does not disappoint here either. The game of the weekend is undoubtedly Aston Villa welcoming leaders Wolves to Villa Park. But also play off chasing Preston host Fulham and there is a huge relegation clash at Hillsborough as Bolton Wanderers make the trip to Sheffield Wednesday. And, as said, that very tasty East Midlands clash at the City Ground where Forest will be looking to add more misery to Derby’s recent form
Check back next week for more Championship reviews and previews!