I’ve long been a believer that although the Championship is capable of producing some surprising results in individual games, overall the table doesn’t lie – and despite defeats for Brighton at Preston and Norwich at Rotherham, we go into this weekend with the situation at the top more or less as it was.
Seeing as though Brighton won’t lose that many games this season and Preston did so well against Arsenal in the FA Cup, here’s the highlights – with commentary for a change – from last weekend’s game at Deepdale:
Last week’s game of the week finished in a 2-0 win for Sheffield Wednesday, although the score was 1-0 when Huddersfield‘s Jack Payne was dismissed for a rash challenge on Sam Hutchinson with twenty minutes left…which brings me nicely round to the game of the week: remarkably, it’s being televised.
Brighton v Sheffield Wednesday (this evening, 7:45pm Sky Sports 1 HD)
Last week’s defeat at Preston was the first away reverse for Chris Houghton’s side since losing at Newcastle at the end of August, but the Seagulls haven’t lost at the Amex since September, have kept clean sheets in eight of their twelve games this season and – according to the bookies – are nailed on for automatic promotion. The only apparent weaknesses in their home form is that they need to score more goals in the first half of their games and seem to be vulnerable defensively in the first 30 minutes.
Wednesday are a little bit easier to analyse. Despite winning without conceding a goal at both Newcastle and Huddersfield this season, they’ve struggled defensively against other sides currently in the top half of the table and they’ve average just less than one goal per game on the road, having only scored twice in one of their games away from Hillsborough this season. To put that into perspective, four of the current bottom six have scored more away goals than Wednesday have, which is one of the reasons that although they’re one of the better teams in the Championship, they aren’t one of the best.
Wednesday’s last win at Brighton was in the first game of the 2014/15 season, when Albion were ‘managed’ by Sami Hyppia and only finished six points clear of the relegation zone. This season, exactly half of the sixteen games between the current top six have ended in home wins and although I’m not expecting lots of goals later on, I’d be surprised if Brighton lost at home – although they are due another reverse at the Amex soon.
Nottingham Forest v Bristol City
I am on record as saying that Forest looked like strugglers before the season began and so it’s no surprise to me that they’ve performed exactly as I thought they would, even down to appointing – and then sacking – Phillipe Montanier. Furthermore, the unsuccessful takeover of the club seems to have been the last straw with the fans, who were also less than delighted when news broke that Henri Lansbury will probably be leaving. His move to Aston Villa hadn’t been confirmed when I posted this, but I expect it will have been when you read this.
Bristol City have been in free fall since October, having lost twelve of their last fifteen games – which includes blowing leads in four of those matches. So far this season several other clubs in the Football League have sacked managers that haven’t done as badly as Lee Johnson recently, so there must be something about him that the City board sees that the rest of us don’t.
Head to head: Forest have only lost two of their last ten home games in the league against City, but those defeats have come in the last three meetings – and the visitors haven’t lost to a team below them this season.
Televised games: QPR v Fulham (Saturday, 12:30pm) which confirms my theory that Sky Sports are incredibly lazy: the production team will be in the pub by 3:00pm. However Barnsley v Leeds (Saturday 5:30pm) will be an absolute cracker.
Back to the FA Cup again next week, so I’ll see you then.