Mike Roberts - Friday 21.11.14, 17:40pm
At least that’s the stupid international break over with for a couple of months although it was fun watching England beat Scotland with something to spare on Tuesday night.
Despite my prediction of a draw, Derby went back to the top of the pile with a 5-0 win against Wolves. It was Wanderers’ biggest away defeat in a league game since they were tonked by the same score at Fulham in the Premier League in March 2012 and pushed them down the table to their lowest position since August. A late goal from Tommy Smith was enough to earn Ipswich a win against Watford whilst Bournemouth’s trip to Middlesbrough ended goalless.
Derby are leading Bournemouth and Middlesbrough by a point with the Cherries ahead of Boro on goal difference. However any of the top five could be on top on Saturday evening and once again the fixture computer has thrown up a couple of top notch games this weekend, which I’ll come to in a moment.
At the bottom I think it’s wise to assume Blackpool are done for. Back in August the Tangerines were 6/4 for the drop and at time of writing they’re priced 1/16 so I think it’s fair to say the bookies are fairly confident that I’ll be writing about Blackpool on our League One site next season. I’ll only cover them again if they look as if they pull of an escape that will rival the crossing of the Red Sea.
After that, it’s getting tricky. Wigan dropped into the bottom three following a 3-1 defeat at Bolton that signalled the end of the Uwe Roesler era. I’ll put my hand up and say that expected more from the former East German international: the Latics recorded one win in their last ten games and failed to score in half of those matches. Malky Mackay took on the job on Wednesday, which is a very good move in football terms but might be problematic to the wider world following the revelations that accompanied his departure from Cardiff last season and Dave Whelan’s laughable attempt to make himself sound less of a cliched bigot over the last few days.
Brighton have been equally underwhelming : if Sami Hyppia doesn’t start achieving favourable results soon, he may be the next manager looking for a job (although Nigel Adkins might be a dark horse there – look at Reading’s away record so far). Rotherham are performing at about the level I’d expected but have a decent chance to climb a couple of steps up the ladder this weekend, so let’s start the mini previews with them.
Rotherham v Birmingham
The Merry Millers are probably in their current predicament because they’ve had a tough start to the season: ten of their seventeen games so far have been against sides in the top half of the table and five of their seven defeats been inflicted on them by teams that might be playing in the Premier League next season. Even though the clubs haven’t met in the league since April 2002, the Blues haven’t won at Rotherham since December 1965 and with one win in their last ten road trips even a point might seem like a victory for City.
Bournemouth v Ipswich
I went on about the Cherries in the last post so all I’m going to write about them this week is that they’re currently on a four game winning streak at the Goldsands Stadium and they’ve not won five in a row at home since they finished runners up in League Two in 2009/10. The Tractor Boys have only lost twice on the road this season but have only picked up all three points at Wigan and Blackpool so far and have only won once at Bournemouth in the last six decades (ten games).
Watford v Derby
The Hornets home record against the other clubs in top six so far: a win and a draw. Derby’s away record against the other clubs in the top six so far: a defeat at Brentford at the start of the month. Looks as if the Rams should be the underdogs, until you take into account that Derby have won half of their last six trips to Vicarage Road and had won five of their last six aways until they were beaten at Griffin Park. Watford haven’t lost at home this season, but four of their five victories have been against teams in the bottom half of the table.
This weekend’s televised games are two lively looking derbies: Brentford v Fulham (Sky Sports 1, coverage starts at 7:30pm) was doubtless the game the Sky Sports schedulers would have been waiting for when the fixtures came out in June due to the fact that the Sky Sports headquarters is a ten minute drive or half an hour’s walk from Griffin Park – which has a pub on each corner. The distance between Huddersfield and Sheffield is a bit further so Wednesday’s trip to the stadium that’s either called the John Smith’s or Galpharm on Saturday lunchtime won’t be too much of an inconvenience for Owls fans, but those who don’t fancy it will presumably be watching on Sky Sports 1 (coverage starts at noon).
I’ve just noticed there’s an above average level of sarcasm in this week’s post. Christmas must be coming. My last scheduled post will be on Friday 19th December but there’ll be a recap before the Third Round of the FA Cup.
Mike Roberts - Friday 14.11.14, 17:21pm
Less than a year after being appointed Latics manager, Uwe Roesler was sacked yesterday. I think it’s fair to say that Wigan have been underwhelming this season and I think that’s due to a number of reasons – the biggest one is not having found a consistent striker, but I also think that this season has seen a gradual realisation that the ‘Glory Days’ (such as they were) may finally be over.
Back next weekend.
Mike Roberts - Friday 07.11.14, 08:38am
This weekend’s fixtures couldn’t possibly have fallen any better than this: the top six are playing each other. And as we’ll find out in a minute, in the past five seasons it’s only taken 16 games for a very interesting pattern to emerge at the top of the table.
First though, credit where it’s due. On March 7th 2009 Bournemouth were 23rd in League 2. After suffering successive points deductions, the Cherries had eleven games to save themselves from relegation to the Conference after a 76 year spell in the Football League. Under Eddie Howe (appointed in January 2009), they won seven of those matches and were promoted twice in the next five seasons; they go into this weekend’s game against Middlesbrough in their highest ever league position. In case you’re wondering, in August 1987 Bournemouth were second in the old Second Division after two games, but the past five years have been remarkable and everyone associated with the club deserves the current success.
Incidentally, the weren’t the only team in this season’s Championship that were in League Two in 2008/09. Brentford won the title, whilst Rotherham also suffered a points deduction but finished 14th. An incredible seven clubs from that division are no longer playing in the Football League and Luton (who finished bottom) only returned in August.
Secondly, a bit of a moan. Bolton v Wigan (Friday, 8:00pm Sky Sports 1 HD) is a derby between two sides in the bottom six that probably won’t get much attention outside Lancashire. Once again, this looks like whoever went through the fixture list selecting games people might want to see looked at this and thought: two teams that used to be in the Premier League, one of whom got to the playoffs last season. I know it’s a bit late to change the televised games but if they showed some more imagination in June and July they’d not be facing tiny audiences in November.
Third: Kit Symons is now full time Fulham manager. The penny seems to have dropped at Craven Cottage too.
So onto the interesting pattern. In the last five seasons, after 16 games the top six positions have contained thirteen of the sixteen teams who won promotion to the Premier League. Here’s where it becomes ridiculously exciting for Bournemouth fans: in every single one of those campaigns, the club that was first after sixteen games was promoted – although in each of the last three seasons that’s been as either runners up or playoff winners. That may not matter to fans in Dorset if the Cherries can equal this feat.
However the same pattern is not good news for Wolves or Derby fans. Since the sixteenth game of the 2009/10 season onwards, none of the clubs that were sixth have been promoted. Derby also apparently have the odds stacked against them: they were in fourth place after sixteen games in 2010/11 but somehow ended up finishing 19th. Considering these two are meeting each other in the first game on Saturday there’s no better place to start with the previews.
Derby v Wolves
The Rams have only lost once at home this season but haven’t won consecutive home games since August and Wednesday’s win against Huddersfield was the first time they’d scored more than two goals at the iPro Stadium since they whacked Fulham 5-1. Wolves’ away form hasn’t been that impressive recently, although four draws in the last six road trips shows that they’re difficult to beat. Amazing fact of the day about this one: Derby have only won once in their last ten home games against Wolves, a 2-0 win in May 1993. Looks like a draw doesn’t it?
Ipswich v Watford
The hosts are on currently on a six game unbeaten streak at Portman Road, but I think it’s fair to say that their most impressive result during this sequence was beating Wolves on Tuesday. Watford became only the second team to lose at Birmingham City in the Championship in a calendar year on Tuesday night and at the risk of repeating myself I still think the Hornets are flattering to deceive at the moment. Incredibly, Ipswich have also only won once in their last ten home league games against Watford, 4-1 in March 2004.
Middlesbrough v Bournemouth
Returning to the idea of patterns, Boro’s last five at the Riverside have finished WDWDW with all the wins featuring clean sheets and all the draws finishing 1-1. Like Derby, they’ve not won consecutive home game in the same season for a while (April). Tuesday’s game against Norwich was as good as over after Grant Ledbitter’s penalty shortly after half an hour but if you’re facing a team that’s top of the table and has won their last three aways by a combined score of 12-1 then there’s no reason to be complacent. It’s only the sixth time these have met on Teeside in a league game: Middlesbrough had won all five until last season’s game, which ended with the clubs sharing six goals.
It’s the international break next weekend so I’ll see you on Friday 21st unless something ridiculous happens. If you’re stuck for something to read next weekend, why not head over to Buzzin’ League One football to see who might be playing in the Championship next season.
Mike Roberts - Tuesday 04.11.14, 15:25pm
I took the executive decision not to write a weekend preview last Friday: the weather was incredible and as I knew there was a midweek programme followed by the last round of games before the snooze fest of the international break, I decided against it. It’s the last non-holiday midweek round of the year, which is always a reason to be happy.
The penny seems to have dropped at Blackpool and Leeds, both of whom appointed managers with Championship experience last week. There are good and bad aspects of Lee Clark’s appointment at Bloomfield Road but both of those factors boil down to one thing: he’s had plenty of experience at the wrong end of the table with Birmingham and he might be more successful in building a team that can win promotion from League One. I wrote a couple of posts ago that I can’t be bothered with Leeds for the rest of the season and all I’m going to write is that Neil Redfearn should have been given the job after Dave Hockaday was sacked.
On the field of play last weekend, Watford took over at the top by beating Millwall whilst former leaders Derby lost at Brentford and were overtaken by Bournemouth, Middlesbrough and Wolves. At the bottom, Blackpool are now five points adrift after losing at home to Ipswich, but with only six points separating Millwall and Bolton this week is arguably as important as any of those left in the run up to Christmas.
This evening there are two games of interest, but having become slightly bored with Watford and Birmingham recently, I’ve decided to take a look at a couple of teams that have been quietly getting on with their business over the past few weeks.
This is a big test for Middlesbrough: none of their wins this season have been achieved against teams in the current top ten and they’ve only picked up one point from nine against their immediate rivals for promotion. That was at Charlton at the end of September but tonight’s game is followed by a visit from Bournemouth on Saturday and I think it’s fair to say that we’ll know more about Aitor Karanka’s side by this time next week. One of the finds of the season has been Kike, who arrived in July from Real Murcia for £2.7m. The striker – who celebrates his 25th birthday later this month – has been remarkably consistent: he’s averaged a goal every three games in both La Segunda and the Championship and I’d not be too surprised if he’s already caught the attention of some of the bigger clubs.
In contrast, Norwich have only lost one of their three games against the clubs that are currently above them and have won more games on the road in 2014/15 than they have at Carrow Road even though they’ve failed to score in two of their last three road trips. That being said, victory over Bolton on Friday night was their first win in five games, a run during which they surrendered first place in the table but this is a side with a strong spine and two proven goalscorers in Cameron Jerome and Lewis Grabban.
Teeside is not a happy hunting ground for the Canaries though. In their last ten trips to either Ayresome Park or the Riverside, Norwich have managed one win since New Year’s Eve 1977 and that was 26 years ago. Another aspect of this one that should bother the visitors is that in the seven games between the current top six, there have been precisely zero away wins, so it looks like the Canaries will have to break some trends to get anything out of this one.
All being well, I’ll be back later this week.
Mike Roberts - Tuesday 28.10.14, 17:31pm
Originally this was going to be a preview for this week’s Capital One Cup ties but after last weekend I feel it’s necessary to discuss the surprising – even by Championship standards – events at St Andrews and Elland Road.
Birmingham City - who in case you needed reminding, lost 8-0 at home to Bournemouth at the weekend - should have sacked Lee Clark a year ago at the earliest. I appreciate that the situation with their former owner meant that there were some issues with who had responsibility for executive decisions at boardroom level but nonetheless this club is in a mess and I think they’re a very credible candidate for relegation. Last Saturday was the first time the Blues had conceded five goals or more at home in the league since September 2012 (Barnsley) and the first time they’d conceded six or more at home in the league since April 1993 (Swindon). Gary Rowett of Burton Albion is next man up: good luck with that.
As for Leeds, the sooner the clown in charge of the current regime at Elland Road leaves, the better. Both the appointment and sacking of some random Eastern European no-one had ever heard of as manager was beyond a joke. Unless they’re in the top or bottom six or get past the fifth round of the FA Cup, I’m not wasting my time writing about them again this season.
Blackpool sacked Jose Riga yesterday but I don’t think that was much of a surprise was it?
For the record, I feel sorry for all three sets of fans, all of whom deserve better.
So on to the Capital One Cup, where there’ll be one guaranteed place in the next round. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the clubs playing Premier League opposition takes their game to extra time, but as you’ll see below there are compelling reasons to think that Bournemouth and Brighton might not get any further.
Bournemouth v WBA
Last meeting: FA Cup 3rd Round, January 1999, Cherries won 1-0 but have lost both previous meetings in this competition, last game was a 4-1 defeat at Dean Court in August 2011. Bournemouth have never gone beyond this stage of the League Cup.
Fulham v Derby
The Cottagers have won both previous meetings in the competition; half of the last games between them in the league in West London have ended in draws. It’s been ten years since Fulham reached the fifth round; Derby reached the semis six seasons ago.
Spurs v Brighton
Haven’t met in any competition for over 30 years and Brighton’s only win at Spurs come in October 1981. The Seagulls haven’t reached the fifth round since 1978-79.
All being well, I’ll be back at the weekend. Unless anyone else gets the chop and/or there’s a major upset this evening…