Newcastle Lose Twice; Jackett Leaves Rotherham

Having rather brashly predicted that neither Huddersfield nor Newcastle would lose last week, I failed to heed my own advice about the Championship fairly predictable in the long term but very unpredictable on a weekly basis.

What I was not expecting was Kenny Jackett to walk away from the Rotherham job so quickly. I think this may be one of those cases where he may not have realised exactly what the state of the club was when he was offered the job – the Sheffield Star provides further insight here, the Yorkshire Post article is worth reading and you’ll find it here.

Anyway, here’s Newcastle’s third home defeat of the season – and if I’d have written a decent preview last week, I could have told you that Newcastle had lost four of their previous five home games in the league against Rovers.

This week the top two and the bottom six can’t change, but with only four points separating Barnsley and Cardiff, it would be a good time for some of the clubs in danger of slipping into the relegation zone to earn some points…

Blackburn v Huddersfield

Six meetings at Ewood Park since the start of the century, but Huddersfield won the last game in Lancashire in April; Rovers have only lost one of their last six at home, but Town have now lost five of their last six on the road and have conceded three or more goals in the last three of those games.

Burton v Rotherham

Four meetings all time at the Pirelli Stadium, but Burton’s only victory over the Millers came in League 2 game almost four years ago and they’ve not met since. Having written that, Albion haven’t lost at home since mid September and haven’t conceded a goal at home for almost five hours, which is hardly encouraging for Rotherham, who have been so dire this season that if they’re bottom on Boxing Day I’m not going to bother writing about them again.

Cardiff v Brighton

Last season’s meeting ended in a surprise 4-1 victory for the hosts, but since then the Bluebirds have only won seven of their seventeen league games in the Welsh capital and last weekend’s victory against Huddersfield was only their third home win in 2016/17. After a so-so start, Brighton’s recent away form has been very good: four wins in their last five aways with four clean sheets. Combine that with the fact that they’ve only lost three of their last ten trips to Cardiff for league games and you get the distinct impression that the hosts will remain in the bottom three tomorrow evening.

I’ll be back on Monday with the draw for the Third Round of the FA Cup, then the December market reports on Friday.

League Cup Quarter Finals Preview

Just a quick preview for the League Cup quarter finals today – but yes, I am aware of what happened last weekend and I’ll be addressing that on Friday #badpredictions

Liverpool v Leeds United (this evening, Sky Sports 1, 7:30pm)

First meeting in any competition at Anfield since October 2003, which is a sobering thought for those of us that can remember when the pair always seemed to be battling it out – often literally – at the top of the old First Division.

Leeds have never beaten Liverpool in the competition and although United reached the same stage of the competition three seasons ago, they’ve not gone any further since they were beaten finalists over in 1996. It doesn’t look particularly promising does it, but Leeds are in a particularly good run of form away from Elland Road at the moment and you could argue that Liverpool have bigger fish to fry.

Liverpool 2, Leeds 0

Hull v Newcastle United (this evening, no TV coverage)

Only previous meeting in the competition was in October 1997, when Newcastle won 2-0 at St. James’ Park. Premier League strugglers Hull have only beaten Newcastle at home on one occasion in seven meetings: a 2-1 win in a league game in October 1990.

Newcastle are familiar with the latter stages of the competition but haven’t actually reached the semi finals of the League Cup since 1976, when they went on to lose the final against Manchester City after beating Spurs in the semi-finals. As I wrote last week, they’ve been irresistible on the road this season and I think they’re the best chance we have of a team from the Championship reaching the semi finals.

Hull 1, Newcastle 1 (Hull w0n 3-1 on penalties)

I’ll update the scores, but otherwise I’ll be back on Friday – when I’ll have some explaining to do 🙂

Something Different This Week

Only two games came to my attention this weekend and as I’d expect neither Newcastle nor Huddersfield will lose and the top two can’t be overtaken anyway, it’s time for a slightly different angle.

Looking at the current table, it’s interesting to see that some of the most interesting statistics seem to be clustered around just a few clubs – so I thought I’d take a detailed look at them.

I was initially sceptical about Newcastle’s chances this season, but that was before I realised exactly how good they are. This is already beginning to look like a masterclass in how to win the Championship: the present side are performing at the same level as the 2009/10 team that won the title by 11 points.

United have scored in all but one of their games at St James’ Park this season and have scored three or more goals in exactly half of their home outings but it’s their away record that’s astonishing. The season opening defeat at Fulham was their only defeat so far: since then they’ve won seven of their next eight games and have kept six clean sheets. To be quite frank, it does make you wonder how they got here in the first place.

In contrast, I’ve not been surprised by Aston Villa at all. Although they’re only five points away from the playoffs, they’re currently 13 behind Brighton, which at this point in time looks insurmountable. The big problem they’ve had this season is blowing leads in four of their five draws at Villa Park and two of their five ties on the road: their only away win this season was courtesy of an injury time penalty at Reading last month. That indicates to me that although they may be tough to beat, they’re currently nowhere near good enough to go up: if they don’t win promotion, it’ll be the longest period outside the top tier since the mid Seventies.

At the bottom, Cardiff have been beaten at home more times than any other club this season, which ties in nicely with their major regression from last season. Since promotion in 2003, the Bluebirds have only lost more than five home games in a season on three occasions. The last time they were relegated from this section – at the end of 1984/85 – they lost 13 games at Ninian Park. In fact, it won’t come as any surprise that they’d also lost five home games by the end of November 1984: they’ve been better at home since Neil Warnock took over at the start of last month, but the Bluebirds still have some work to do.

Wigan are in trouble largely due to having scored the fewest goals in front of their own fans: the Latics have been shut out in five of their eight home games this season.. Will Griggs’ 88th minute winner against Wolves at the end of September is the most recent goal at the DW Stadium: there have been four and half hours of football since then.  Ipswich are as bad at scoring away from home – they’ve scored four goals in eight games, half of which came at Sheffield Wednesday three weeks ago.

And then there’s Rotherham.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, this is already an historically inept season for the Millers. They’ve lost all but one of their away fixtures this season and would have won the other one if they’d not conceded an injury time equaliser at Ipswich. Opponents have scored at least twice in all games so far. Their post-war record for goals conceded in away games was 57 in 1957/58, when they finished 18th in the old Second Division and avoided relegation by three points: the highlight of that campaign was an 8-0 defeat at West Ham in March. Additionally, they’re on course to break their own record of winning the fewest amount of points in the section since the second tier was renamed the Championship at the start of 2004/05. The Millers finished with 29 points at the end of that season: I’ve currently got them on target to finish with even fewer than that.

There’ll be a short preview of the League Cup quarter finals on Tuesday, but don’t forget that the draw for the Third Round of the FA Cup will be made on Monday 5th December.

 

 

Now Holloway Is Back

I’m not sure what to make of QPR continuing the retro feel of this season’s Sky Bet Championship. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s departure on Guy Fawkes’ night was another indication that just because some clubs have played the odd season in the Premier League that they just simply need to turn up in order to be challenging for promotion. The appointment of Ian Holloway – who hasn’t managed anyone for almost two years – at Loftus Road was lauded by Rangers fans but by detached amusement by almost everyone else. Still, I’m sure he’s getting more money than he was when he was working for Sky Sports and I’m sure he’s got a few more of his homespun and entertaining anecdotes.

There are two confirmed appointments as well as Holloway’s return: Paul Lambert is now Wolves‘ boss and Warren Joyce is managing Wigan. Lambert has previous managerial experience in the Championship and could be a good fit for Wolves, but on the other hand Joyce hasn’t managed in the Football League since 2000 and looks like yet another gamble by a team that remains one of the favourites for relegation.

Back to this weekend. Newcastle and Brighton have a five point cushion over Huddersfield, any of the top half could reach the playoff spots this weekend, Rotherham are still bottom and any of the other five clubs in the bottom six could find themselves in the bottom three on Sunday morning.

A couple of games to keep an eye on this week, one tomorrow and one televised game on Sunday lunchtime:

Cardiff v Huddersfield

It didn’t take too long for the Warnock effect to wear off: the Bluebirds have lost their last two and have slipped back into the bottom four. They haven’t kept a home clean sheet since April and although Huddersfield have only won once in five trips to the Welsh capital since the start of the 21st century and have only one victory in their last five outings, the Terriers haven’t lost at any of the sides currently in the bottom half of the table.

Leeds v Newcastle (Sunday, Sky Sports 1, 1:15pm kick off)

After a nondescript start that saw rumours of Gary Monk’s imminent departure swirling in the wind, Leeds have now cracked the playoff places for the first time for almost three years on the back of a run that has seen them lose only twice in ten games. Although Chris Wood has scored five of their 13 goals in that period, it’s perfectly fine to use the old cliche that United are a team full of goals – seven other players have contributed to that tally, including an own goal from Wolves’ Silvio at Molineux in October. The only knock against them: at Elland Road this season, they’ve only beaten clubs currently in the bottom half and only Burton were defeated by more than one goal.

Newcastle haven’t lost on their travels since the first game of the season, but if they avoid defeat at Elland Road there’s a very good chance that they could finish this year without losing on the road – their next three aways are against teams at the wrong end of the table. Defensively, the Magpies are better away from St. James’ Park: five clean sheets in eight games so far -an opposition player hasn’t scored against them in an away game since Aaron Tshibola scored for Aston Villa at the end of September.

Astonishingly, this is the first league meeting between the clubs at Elland Road since August 2003 and you’ve got to go back to September 1999 for the last Leeds win in Yorkshire.

I’ll be back next Friday. I’ll be up North again for Christmas, so I’m not sure if there’ll be a post over the holiday or not yet. Don’t be too surprised if there isn’t.

Market Reports: November

At the top, Newcastle are dead certs in the promotion market. Five consecutive wins in October indicate to me that they are far stronger than I’d expected and they also compare favourably to their predecessors that ran away with the competition a few seasons ago. However, last month’s second favourites Norwich have seen their odds lengthen since the start of last month: their away form in particular has not been good enough for a serious promotion contender and their defence on the road is clearly a major issue:

Norwich’s misfortune has been Brighton‘s gain. Albion’s nine game undefeated streak is a sure sign that they need to be taken seriously once again and this weekend they face an interesting clash at the only other team that’s seen their odds for promotion shorten both over the last month and since the season began…

Game of the week: Bristol City v Brighton (tomorrow, Sky Sports 1, 5:30pm)

A televised clash between two top six sides looks like one to savour, but if you’re expecting loads of goals I’d beware. Albion won 4-0 at Ashton Gate last season but that was the first time there’d been more than one goal in a league encounter in Bristol since August 1991 and the revamped City side under Lee Johnson is an entirely different proposition. Six of the last seven meetings in BS3 have ended with one goal or less and City have only won one of those, just over a decade ago. If you take into consideration that so far this season only four of the ten games between the current top six have seen both teams score and exactly half of those games have ended with more than two goals, this looks a very tight game.

Back to the markets again and at the bottom, it’s still a case of who’s going down with Rotherham and possibly Blackburn. Preston are now expected to remain clear of danger, but both Barnsley and Nottingham Forest have seen their prices for relegation shorten. I think the bookies have been a bit harsh with the Tykes: they ended their six game streak without a win with a surprise victory at Brentford before snatching a last minute equaliser against Bristol City at Oakwell last weekend. On the other hand, I picked Forest to struggle before the season started and they’ve only won once since the start of September: if they continue in that form, Phillipe Montanier will be out of a job before Christmas.

There are a couple of runners up for the game of the week, but Cardiff haven’t won at Newcastle since John F. Kennedy was still alive and Reading haven’t won at Wigan since George W. Bush was midway through his first term in the White House.

As there’s another bloody international break next weekend, I’ll see you all in a fortnight, unless there’s another round of managerial departures…