Game Of The Week: Leeds v Sheffield Wednesday

On Tuesday evening Philip Billing’s goal eight minutes from time meant Huddersfield beat Reading, a result that means the Terriers are now only four points behind Brighton at the top of the table.

It’s a big weekend at both ends of the table and amazingly both the televised games on Saturday are crucial matches at the top of the table. The fun starts this evening when there’s a big game at the other end, where there’s only a six point gap between Blackburn and Wolves.

Burton Albion v Blackburn Rovers (this evening, no TV coverage)

After a run of five straight defeats at home, Burton have won their last two and have a reasonable looking run in at the Pirelli Stadium that starts with Rovers’ first game under Tony Mowbray, who was appointed after Owen Coyle was sacked earlier in the week and hasn’t exactly been the most successful manager at this level.

He’s got his work cut out for him: Blackburn have won once in their last ten aways but haven’t earned all three points at any of the sides in the bottom half of the table at the moment. Considering only four of the 21 games between the teams currently in the bottom six have ended in away wins, Blackburn are clearly on the back foot here.

Leeds United v Sheffield Wednesday (12:30pm, Sky Sports 1)

There hasn’t been a draw in any of the 16 Yorkshire derbies so far this season, which may be significant considering this is Leeds’ last one of the season. Gary Monk’s side has only suffered two defeats at Elland Road in the last ten but United have only won two of their six games against the top six and that may be worth remembering when the playoffs come round. Wednesday were surprisingly beaten by Brentford at Hillsborough this week: they still have to travel to Barnsley and Rotherham before the season ends. Since the turn of the century, Wednesday have only won once at Leeds in six league games, but the last three have all finished 1-1. If this does finish as a draw, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Newcastle United v Bristol City

This could be the most one sided game in the Championship this weekend, but there are a couple of things to take into account. Four of Newcastle’s seven defeats have been against sides currently in the bottom half of the table – including both games against Blackburn – but in five of those losses, the current leaders have failed to score.

On the other hand, Bristol City haven’t kept an away clean sheet since September and haven’t scored in a league game at Newcastle since November 1977. One of those problems is down to Lee Johnson – who has seems to be immune from the sack – the other isn’t.

Brighton v Reading (5:30pm, Sky Sports 1)

This is another one that might not go the way it’s supposed to. Brighton’s thirteen game unbeaten run at the Amex will have to end soon but Reading will have only had four days rest after the defeat at Huddersfield on Tuesday night. That loss means that the Royals have now lost all of their away games to the teams immediately above them.

Albion have been really impressive at home in so many ways: only one home defeat, only Newcastle and Norwich have scored more goals at home and only nine goals conceded in 15 games, including eight clean sheets. But here’s the weird part: Brighton have only recorded two home victories against Reading in the last ten meetings and there were fourteen years between them.

Another thing worth noting: the reverse fixture finished 2-2 and so far is the only draw in games between the current top six this season.

The remaining televised games are a couple of derbies that will probably have little or no impact on the rest of the season: Wolves v Birmingham (tonight, 7:45pm Sky Sports 1) and The Old Farm Derby (Sunday, noon, Sky Sports 2)

I’ll be back on Tuesday for the clash between the top two.

Game Of The Evening: Huddersfield v Reading

In a few weeks time this game could be a possible playoff final. I’m quite happy to admit that I didn’t give either side much chance of being in this position before the season began. As I’ve covered Huddersfield a lot over recent weeks, it’s probably time to give Reading the once over.

After a relatively sluggish start, the Royals been outside of the top ten since mid-September but they look like a team that’s going to end up marooned in the playoff places for the rest of the season. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for a club that spent the last two campaigns in the bottom third of the table, but still indicates that they’ll probably have to go the long way round for promotion and may be better off waiting for next season.

They’ve been excellent at the Madejski Stadium – only two defeats in their last ten – but although their away form has improved substantially this season, they’ve only kept four clean sheets in fifteen away games, with three shutouts coming against sides currently in the bottom half of the current table.

Crucially, just over half of their thirteen away goals this season have been scored between the 76th and 90th minutes – and five of those were the difference between a draw and a win. Yann Kermogant, Garath McCleary and Jon Swift are their leading goal scorers away from home, but significantly Kermogant hasn’t scored on the road since netting twice in four minutes at Bristol City at the start of last month and McCleary hasn’t scored an away goal since Bonfire Night. That’s far from being the end of the story though: this season nine other players have scored one goal each in Reading’s travels. Summing up, Reading are making their own luck in away games, clearly have goals throughout the team but – surprisingly for a team that’s managed by one of the best defenders in Europe in his prime – can be a bit dodgy at the back.

Huddersfield away has not been a particularly profitable match for Reading. The Royals last win in West Yorkshire came in December 2013, but Town won the next two meetings by an aggregate of 6-1. Significantly, the last draw between the sides at Huddersfield was in October 1992: this season only one of the 19 games between the teams currently in the top six has finished all square. Seven have been won by the away side, but Reading have already lost by two goals at both Leeds and Newcastle this season.

I’ll be back on Friday with a look at the games that matter at both ends of the table, so see you then.


FA Cup Fifth Round Special

No apologies for ignoring this weekend’s truncated programme in the Championship, although I must admit I’ve got my doubts about how many  – if any – teams from the second tier will make it into the draw on Monday evening.

Huddersfield Town v Manchester City (Saturday 3pm, no TV coverage)

It’s almost 30 years since these clubs last met in the competition and although Huddersfield have never beaten City in the FA Cup, the visitors haven’t faced an important Champions League game a few days after one of their previous meetings. Then again, Huddersfield haven’t been chasing promotion from the second tier for a while either – but they have reached this stage twice in the last decade.

The Terriers victory over Port Vale in the Third Round was their first victory in a home cup tie since they beat Dover Athletic six years ago, but Huddersfield have only lost twice at the John Smith’s Stadium in the Championship this season and they’ll be hoping that City may have their mind on other things. I think the best that David Wagner’s side can hope for is a replay: it’s worth remembering that Town haven’t reached the Sixth Round since the early 1970s.

Wolves v Chelsea (Saturday 5:30pm, BT Sport 2)

After their heroics at Anfield in the last round, I’m afraid that this looks a step too far for Wolves. The hosts haven’t won a home FA Cup tie at Molineux since beating Doncaster Rovers 5-0 in 2011: since then they’ve lost four on the bounce and their only win in the FA Cup against Cheslea was in January 1928. Then there’s the fact that Wolves have only won twice at home in the league since the start of October: this could get very one sided very quickly.

Fulham v Spurs (Sunday 2:00pm, BBC1)

If I had to pick a surprise winner this weekend it would have to be in this game.

There have been four meetings between this sides in the competition since the turn of the century, the most recent was at Craven Cottage was January 2011 when Fulham won 4-0. That result was never in doubt after Spurs had Michael Dawson sent off either side of a pair Danny Murphy penalties. Fulham’s 4-1 triumph over Hull in the last round was their first triumph in a home FA Cup tie for three years; the Cottagers have won four of their last six home games in the Championship but have conceded in five of those matches and that doesn’t bode well.

Blackburn Rovers v Manchester United (Sunday 4:15pm, BT Sport 2)

The holders play another struggling Championship team and I’d be amazed if United don’t stroll to another victory, although history buffs might want to point out that all but one of the previous eight meetings between the sides in the FA Cup happened before World War II and Blackburn only lost once. Having said that, the last meeting in the Cup was at Ewood Park in Feburary 1985, the season when United beat Everton in the final despite having Kevin Moran sent off.

Rovers have won half of their last six FA Cup ties at Ewood Park but the victory against Blackpool in the last round was the first time they hadn’t faced Premier League opposition in a home cup tie for four years. Although Rovers beat QPR at home a fortnight ago, they haven’t won consecutive games at home this season.

There’s nothing much going on this weekend, although there are a couple of interesting games at either end of the table next week, so I’ll update as we go along and I think there may be a short preview post on Tuesday.

Update: the weekend went pretty much as I thought it might. Fulham and Wolves lost without scoring, Blackburn took the lead at Ewood Park but lost and Huddersfield held Manchester City to a scoreless draw at home. The draw – which was made on Sunday evening – means that if the Terriers can win the replay, they’ll travel to Middlesbrough.

Huddersfield Town Are The Real Deal

Huddersfield certainly stepped up to the challenge of having two games in four days against other promotion contenders – they won both, with Sunday’s game against Leeds finishing in dramatic fashion:

What the clip doesn’t show is the fracas between David Wagner and Garry Monk after Wagner returned to the technical area. Both clubs face FA charges relating to being unable to control their players.

I’m also happy to admit that I wasn’t entirely convinced by Huddersfield’s early season form but I’m happy to change my mind. If either Brighton or Newcastle slip up, then the Terriers have proved that they can take advantage…it’s a big if though.

With three Yorkshire clubs in the playoff spots, we’re primed for a very exciting end to the season, but this weekend, our attention shifts to the bottom of the table. There are three games featuring four of the bottom six clubs:

Brighton v Burton Albion

The hosts haven’t lost at home since September and until last weekend Brighton hadn’t conceded more than two goals since December 2015, so it would be a real shock if Burton took three points at the Amex. The Brewers beat Wolves last weekend to record their second win in three games, but they’ve not won consecutive games this season and this looks beyond them.

QPR v Huddersfield Town

I’ve long been of the opinion that former players and/or manager that return to the scene of their former glories will inevitably fail to recreate them and it looks as if Ian Holloway is going to learn that the hard way – unlike Nigel Clough. Rangers nose dive down the table began before Ian Holloway returned, but his record since his re-appointment they’ve picked up 14 points from 14 games, which is a worse record than Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink compiled during his tenure at Loftus Road.

I don’t think I need to point out how good Huddersfield are at the moment.

Rotherham United v Blackburn Rovers

The Millers – who are now mathematically out of the playoffs – have lost their last four games without scoring, so I’m focusing on Blackburn here. There have been some signs of life recently – Rovers have only lost twice in their last half dozen outings – but despite wins at Derby and Newcastle earlier this season, they’ve been poor on the road and have already lost without scoring at both Bristol City and Wigan. One major positive for the visitors: they’ve beaten Rotherham in four of the last five league meetings.

Televised games: Sheffield Wednesday v Birmingham City (this evening, kickoff 7:45pm Sky Sports 1) would have been a good one before Gary Rowett was sacked, but with the Blues having apparently dropped out of playoff contention it’s not as much of a thrilling prospect. Wolves host Newcastle tomorrow (5:30pm, Sky Sports 1) but it’s in direct competition with Wales v England in the Six Nations and can’t really compete as a spectacle.

There won’t be a post about the midweek programme next Tuesday as it’s both Valentine’s Day and half term – and as my wife is a teacher, I think I’ve got a decent excuse.



A Busy Weekend For Huddersfield

Back to the league after last week’s disastrous showing in the FA Cup.

As I’ve got another family commitment this weekend, I’ve only got time for a short post – but the main issue is that Huddersfield have got to play twice in four days and both of their games are against promotion rivals.

Huddersfield v Brighton (this evening, 7:45pm, Sky Sports 1)

Town have a couple of games in hand over most of the other promotion contenders – except Brighton, who have earned 11 points over the same number of matches as the Terriers. Although the hosts have only lost twice at home this season, their next three scheduled games at the John Smith’s Stadium are against teams above them, starting with this one. Brighton shouldn’t expect to have it their own way this evening: they’ve only recorded three wins at Huddersfield in the last sixteen years and lost 7-1 in August 2009.

Saturday’s games include two that will have an impact at both ends of the table:

Newcastle v Derby

It’ll be interesting to see how Newcastle do after Ciaran Clarke’s late own goal earned QPR a share of the points at St. James’ Park last night. The Toon are still firm favourites to go up, but have only won half of their last six home matches. Last weekend’s win at Ipswich was Derby’s first away victory since mid-December: the Rams have only won one of their last 13 games at Newcastle.

Bristol City v Rotherham

Having seemingly steadied the ship against Sheffield Wednesday earlier this week, the hosts go into this one look for their first home win since the start of December. Rotherham have lost all but one of their away games this season and haven’t scored on the road since Joe Newell gave the Millers the lead at Fulham in mid-December.

Then on Sunday, it’s time for Huddersfield to entertain Leeds. Pontus Jansson’s dramatic late winner at Blackburn last night gave United their first away win sin Boxing Day and this season they’ve won both of the Yorkshire derbies where they’ve been the visitors. Leeds have only three of their last ten visits to Huddersfield for league games, but Huddersfield have only won once in the last five meetings.

Other televised games:

Wigan v Sheffield Wednesday (tomorrow, 7:45pm, Sky Sports Mix), Nottingham Forest v Aston Villa (Saturday, 5:30pm, Sky Sports Mix)

I’ll be back next week with a longer post, enjoy the weekend. I’m going to be in Stevenage for my sister in law’s 40th…