Mike Roberts - Friday 02.10.15, 14:24pm
This week saw the first of the managerial changes of the season: the end of September isn’t actually that bad, considering that Mark Robbins resigned from Huddersfield immediately after the first game of the 2014/15 season.
I can understand why Steve Davis is no longer manager of Rotherham, even though the timing of the decision – after back to back wins – was odd, although there are some interesting rumours doing the rounds on ’social media’ that involve the Rotherham board preventing Davis from leaving to join Peterborough (where he lives) a couple of weeks ago. The Millers are still everyone’s favourites to go down after a poor start: consecutive promotions may have been a step too far and I can understand the need for a change.
As for Brentford…
Over the past five years I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve written posts where I’ve criticised teams for appointing either:
(a) A manager with no experience of managing at this level
(b) A manager with no experience of managing in Great Britain
(c) Having a chairman or a board of directors who are daft enough to think that one good season in the Championship means promotion to the Premier League is inevitable
(d) A combination of the above.
There are exceptions of course. Guy Luzon at Charlton seems to be doing OK at the moment and it wouldn’t surprise me if Aitor Karanka (Middlesbrough) goes on to bigger and better things even if that’s not with Boro or even in England. However, since the start of last season, the following non-British managers have all come and gone without making a positive impression at the clubs that appointed them: Bob Peeters, Felix Magath, Darko Milanic, Sami Hyypia, Jose Riga (at two different clubs!), Uwe Rosler, Giuseppe Sannino and Ole Gunnar Solksjaer.
In Rosler’s case, he’s gone and come back again, having left Brentford to move to Wigan, where he did very little to prevent their eventual relegation. It’s not really much of a surprise he’s the Leeds boss now; but this brings us nicely back to Brentford. This post from February is what I thought about Mark Warburton’s decision to move on at the end of last season and the appointment of the hitherto obscure Marinus Dijkhuizen in June was the icing on the cake. Warburton has gone on to very promising things with Glasgow Rangers and it’s now abundantly clear that Matthew Benham got the decision to go in a different direction wrong.
Anyway, we move on. Brighton and Middlesbrough cannot be overtaken this weekend and one of them will be top going into the international break. The Seagulls retained the lead by one point after drawing at Bolton, even though they blew a two goal lead. Boro swept Leeds aside on Sunday but with only three points separating QPR and Reading the outcomes of this weekend’s games indicate whether we’re likely to see the leaders pull away from the chasing pack. At the bottom Rotherham dragged themselves out of the bottom three with an unexpected win at Birmingham, whilst Bristol City sank to the bottom of the table despite earning a point at Ipswich.
The three matches that made it on to the ‘Game Of The Week’ shortlist are as follows, but I decided against picking one of them as they’re all vital in different ways.
Brighton v Cardiff
Four of the last five league games between these two in Sussex have ended in draws and Brighton haven’t beaten Cardiff at home for 13 years. The Seagulls have won all of their home games in the Sky Bet Championship this season but Cardiff haven’t lost consecutive away games since January and will be looking to bounce back from their surprise defeat at Rotherham two weeks ago.
Bristol City v MK Dons
In the nine previous meetings between the clubs, MK Dons have never beaten Bristol City in any competition. It’s probably too early to call this one a relegation six pointer, but if either side wins then the other could be in big trouble.
Reading v Middlesbrough
Since 1988 Boro have a lousy league record at Reading: two wins in the last ten, the most recent victory coming six years ago. This looks like a good test for both teams, although Middlesbrough arguably have to more to prove as they’ve only played one game against any of the sides in the current top ten.
There are also three televised games this weekend: Rotherham v Burnley (tonight, Sky Sports 2, 7:45pm kick off), Wolves v Huddersfield (Saturday, Sky Sports 1, kick off 12:30) and Charlton v Fulham (Sunday, Sky Sports 2, noon kick off). None of them look particularly interesting unless you follow those clubs, although Huddersfield have a far better record at Molineux than you’d think.
It’s another ‘international break’ next week, but I’ll be back with a statistics driven look at how the season has begun. Once again, thanks for reading and have a good weekend.
Mike Roberts - Friday 25.09.15, 12:36pm
It was a case of ‘as you were’ last weekend as Brighton retained their lead after a goalless draw at Wolves, but only Middlesbrough can overtake the Seagulls this weekend. Boro won at Nottingham Forest on Saturday, which meant that a win for Burnley at Derby on Monday night would have given the Clarets the chance of taking the lead this weekend. However, the founder members of the Football League played out a goalless draw, which ended a four game winning streak for a Burnley and meant that the Rams have only won once in their last ten games in the Championship at the iPro Stadium.
Bristol City and Preston both dropped into the relegation zone: the reason that City aren’t bottom is that Rotherham begins with the letter ‘R’. Despite taking the lead at Brentford, Preston conceded two goals in three minutes and lost the fourth of their six away games so far. It’s still relatively competitive at the bottom though: the bottom nine sides are only separated by three points and as we’ll see in a minute there should be a lot of movement this weekend.
I’ve tried to avoid the Capital One Cup so far this season and after the midweek results it’s apparent that most of the clubs in the Championship have as well. Hull and Middlesbrough and Sheffield Wednesday are the only sides left in the competition and it’s not even the end of September. A few seasons ago Wednesday beating Newcastle in a cup competition would have been seen as a shock, but that’s not the case any more.
Back to this weekend and the outstanding contender for the game of the day is Burnley v Reading. Sean Dyche’s side are unbeaten at Turf Moor so far and last lost at home to Leicester in the Premier League last April. However, they’ve not beaten any of the clubs currently in the top half of the table yet and so Saturday’s game is arguably their first real challenge of 2014/15. Record signing Andre Gray was injured during Monday’s game and there are rumours circulating that his injury may have been worse than originally thought; if that’s the case there’s no obvious replacement.
I saw Reading win comfortably at Bristol City last weekend but I’d have to say the jury is still out even though Nick Blackman and Orlando Sa are near the top of the goalscoring charts having scored 75% of the club’s goals this season. Their only triumphs away from home this season have come against clubs that are below them, which is the opposite of what happened last season, when all five of the Royals’ victorious away days came at the expense of clubs that finished in the top ten.
Burnley won their last league game at Turf Moor against Reading but have never won two in a row against the Royals in any competition. There might be a few goals in this one: the last ten league games between them in Lancashire have produced an average of 2.7 per match.
The other games of interest should have an impact at both ends of the table.
Bolton v Brighton: the Trotters are unbeaten at home this season but have only won two of the seven meetings between the sides in Lancashire since they first met at the old Burnden Park ground in December 1971. The Seagulls haven’t lost an away game in the Championship since April, when they went down 2-1 at Wigan.
Hull v Blackburn: the hosts don’t have a particularly good record at home to Rovers (three wins in the last ten) but are unbeaten at the KC Stadium in 2015/16. Blackburn haven’t won away this season.
Ipswich v Bristol City: it’s been ten games and 37 years since the Robins won at Portman Road in a league game, which may be all you need to know about Saturday’s match in Suffolk. It’ll either be really one sided or there’ll be an upset.
There are three televised games this weekend: Fulham v QPR (tonight, Sky Sports 1, kick off 7:45pm), MK Dons v Derby (Saturday, Sky Sports 1, kick off 12:30pm) and Middlesbrough v Leeds (Sunday, Sky Sports 1, kick off 1:15pm).
Looking ahead, in two weeks time we’ll have another international break and I’ll be taking a look at which teams have improved or regressed from last season. On that note I’ll wish you a good weekend and see you next week.
Mike Roberts - Friday 18.09.15, 13:15pm
Brighton extended their lead at the top of the Sky Bet Championship following a 2-1 win over Rotherham on Tuesday night, but with only two of the other eleven games played this week ending in home wins it’s fair to say that the Seagulls have a five point lead because they’ve been consistent and other sides haven’t. Based on past seasons, that could still be the main story of 2015/16.
There were a couple of surprises during the week. Huddersfield won for the first time this season when goals from Harry Bunn and Emyr Hughes earned three points at Charlton. The victory means that Town are out of the bottom three. On Wednesday evening Blackburn Rovers took the lead twice at QPR but the eventual point Rovers earned wasn’t enough for them to escape the relegation zone, it means QPR have earned just one point from their last two games.
With nobody being able to overtake Brighton this weekend, I’m going to focus on the bottom of the table. Rotherham could move off the bottom if they beat sixth placed Cardiff at the New York Stadium but they’ve only won once in their last five home games against Saturday’s opponents and have lost half of their last ten home matches in the Championship. This week Millers’ manager Steve Evans ruled himself out of the Peterborough job, but if Rotherham continue their season in the same way they’ve started it, then Evans may not being charge much longer anyway.
Blackburn and Bristol City both have home games (against Charlton and Reading respectively) and could do themselves favours by winning, but it’s never that straightforward. Rovers have only won three of their last ten at Ewood Park but have only lost three of the last contests when Charlton have been the visitors. I think it’s fair to say that Bristol City’s defence had an easy ride last season: they’ve conceded almost half as many goals at home this season as they did during last season’s successful campaign in League One. Their recent record at home against Reading isn’t that good either: four wins and four defeats in the last ten. If City can take comfort from anything, it may be the fact that the Royals haven’t won consecutive away games in the Sky Bet Championship since February.
Game of the week is between two clubs that last met in League One in April 2014 and have had similar fortunes since. Both have been promoted to the Championship in the last couple of seasons and at the end of the last campaign both clubs reached the playoffs – albeit in different divisions. Although Preston won promotion from League One at a canter after destroying Swindon 4-0, Brentford were eliminated at the first hurdle by Middlesbrough.
I mentioned before the start of the season that I didn’t expect Brentford to do as well as last season and so far their only victory under Marinus Dijkhuizen was a 4-2 win at Bristol City where the hosts played with ten men for the last hour of the game. Previous manager Mark Warburton moved to Rangers, who have a 100% record and a five point lead in the Scottish Championship. Looks like this post from last February may be particularly prophetic.
Preston haven’t scored an away goal in the 2015/16 Sky Bet Championship for almost four hours: Paul Gallagher’s winner at MK Dons a month ago was the last time the Lillywhites found the net on their travels. Only Bolton have scored fewer goals – none – on their travels this season. Preston victories at Griffin Park are few and far between: just two in their last ten clashes in Middlesex and only four in 23 league games since their first meeting on Christmas Day 1933.
Televised games this weekend: Ipswich v Birmingham (7:45pm this evening, Sky Sports 5), Nottingham Forest v Middlesbrough (noon Saturday, Sky Sports 1) and Derby v Burnley (7:45pm Monday Sky Sports 5). It’s also worth making a note that Huddersfield v Nottingham Forest is live next Thursday evening (7:45pm, Sky Sports 1). As that game is unlikely to have any impact at either end of the current table, I’ll be back on Friday.
Mike Roberts - Monday 14.09.15, 20:13pm
So my guess that there would be new leaders of the Sky Bet Championship was – not for the first time either – wrong. QPR lost at home to Nottingham Forest for the first time in the league since January 1998 and Ipswich were demolished at Reading on Friday night with former Fulham striker Orlando Sa scoring a hat trick. Both results meant that Brighton extended their lead at the top to four points after an early goal from Tomer Hemed earned all three points against Hull at the Amex Stadium. The Seagulls cannot be overtaken tomorrow night but with five of the top six at home there should be some movement behind them.
We’re not even half way through September but there is already a bit of a pile up at the bottom. Rotherham earned a point at Charlton but the five sides that are now immediately above them all lost and so there’s as much to play for at the bottom as there is at the top of the table tomorrow night. There were sixteen minutes of added time at Deepdale after Chris Baird of Derby County suffered what appeared to be a serious injury in a clash of heads with Joe Garner of Preston, but Baird was later discharged from hospital. Clayton Donaldson of Birmingham City scored a hat trick against Bristol City, which meant last season’s League One champions are only outside the relegation zone by a point.
Having mentioned Preston and Bristol City, they meet tomorrow evening in the only game between clubs currently in the bottom six. Neither side have found their feet at Championship level yet and although I mentioned before the season began that Preston might struggle to score goals, City’s defensive frailties have come as something of a surprise. The Robins have only won twice at Deepdale in the last 25 years, but they’ve only lost four of the remaining eight contests in that time span and there’s been a recent history of draws in this fixture.
I try not to chose the same team in consecutive games of the week, but with Hull visiting Cardiff and Brighton entertaining Rotherham tomorrow evening it made it easier. As I mentioned earlier, arguably one of the surprise results on Saturday was Rotherham’s point at Charlton, but having drawn half of their last ten trips to Sussex in the league, the Merry Millers could blow up a few accumulators.
I’m hoping not to continually refer to how bad Hull’s away records are against certain clubs this season, but once again their performances at Cardiff City haven’t been great: although they’ve won two of their last three trips to City of Cardiff stadium (including a 4-0 victory in the Premier League in February 2014), Cardiff have won six of the last ten meetings when they’ve had home advantage. Two goals in ten minutes against Huddersfield on Saturday were enough for the Bluebirds to jump into second place and another victory could mean that Russell Slade’s side overtake Brighton.
On Wednesday night QPR entertain Blackburn and the next round of games begins on Friday night, when Birmingham travel to Ipswich for a televised match. I’ll be back at some point on Friday.
Mike Roberts - Friday 11.09.15, 11:31am
Two full programmes in the next six days, so let’s not waste any time getting on with it.
The clash between the top two should be a reasonable short term indicator of how the teams involved might progress over the next couple of months. Brighton fans may be excited about their chances already, but they’ve only won half of their last ten home games at the Amex and have failed to score more than one goal in a game since a 2-0 win over Derby at the start of March. Additionally, their home victories so far have come against Nottingham Forest and Blackburn, both of whom are in the bottom third of the current table. I think it’s fairer to say that Brighton may be better than they were last season, but that’s about as far as any reasonable analysis should go right now.
Hull City do not travel well. Their last league win on the road was at Crystal Palace in the Premier League in March and they needed penalties to win at Accrington Stanley in the Capital One Cup last month after twice taking the lead in extra time. They were desperately unlucky to lose at Charlton a couple of weeks ago, but so far have failed to close out either of their away games despite being in favourable positions at both the Valley and at Wolves last month. Additionally the Tigers haven’t won at Brighton since August 1965, which is a very long time ago. How long: Sonny & Cher were number one in the UK with this.
If we assume Hull don’t win at Brighton for the first time in 50 years, then Ipswich and QPR are the only sides that can overtake the Seagulls before next week’s games. Ipswich travel to Reading (tonight, Sky Sports 5 HD, 7:00pm) whilst Rangers entertain Nottingham Forest at lunchtime on Saturday (Sky Sports 1, 12:00pm).
My guess is that we’ll have new leaders by Saturday teatime, especially as Forest have failed to win any of their last seven visits to Loftus Road in the league and haven’t won on the road in the Championship since the end of February. Ipswich also have a poor record at the Mad House: one win in their ten trips to Berkshire since the turn of the century.
There’s a Sunday lunchtime game on Sky Sports between Fulham and Blackburn, but as the Cottagers haven’t won at home and Blackburn haven’t won away this season it might not exactly be compelling viewing. Everyone’s got a day off on Monday, but with 22 of the 24 teams back in action next Tuesday and Wednesday, it does make you wonder what the point of the international break actually is. All being well I’ll be back on Monday for a quick round up of what’s happened and some pointers for the midweek games.