Mike Roberts - Friday 07.03.14, 16:18pm
So we’re all set for a weekend of FA Cup quarter final action, which involves two Sky Bet Championship clubs. In case anyone’s reading for the first time, here’s a quick bluffers guide to both teams:
Wigan Athletic are the current holders of the FA Cup having beaten Manchester City with an injury time goal last May: they also became the first team to win the competition and then get relegated but are in the right place at the right time to make a challenge for the playoff places. That being said, FA Cup history is against Wigan. The last time a second tier side won the FA Cup was in 1980 (West Ham) and the trophy hasn’t been successfully defended since Chelsea beat Portsmouth in 2010.
Charlton Athletic haven’t reached this stage of the competition since 2006 and haven’t won a quarter final since they won the FA Cup in 1947. Despite a promising finish in 2012/13 (which fooled me into making a rash prediction in late July), they’ve suffered from difficult second season syndrome in 2013/14 and are currently in the relegation places, albeit with a few games in hand due to their cup run.
The bookies don’t fancy either of them to progress. That’s not really a surprise considering Wigan are away to the favourites to win the whole thing (BT Sport 1, Sunday 4:05pm), but Charlton are facing Sheffield United (BT Sport 1, Saturday 12:00pm), who have had an interesting season to say the least. I’m covering the United angle in this post at our League One site.
There are some encouraging signs for Wigan: they’re currently on a four game away winning streak in all competitions and they’ve not lost an away FA Cup tie since January 2012, when they lost at Swindon in the Third Round. Then there’s the fact that all three of their previous meetings with Manchester City in the competition have been low scoring – all have ended 1-0. The most recent meeting didn’t end well for Wigan: five different City players scored in the Third Round of the Capital One Cup in September. At that point of the season, former Bolton boss Owen Coyle was in charge, having replaced Roberto Martinez when the latter left to take up the reins at Everton: however, Coyle was sacked in early December following a poor run of results. Former East German international and Manchester City striker Uwe Roesler was recruited from Brentford a few days later.
Only three of the team that started at Wembley played in the 4-1 win at Nottingham Forest last weekend: Emerson Boyce, James McArthur and Jordi Gomez have been regulars this season: Gomez was substituted for Ben Watson in the Cup Final but Watson will miss the rest of the season after suffering a double leg fracture against Barnsley last month.
If Wigan are on a seemingly upward curve with a real possibility of a return to the Premier League, then Charlton look as if they’re heading in the opposite direction. Since the start of 2014, Charlton’s only away wins have come in the FA Cup; their last success on the road in the Championship was at Birmingham City at the start of November. Since then they’ve lost six of their last nine aways in the league, failed to score in five of those matches and blew leads at Yeovil, Bolton and Wigan.
Once again though, their recent overall away record in the FA Cup isn’t bad. Since losing 2-1 at Sheffield United (!) in January 2009, they’ve lost at Northwich Victoria, Spurs and Fulham in their last nine FA Cup ties away from The Valley. The first of those games was a First Round shock, but being knocked out by Premier League opponents as a League One team was no disgrace.
However, it’s Charlton’s record against Sheffield United in the cup that should be a major concern for Addicks fans: they’ve never beaten the Blades in the competition. The first meeting between them in the competition took place at the Valley in January 1967: Sheffield United were fourteenth in the old first division whilst Charlton were one place lower in the old second division and lost by a single goal. For those of you with really long memories, that was the same day that Berwick Rangers knocked Rangers out of the Scottish Cup.
Almost a quarter of a century later, the clubs met once again in South London in a Fourth Round game that finished goalless: the Blades won the replay 3-1 but once again it was Sheffield United who were higher up the league. As I mentioned above, the last meeting in the FA Cup was in January 2009 and United won it so in all three ties, the higher placed team in the league has won the game – which means that it might be Charlton’s turn this time. It still looks a tall order though: in the last 20 years, the Addicks have only won three of their ten games at Bramall Lane – but I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t mention that there hasn’t been a draw in a game between Sheffield United and Charlton in Yorkshire since October 1985.
Gazing into my crystal ball, my guess is that although Wigan will pull out all the stops at the Etihad, Manchester City will be after revenge. I think Uwe Roesler might be satisfied with a good performance that could set up a solid playoff challenge over the last dozen games of the season and as we saw with Millwall last season, reaching the semi finals can have a negative effect on what happens afterwards.
As for Charlton, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they manage to earn a replay or better. Sheffield United have been excellent recently but I can’t help thinking that this looks like a classic cup tie where league form is irrelevant. I’d also keep in mind that the team that is higher up the league has a 100% record in FA Cup ties between these two: I like the occasional flutter and I’m seriously thinking about opposing Sheffield United in some way.
Finally this week, there are a couple of games in the league that will be lost in the hype on Saturday: Nottingham Forest travel to Barnsley having lost three of their last four games. The rot appears to have started after losing to Sheffield United in the FA Cup and Forest look frail defensively. Forest’s local rivals Derby entertain Millwall and can close the gap between them and Burnley for a few hours if they beat the Lions: as the current top three have won all eight of their home games against the current bottom four, this one looks like a foregone conclusion. But as the Football League Show insists on telling us, the Championship is unpredictable.
I’ll be back at some point on Sunday evening with a quick round up.
Manchester City 1-2 Wigan Athletic. The Latics will play Arsenal in the semi final at Wembley – it’ll either be Saturday 12th or Sunday 13th April.
Mike Roberts - Friday 28.02.14, 19:08pm
After the lineup for next weekend’s FA Cup ties were confirmed, there’s a good chance that at least one of the remaining Championship sides could reach the semi finals of the FA Cup: but Charlton will have to beat the other Sheffield team and Wigan will have to beat Manchester City again.
Assuming that Charlton have the best chance of progress, it’s worth remembering that although the South Londoners have reached the sixth round on four occasions in the last two decades, they’ve not reached the semi finals since 1947. Other than last season, Wigan haven’t even qualified for the sixth round since 1987.
To be honest Brighton’s best chance of reaching the next round was when they took the lead at the Amex a fortnight ago: having lead for almost an hour in the original game, the Seagulls were two goals down at half time on Monday night and that was that.
Last weekend it was more or less a case of as you were, although my pre-season analysis about QPRs chances of an immediate return to the Premier League is going the way I thought it might. Rangers lost at Charlton and are now seven points adrift of second place: not only that, they were overtaken by Derby who took the lead against Bournemouth courtesy of a Chris Martin goal with five minutes left. When Johnnie Jackson scored the Addicks winner in injury time, the Rams overtook Rangers and are now in third place.
Barnsley and Yeovil both picked up valuable home wins: the Tykes hung on for 86 minutes after James O’Brien scored what turned out to be the winner against Millwall whilst the Glovers kept their visitors scoreless for the second home game in a row. In Somerset, a James Hayter penalty was enough to condemn Doncaster to their seventh away defeat in the last ten games.
As it’s the end of the month, it’s time to have a look at the historical trends that come up at the close of February. The good news for the current leaders – now eight points ahead of the pack after a straightforward win over Ipswich – is that in the last half decade all five of the clubs that were top of the Championship at the end of February were promoted. The only club that lead at the end of February and failed win the title: Southampton two years ago.
Additionally, all five runners up and three of the last five playoff winners were in the top four. The other two playoff winners – Blackpool and Burnley – were no lower than ninth at this stage: that fits nicely with my current spreadsheet, which at this point indicates that L*******r and Burnley will go up and any four of the current top seven teams could reach the playoffs. Although I’ve writing about the curse of finishing fourth before, it’s the teams that are in fifth and sixth position at the end of this month who should be worried right now – none of the last ten teams in those positions at the end of February went on to win promotion.
The bottom of the table is also pretty clear cut. Although there were some positional changes, in the last five seasons every team that was in the bottom three at the end of February was relegated. Before Charlton fans turn on me again (especially the one who wanted to argue via twitter in August) and start bringing up the three games in hand, at the end of February 2011 Scunthorpe had two games in hand and the last team to be relegated that wasn’t in the bottom three at the end of February were the current leaders in 2008. I’m not saying Charlton will go down; I’m saying relegation is a strong possibility.
This weekend there are three games that might shake things up at either end of the table. The two matches between clubs in the top six and the bottom three ought to reflect the league table: Reading entertain Yeovil at the Mad House for the first time in the league but the Royals have been inconsistent at home recently. Four defeats in their last seven games, but thrashings of both Bolton and Blackpool since the start of the year indicate that the visitors – who have only picked up three away points from the 15 available in 2014 – could well be on the end of a thumping when they travel back down the M4.
The current leaders welcome Charlton to the King Power Stadium, but the Addicks have only lost three of their last ten trips to either Filbert Street or the current stadium. That being said, it’s worth pointing out that so far this season Charlton have only won twice on the road and have failed to score in their three away games against the current top six. I’d expect Nigel Pearson’s side will be celebrating another three points at teatime tomorrow.
Burnley v Derby is the game of the week without any doubt, but I’m getting to the point where I’m beginning to get fed up with constantly writing about the Clarets. Despite starting the year with two defeats, the Rams are unbeaten in their last seven league games and haven’t been out of the top six since the end of November. Former Forest and MK Dons striker Patrick Bamford has scored five of their twelve goals in the Championship in 2014 but the most interesting stat about Derby is that since Nigel Clough was dismissed in September, the Rams have only lost three times: which is as many defeats they suffered in the last five games of Clough’s tenure at Pride Park.
I’ll be back next week with an FA Cup special, but until then enjoy the weekend and I hope your team wins.
Mike Roberts - Friday 21.02.14, 16:23pm
Somewhat overshadowed by the Champions League, the game at the City Gound on Wednesday saw Nottingham Forest come from behind to go into a half time lead against the current leaders. When Paul Konchesky was dismissed after an hour for clattering Jamie Mackie it looked like Forest had won it, but French striker Riyad Mahrez equalised from a tap in after Kevin Phillips’ penalty was saved by Karl Darlow.
The result doesn’t make much difference to the top of the table, but does set us up with another game between the current top six tomorrow. This time Forest travel to Burnley – where they haven’t won for over a decade. As I’ve convered Forest qute a bit recently, let’s have a look at what’s been happening with The Clarets.
Although they’ve not lost an away game since Boxing Day, Burnley have only been defeated twice in the league at Turf Moor in th last twelve months – which is pretty impressive – and they’ve only had to come from behind twice at home in fifteen games this season. Danny Ings has scored 13 of his 18 goals this season at home but it’s Burnley’s defensive prowess this season that has underpinned their success – it’s almost the end of February and they’ve only conceded nine goals at Turf Moor.
Having lost first place in the Championship at Christmas, Burnley’s best chance of promotion is probably as runners up as they probably need to earn another ten points to secure a playoff place. All but one of their next seven home games are against teams that are currently in the top half of the table and they host both Derby and Leicester next month: we should have a much better idea of Burnley’s promotion credentials over the next few weeks.
My guess is that Forest will be feeling the affects of three games in less than a week. Combined with their poor recent record at Turf Moor and Burnley’s excellent defending, I think the best the visitors can hope for is a point, but I’ll be surprised if they get it. Although Forest have only lost twice on the road in the Championship this season, they lost at Burnley in the Capital One Cup in September.
At the bottom of the table, any of the teams from Blackpool downwards could still end up in League One next season but this weekend none of the bottom three will able to escape the red zone. I’d have to agree with the bookies that Barnsley and Yeovil will go down: the Glovers haven’t been out of the bottom three since the end of September and with the Tykes marooned in the danger zone since the start of November. However, with both of them at home this weekend (to Doncaster and Millwall respectively) there’s no time like the present to start winning.
The good news for Yeovil and Barnsley is that there have only been three away wins in the 19 games between the current bottom six and between them Donny and Millwall account for only one of those victories (Lions at Charlton in September). That’s a stat that that indicates how poor some of these teams are: at the end of last season, the bottom six finished with 13 home wins in 30 games against each other. I know that it’s still highly likely that the figures will change, but when you consider how well Wolves and Peterborough are doing in League One this season, you begin to suspect that there’s one team in particular that has outstayed their welcome in the Championship in the last few seaons.
The last time Doncaster Rovers won in Somerset was almost a decade ago when both teams were in what we now call League Two: Yeovil have won the last four meetings on their own patch and with the hosts having only lost four of their last ten home games, they’re gaining experience for what looks like an increasingly inevitable return to League One next season. Worryingly for Gary Johnson, his side has failed to score more than one goal at home since the start of December. Doncaster haven’t won away from home since the end of September: in six of their eleven aways since then, they’ve failed to score. So although this one doesn’t look like a goalfest to me, it’s the Championship so potentially anything might happen.
Although Barnsley haven’t lost at home in the Championship this year, but their inability to hold on to a lead at Oakwell in 2014 has been very noticeable. They’ve blown leads against Blackburn and Ipswich and if they’d won one of those games the landscape at the bottom of the table might have looked very different. Millwall’s away form has been horrible – three draws and eight defeats since the start of October – and they’ve only won two of their last seven games at Oakwell over the last decade.
The only other game that might have an impact at either end of the table this weekend is at the Valley. Charlton could have one eye on Monday night’s rearranged FA Cup fifth round tie with Sheffield Wednesday when they entertain QPR. Rangers have a had a particularly poor month so far but they’ve only lost once in their half a dozen away games against the bottom half of the current table; Charlton have only lost two of their six home games against the current top ten and have beaten both the current leaders and Brighton at the Valley this season.
Not sure if I’ll be able to produce a preview in time for Monday night’s FA Cup ties, if not then I’ll be back on Tuesday with a round up. Enjoy the weekend!
Mike Roberts - Wednesday 19.02.14, 12:49pm
Tonight’s game between Nottingham Forest and L******r was originally scheduled for Saturday, but the timing probably couldn’t be better in terms of being something of a curtain raiser for the weekend. As promised I’ve managed not to mention the team at the top of the Championship since the start of the month and I won’t be doing that today or at the weekend either!
Forest’s FA Cup dreams were shattered on Sunday by Sheffield United: the defeat was the first since they lost at home to Reading at the end of November and their first away loss since being defeated by Yeovil at the end of October. So tonight’s game is important as it could give an indication of how the rest of Forest’s season will pan out. Billy Davis’ side will either be short on confidence after being dumped out of the Cup by a struggling League One outfit or will fancy their chances against the current leaders. It’s worth pointing out straight away that Forest have lost consecutive games just once this season and they’ve not lost consecutive games at home to tonight’s opponents since the mid 1930s.
The current leaders have had two weeks off since their last game and although their lead was cut to seven points after last weekend’s games, this is their game in hand. From a pragmatic point of view anything other than a defeat would be fine, especially as their five game away winning streak may not continue: it’s been eleven games since they drew away from home and with half of their last ten visits to the City Ground in all competitions finishing all square it wouldn’t surprise me if tonight’s game was also drawn.
I’ll be back on Friday: Forest will be in the spotlight again when they travel to Burnley but once again it’s the bottom of the table where the interesting games are.
Mike Roberts - Friday 14.02.14, 17:13pm
Five Championship teams still are still involved but with the big guns in the Premier League playing each other none of the games are being televised live by either BT Sport or ITV, which isn’t quite what BT Sport promise in their ads.
There’s only one guaranteed place in the next round: Sheffield Wednesday v Charlton is the only all Championship tie. History is on the side of the Addicks who have won all three previous meetings between the clubs in the competition, but with only one away win in the league since the end of October and just two victories in six games at Hillsborough since the turn of the century you’d have to think that Charlton’s chances of progressing are limited. Wednesday’s 3-0 home defeat by Wigan on Tuesday ended their four game winning streak in front of their own fans but they don’t often lose consecutive home games and their have been definite signs of improvement since Dave Jones was sacked.
Holders Wigan and 1984 finalists Brighton play Premier League teams in a pair of interesting looking games. Wigan have never played Cardiff in the FA Cup but haven’t lost in the Welsh capital since March 1996. Brighton have won both their previous meetings against Hull in the competition and Saturday’s visitors to the Amex haven”t won in Sussex since August 1965!
The most interesting tie of the round is Nottingham Forest at Sheffield United. This is the fourteenth time they’ve met in the Cup but Forest have only won three games with their only win in the competition at Bramall Road coming back in January 1955. In the league Forest have only won one of the last five against United but the Championship playoff contenders are currently on a nine game streak without an away defeat in all competitions. For more on the Sheffield United angle, please visit our companion site at Buzzin’ League 1 Football
There are three important league games this weekend, two of which will have an impact at the bottom of the table. Doncaster entertain Barnsley whilst Bolton travel to Millwall: with only eight points separating the bottom six, both of these could be vital to the Championship survival of all four of these clubs. Away wins in the head to heads between the current bottom six have been rare this season (three in seventeen games so far) so Barnsley – who haven’t won away since early December and could escape the bottom three if they win at The Keepmoat – and Bolton (last away win: at Barnsley on Boxing Day) look as if they’re up against it from that angle. The hosts in both games are having somewhat differing fortunes at the moment: Doncaster have only lost one of their last five league games at home but the Lions have only won two of the last six league games at the New Den.
Almost by default, the game of the week is QPR v Reading (Sky Sports 1, 3:30pm Sunday): if Burnley lose at Bournemouth tomorrow, Rangers would have to win by eight clear goals to regain second place – which is extremely unlikely. Half of the last ten league meetings between them at Loftus Road have ended in draws – which won’t really be much use to the Royals, who could drop out of the playoff places if Ipswich beat Blackpool. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, QPR haven’t kept a home clean sheet for two months but despite scoring three at Millwall a fortnight ago, Reading have failed to score in four of their last six road trips which doesn’t exactly bode well for their chances in West London.
As usual, if anything weird and/or wonderful happens in the FA Cup I’ll update this post, but unusually the next scheduled post will be on Wednesday afternoon – the L team play at Nottingham Forest in the evening.