All Change At The Bottom of the nPower Championship League?

After last weekend’s FA Cup ties, only two clubs from the nPower Championship are left in the competition. Burnley and Reading succeeded where Middlesbrough and Newcastle failed when they defeated Burton and Stevenage respectively: Coventry and Nottingham Forest put up decent performances against Premier League opposition, but Swansea and Watford both lost to League 1 sides – Swans captain Alan Tait scoring an own goal with two minutes left.

Only two goals were scored in the three league games over the weekend and both of them came at Millwall, where the Lions beat Barnsley 2-0. Scunthorpe’s game against Preston was postponed for the second time this season and both the other games finished goalless.

Tuesday night’s programme was far more eventful. QPR and Norwich both won, but Cardiff had to come from behind twice to earn a point against Reading – with yet another ‘dramatic late equaliser’, this time from Craig Bellamy. At the bottom of the table, Middlesbrough climbed out of the bottom six with a win over Scunthorpe: Bristol City and Portsmouth dropped back into danger after they both lost 2-0 to promotion contenders. Crystal Palace escaped the bottom three after drawing at Watford and were replaced by Sheffield United – who lost at home to Leicester.

The weekend starts when QPR visit the Madjewski Stadium on Friday (Sky Sports 1, 7:45) but it’s probably safe to say that if you’re looking forward to an action packed game then it might be worth watching the start of the Six Nations tournament elsewhere. The Royals have only lost once against the current top six at home but have drawn other four games; QPR haven’t scored in four of the last games in Berkshire but won 3-1 at Loftus Road in November.

Saturday afternoon’s game of the week is one that could have a big impact at the bottom of the table, is between two sides that are currently struggling and may not be of much interest to anyone outside Central Lancashire or South Bristol. Having only earned two points from a possible fifteen available in 2011, Preston cannot afford any more defeats this season – they’re currently on target to reach 35 points, which is only a point more than Peterborough managed last season – but Bristol City have only scored twice this year and have lost three of their last five trips to Deepdale since December 1996.

The weekend’s games conclude on Sunday lunchtime when Cardiff make the trip along the M4 to the Liberty Stadium for the second leg of the South Wales Derby. Swansea’s record in Cardiff isn’t bad, but the same can’t be said when the Bluebirds travel to their biggest rivals – Dave Jones’ side has never won at the Liberty Stadium and Cardiff’s last win at the Vetch Field was in March 1997.

The transfer window closed without the widely predicted departure of Jay Bothroyd to the Premiership and a lot of loan moves both from the Premier League and to Leagues 1 and 2. One of the more interesting deals involved former teenage prodigy Ryan Burge, who turned down a contract with Forest Green Rovers so he could join The Glenn Hoddle Academy in Spain a couple of years ago. Burge – a midfielder – joined Doncaster Rovers from Jerez Industrial on deadline day and it’ll be interesting to see if he justifies Hoddle’s somewhat revolutionary methods.

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Author: Mike Roberts

A football fan since the 1970s, I take my inspiration from the standard of writing that made Shoot! magazine streets ahead of anything else back in the day. I'm also a complete and utter stathead, which I blame on being exposed to American sports at the end of my teens.