After last weekend’s games, there weren’t many changes. Despite playing for just over half the game with ten men after Hogan Ephraim was sent off for a late tackle on Jimmy Kebe , QPR won at Reading with a goal from Newcastle loanee Wayne Routledge ten minutes from time and now lead the nPower Championship by seven points.
Nottingham Forest took over second place and their games in hand could prove crucial: Marcus Tudgay’s early strike against Watford proved to beat the only goal of the game and Forest also benefitted from Craig Bellamy’s late winner for Cardiff at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday.
There are still more than a dozen games to play and anything could happen, but although the gap between the leaders and the last playoff place has increased to nine points, it may be more significant that even if Leeds lose at Bristol City on Saturday, seventh placed Millwall can’t overtake them.
There’s a similar situation at the bottom of the table – four points separate Sheffield United from safety and the only change was that Middlesbrough dropped back into the bottom six after losing to a lucky James Vaughan goal at Crystal Palace.
On Saturday there are two games between teams in the top and bottom six. Middlesbrough have a decent record at home against the teams in the promotion and play off spots – they’ve only lost to Leeds at the Riverside so far – and Swansea haven’t beaten Boro since February 1962. It’s probably too early to start talking about ‘must win’ games at this stage in the season, but both sides could do with the points for different reasons, especially as QPR and Nottingham Forest are the next visitors to the Riverside.
Scunthorpe’s home form has been awful this season and was cruelly exposed by Hull last weekend, so it’s hardly an ideal time to be travelling to Cardiff. The good news for the Iron is that although they haven’t won a league game at Cardiff since 1995, they’ve only lost two of their seven trips to South Wales since. The bad news: Scunthorpe have failed to score at QPR, Swansea and Leeds and no matter how many ways you look at it, Cardiff seem to have the advantage.
There’s no doubt about the game of the week. After a sluggish start following their play off disappointment at the end of last season, Nottingham Forest travel to QPR on Sunday (Sky Sports 1, 1:15pm) having won their last six league games: they’ve not lost since the end of November and haven’t been beaten at the City Ground in a regular season league game since September. However, the leaders have only lost once at Loftus Road this season and have already beaten Cardiff and Swansea – Forest haven’t won in West London since January 1998, so this looks like a chance to assess Billy Davies’ side for the rest of the season, even if it looks as if this will be another tight, low scoring game between the contenders for automatic promotion.