nPower Championship…and then there was one!

That’s not a reference to how many Championship clubs that are left in the Carling Cup, but to QPR who maintained their 100% record with a straightforward 2-0 win over Scunthorpe. If you’re wondering when this run might end, it’s worth remembering that their opponents this weekend – Derby County – haven’t beaten the West London side at home since a 2-0 win at the Baseball Ground in February 1990!

Hard on Rangers’ heels are four of the five unbeaten teams – Craig Bellamy scored the last goal in Cardiff City’s 4-0 win over Doncaster Rovers, Burnley made short work of Leicester City, Coventry City beat Derby County and Ipswich Town won at Crystal Palace.

Some of those unbeaten records might be in danger this weekend as only two of the top six clubs are at home this weekend: Millwall lost their first game of the season despite taking the lead against Leeds through a Richard Naylor own goal, but will be looking to get back to winning ways when Coventry travel to South London in the game of the week.

Possibly surprisingly given that they were widely tipped to struggle, the other unbeaten team is Watford, who picked up a useful point at Hull City last week and will be looking to put their midweek Carling Cup defeat to Notts County behind them when Leeds visit this weekend.

The bottom of the table has an early season look to it: before the season started a case could have been made for five of the bottom six to have playoff aspirations at the very least and Sky Sports probably weren’t expecting Leicester and Reading to be at the wrong end of the table when they chose their game to televise (Sky Sports 2, Saturday 5:15pm).

Gary Speed will have to wait another week for his first win as Sheffield United manager after the Blades lost 1-0 at Middlesbrough and dropped to the bottom of the table, but the new manager may not have to wait much longer – Preston haven’t won at Bramall Lane since November 1978 and have only drawn four and lost nine of the last 13 games between the two clubs in South Yorkshire.

Of the other clubs that haven’t had the best of starts, Portsmouth have even struggled to put out the regulation number of substitutes – there were just four players on the bench at Preston last weekend – and could be facing a long season; a visit from Cardiff City featuring an in form Jay Bothroyd really isn’t what Steve Cotterill’s side need right now.

Bristol City, Preston and Reading all picked up their first home points of the season, but only Preston won and Bristol City earned their point the hard way, having had to come behind twice to earn a point against Barnsley – two Andy Gray goals in twelve minutes had given the Tykes a great start that they ultimately failed to capitalise on.

There are only seven Championship clubs left in the Carling Cup, although at least Leeds, Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace were knocked out by Leicester, Millwall and Portsmouth respectively; Reading’s Matt Mills managed to score three goals against Northampton Town of League 2 but the crucial one was the own goal right at the end of extra time that took the game to a penalty shoot out…that Reading lost.

Carling Cup, Steve Coppell & Championship League round up

The rather indifferent form of nPower Championship league teams in the first round of the Carling Cup this week – eight teams knocked out and four teams needing extra time to conquer opposition from lower divisions – was overshadowed on Thursday with the news of the first managerial casualty of the season. Steve Coppell resigned from Bristol City in particular and from football management in general, with the club website quoting Coppell as saying that he ‘could not become passionate about the role and give the commitment the position it demands’.

If an opening day defeat and being beaten by lower league opposition in the Carling Cup represents some sort of benchmark then Mark Robbins (Barnsley) and Billy Davies (Nottingham Forest) should take note.

Bristol City immediately appointed Steve Coppell’s assistant Keith Millen as their new manager: the former Brentford and Watford defender finished his career at Bristol City and was caretaker manager at the club after Gary Johnson left with nine games to go last season.

The first weekend of the new season resulted in five away wins – including a 3-1 Ipswich Town win at Middlesbrough – and only one draw. QPR thumped Barnsley 4-0 and Crystal Palace were 3-0 up at half time at home to Leicester but had to hold on for the last six minutes after the visitors twice in the second half. Hull and Burnley both won – as did three of the four clubs I picked to struggle!

Nottingham Forest, QPR and Sheffield United were the biggest casualties in the first round of the Carling Cup and the draw for the second round features three all Championship games – which means that only nine sides from the division will feature in the third round. It’s been nine seasons since a team from outside the Premiership reached the final of the competition and at this stage it looks unlikely that any of the Championship sides will end that streak.

Looking forward to this weekend, there are three games between teams that started their seasons with wins. Watford take on Coventry City at Vicarage Road, Hull City travel to Millwall and arguably the game of the day on Saturday is Ipswich v Burnley – although eight of the last ten meetings between these two at Portman Road have finished in draws and Burnley haven’t won at Ipswich since January 1970. Sunday’s televised game is between Leeds and Nottingham Forest (ko 1:15pm on Sky Sports 1) could also be a cracker.

There could also be some very early clues about which teams could face an uphill struggle. Having lost at home to Watford, Norwich City travel to Glanford Park to play Scunthorpe United, who won at Reading last weekend and defeated Oldham in the Carling Cup during the week. To add to their woes, Bristol City will be without striker Nicky Maynard until November at the earliest and will not relish the journey to Doncaster Rovers – South Yorkshire has not been a happy hunting ground for the Robins in the past.

Francis Jeffers fined and transfer listed by Sheffield Wednesday

Former Everton and Arsenal player Francis Jeffers currently with Sheffield Wednesday has been handed a maximum club fine and transfer listed following his sending off in the Carling cup second round defeat to Port Vale.

Jeffers appeared to head butt and punch Port Vale captain Tommy Fraser, for which he was shown a straight red card in the 37th minute of the game.

His actions left Sheffield Wednesday manager Brian Laws fuming, despite the player apologising for his actions. “His conduct was totally unacceptable and something this football club will not tolerate from any player” says Laws on the club website.

“The kind of behaviour enacted on Tuesday night is completely unacceptable and does not represent what Sheffield Wednesday stands for and clearly sets a bad example for the game of football. We have therefore enforced the heaviest punishment available to the club with immediate effect and transfer-listed the player.”

Jeffers began his career at Everton making his debut in 1997, days before his 17th birthday. A much publicised row over a pay rise ended with Jeffers moving to Arsenal in 2001 for £8million.

The player has been dogged by injuries and attitude throughout his career and has never managed to fulfill his early promise at Everton.

Choose a favourite League Cup moment and win Carling Cup Final tickets

carling-cup-imageThe Football League Cup kicked off it’s fiftieth year this week in it’s current form as the Carling Cup.

To celebrate the competition’s Golden Anniversary, The Football League is asking fans to nominate their favourite League Cup moments, with 50 pairs of tickets up for grabs for this season’s Carling Cup Final. The League will reveal the all-time Top 50 League Cup moments in the lead-up to the match at Wembley Stadium on February 28.

Whether its Ben Foster’s iPod inspired penalty heroics in last season’s final, Ronnie Whelan’s glorious curling winner for Liverpool in 1983, Dennis Tueart’s stunning overhead kick for Manchester City in 1976 or Division Three Swindon Town’s famous win over Arsenal in the Don Rogers Final of 1969, The League wants to hear your views.

So get your thinking caps on, I am going for the classic 1967 final when QPR came back from two down to beat West Bromwich Albion 3-2 in the first league cup to be held at Wembley.

Send your nominations for your special League Cup moments to;  leaguecup@football-league.co.uk

Play the Carling Cup Predictor Challenge and Win tickets to Carling Cup Final

carling_cup_logo_black_470wTo celebrate the new 2009/10 Carling Cup tournament and new official competition website www.carlingcup.com, Carling is inviting football fans to take part in the Carling Cup Predictor Challenge, which lets fans show off their football knowledge for the chance to win Carling prizes and tickets to the Carling Cup Final.

All you need to do to take part in the competition is simply predict the score of the Carling Cup matches for each round. It’s free to play, and winners from each round will receive a case of Carling, a Carling sports bag and t-shirt.

The overall Carling Cup Predictor champion will receive 2 tickets to the Carling Cup Final at Wembley Stadium.

Fans are also invited to set up a mini league with their friends.

Rob Salmon, Marketing Communications Partner at Carling, said: “We wanted a fun way to give fans a chance to get involved in the Carling Cup and we hope the Carling Cup Predictor Challenge will do exactly that! It is up and running now on the official competition website so why not take a few minutes to pay a visit to www.carlingcup.com and demonstrate your skills at predicting football scores and results?”

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Fancy Your Chances? Here are the rules:

The Predictor Challenge deadline for round one fixtures is Monday 10th August, so enter now to be in with a chance of winning.
The Carling.com website and the Carling Cup Predictor Challenge are only open to people over the legal drinking age.
To play The Carling Cup Predictor Challenge or find out more, visit www.carlingcup.com. Terms and conditions apply.