Tuesday night’s games showed how unpredictable the nPower Championship can be. Ipswich hadn’t lost to QPR at Portman Road since February 2005 but two first half goals from John Mackie and a Heidar Helguson penalty 20 minutes from time mean that Queens Park Rangers take a three point lead into Saturday’s game…which just happens to be at Leicester City, who ended Cardiff City’s unbeaten record with a 2-1 win at the Walkers Stadium. The Bluebirds had led at half time, but an Andy King brace ensured both a much needed home win and a measure of revenge for last season’s play off defeat; the win also ended Cardiff’s record of four consecutive wins and three consecutive clean sheets.
In the battle of the rookie managers, last week’s prediction that beating Preston North End might be the sign of better things for Sheffield United was exposed for what it was as Gary Speed’s outfit were hammered 4-0 at home by Scunthorpe; former Notts County, QPR and Scunthorpe defender Ian Baraclough made his managerial debut following Nigel Adkins’ departure to Southampton. Not that far away, almost 7000 travelling Leeds fans must have been delighted that their team scored after three minutes at Oakwell – Leeds also scored the last goal of the game but in between five different Barnsley players to give the hosts their biggest win over their Yorkshire rivals for almost a quarter of a century.
Many of those Leeds United fans will be making the slightly longer journey to Doncaster Rovers on Friday night for the first game of the weekend which is live on Sky Sports 3 at 7:45pm. Not many of them will remember the last time their team lost to Doncaster in a league game (August 1951!) but they’ll be aware that Doncaster are one of the ten teams who haven’t lost at home yet.
Millwall also haven’t lost at home this season and they have an intriguing game at home to Watford on Saturday afternoon. The Lions earned a useful point in a goalless draw at Reading and currently occupy third place on goal difference; the Hornets are one of a number of clubs who are performing better on their travels than at home and a 2-0 win at Bristol City during the week showed that the Hertfordshire club should not be underestimated.
There are a number of contenders for game of the week – Swansea v Scunthorpe, Derby’s trip to Barnsley and the contest between former Premiership sides Middlesbrough and Reading at the Riverside should all be worth keeping an eye on, but Ipswich v Cardiff looks like the pick of the crop this week, although it could be a close game without many goals. Having both lost on Tuesday night it will be interesting to see how these clubs react to defeats: Ipswich have only lost once at home to Cardiff in the last ten meetings but they haven’t won consecutive home games in the Championship since last March.
The weekend programme finishes with another televised game when Hull City travel to Nottingham Forest (Sky Sports 2, ko 5:15) for the first time since the 1976/77 season, which is remarkable considering both clubs have experienced so many ups and downs over the past decade.
Looking forward to the resumption of next round of the Carling Cup next week, Championship sides are guaranteed two places in the last sixteen. Leicester City have to make the trip to Fratton Park twice in a week – next Tuesday in the cup and next Saturday in the league – to face a Portsmouth team that has yet to win a game over 90 minutes; Ipswich visit Millwall and Swansea have a tricky looking tie at Peterborough United. Finally Burnley entertain Bolton Wanderers in another Lancashire derby – if it’s half as entertaining as their dramatic come from behind win over Preston that featured a Chris Iwelumo hat-trick, then fans of the Clarets will be very happy indeed!