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.