Game of the Evening: Hull v Wolves

Four clubs with two wins and three clubs with no points: Ipswich and Brentford are the teams that have begun the season in exactly the opposite way I thought they might, but as I mentioned last Friday it’s still early days.

Before I go any further, last Sunday saw a relatively serious outbreak of violence at the Riverside after the Middlesbrough/Sheffield United game after some of the visiting fans couldn’t cope with the idea of a refereeing decision going against them. There’s a difference between being Billy Big Bollocks in League One and an average side in the Championship and the gap has become bigger since Sheffield United have been away: it’s clear that some of their fans don’t seem to have understood that.

Saturday’s game of the week at Hillsborough finished all square. For those of you that like this sort of thing, it’s been 45 years since Wednesday wore the ‘Arsenal’ style kit.

On to this evening’s game of the week:

Hull City v Wolverhampton Wanderers

Both sides are unbeaten going into this game, but the hosts may be not be all they seem. The Tigers drew at Villa Park on the opening weekend and then battered Burton Albion last Saturday but didn’t lead at half time in either game and have now played two of the teams currently in the bottom four.

On the other hand, Wolves have already beaten Middlesbrough and Derby without conceding a goal and look a much tougher proposition. They only lost four of their last ten away games in 2016/17 and as I noted in the previews they were better on the road than at Molineux last season.

Head to head in the league at Hull: Wolves have only recorded two wins at Hull in the last ten meetings, the last victory coming in February 2006. Hull have won four of the last five games between them in Yorkshire.

Other games to keep an eye on this evening:

Barnsley v Nottingham Forest 

The Tykes were widely tipped to struggle this season and have lost both their games in the Championship and only beat Morecambe in the League Cup thanks to an injury time goal by Ryan Hedges after they’d blown a 3-1 lead. Forest have won both of their games so far, but I’m not getting carried away just yet.

Reading v Aston Villa

The signs of a playoff hangover are already apparent in Berkshire: a surprise defeat at QPR on opening day following by a home draw against a Fulham side that played almost the entire game with ten men. Villa have won precisely seven points from 30 in their last ten away games and failed to score in half of them. If that form continues, it’ll be sooner rather than later that the ‘they’re too good to go down’ conversation will begin.

Don’t forget, there’s no post this weekend. Next one is scheduled on the Friday before the Bank Holiday.

Game Of The Week: Sheffield Wednesday v QPR

Some surprising results in the league last weekend, but it’s always worth remembering that nobody can be promoted or relegated after one game.

The midweek performances in the League Cup weren’t bad: only Preston were knocked out. Derby have to travel to Grimsby again after their game was abandoned after torrential rain.

Which brings me on to this week’s game of the week:

Sheffield Wednesday v QPR

Not sure if Wednesday’s opening day defeat at Preston is anything to be worried about, but they’ve only won five of their last ten at Hillsborough and are currently in the bottom three – albeit only on alphabetical order.

This will be a test for Rangers – they’ve only won one of their last ten away games and have lost all five of their last away games, failing to score in three of them.

Head to head: Wednesday have won six of the last ten games between the clubs at Hillsborough. The last QPR win in Yorkshire was in November 2009; Sheffield Wednesday were relegated at the end of that campaign.

There’s one televised game this weekend: Middlesbrough v Sheffield United (5:30pm tomorrow, Sky Sports Football) is their first meeting on Teeside for almost seven years; you’ve got to go back almost 20 years for the last time the Blades won at Middlesbrough.

Back on Tuesday for a look at the first midweek games of the season, but there won’t be a post next weekend due a couple of birthday celebrations. Further ahead, two of my three brothers in law have 40ths before the end of the year but I’ll let you know in advance when those will have an impact on the posts.

2017/18 Preview Part IV

Here’s the last part of our club by club preview for the Sky Bet Championship season, which starts on Friday with two games, including the televised clash between Sunderland and Derby (Sky Sports Football and Sky Sports Main Event, 7:45pm GMT).

All odds were taken from the Oddschecker website on July 1st 2017: as part of the ‘What To Expect Post’ on Friday, I’ll be taking a look to see where the pre-season money has gone as well as the usual badly thought out predictions 🙂

QPR

Manager: Ian Holloway (November 2016), third season in the Championship

Last 10: 2-1-7

Promotion 12/1, relegation 7/2

It’s one of those scenarios that seems to happen at every level in British football almost every season: a previously successful manager returns to scene of earlier triumph and completely fails to recreate the glory days. Last season Rangers fell out of the top half of the table for good after ‘Ollie’ was appointed and Blackburn – who were relegated – finished with a better goal difference: QPR lost seven of their last eight games and with that in mind I’ll be surprised if Holloway isn’t working for Sky Sports again on Friday evenings before Christmas. There’s a good chance that Rangers will be involved in a relegation battle whether that happens or not.

Fun fact: last season QPR only won once at any of the clubs based north of Wolverhampton.

Reading

Manager: Jaap Staam (June 2016), fifth season in the Championship

Last 10: 6-2-2 (including playoffs; I’m counting the PO final as a draw)

Promotion 9/2, Relegation: 14/1

Over the last decade beaten playoff finalists have only won promotion at the end of the following seasons on three occasions, so I wouldn’t count on The Royals to add to that list even though their form at the Mad House was outstanding – only Brighton were better in 2016/17. Their defensive record on the road last season was horrible: only Rotherham conceded more on their travels and that indicates to me Reading are due a regression to their average performance since they won promotion. Eleventh it is then.

Fun fact: Reading lost nine of their 12 away games to the other sides who finished in the top half of the table. Only two of those defeats were by one goal.

Sheffield United

Manager: Chris Wilder. Promoted As Winners of League One, last season at this level was 2010/11

Last 10: 9-1-0 (League One)

Promotion 9/1, relegation 11/2

The Championship has become a lot tougher since the Blades last played in the competition more than half a decade ago and with Chris Wilder being untested at this level, those factors could combine to cause a nasty surprise for fans expecting a walk in the park. United will have momentum going for them at the start of the season, but it’s worth remembering they won only three of their ten games against the top six clubs in League One last season and only earned one point against Fleetwood Town.

Fun fact: Sheffield United have never finished in the top half of their new division in the seasons following their previous three divisional title wins.

Sheffield Wednesday

Manager: Carlos Carvalhal (June 2015), sixth season in the Championship

Last 10: 6-2-2 (including playoffs)

Promotion 7/2, relegation 40/1

Consecutive disappointments in the playoffs leave Wednesday at something of a crossroads coming into this season: it’s hard to see them recovering from a playoff hangover bought on by a penalty shoot out defeat in a local derby and it’s possible that they may even take a couple of steps backwards this season. One of the better sides in the division, but that’s hardly a ringing endorsement for promotion: they went missing in March – one win in seven – and if they’re going to take the next step under Carvalhal, more away wins against the better sides should be a priority. With the benefit of hindsight, blowing a last minute lead at Fulham in November arguably cost them dearly.

Fun fact: the last time Sheffield Wednesday finished above Sheffield United in the second tier was at the end of the 1958/59 season.

Sunderland

Manager: Simon Grayson (June 2017), Relegated from the Premier League

Last 10: 1-1-8 (Premier League)

Promotion 11/2, relegation 14/1

Despite the eminently sensible decision to poach Simon Grayson from Preston, it’s hard to see Sunderland being anything other than this season’s Aston Villa: a former Premier League club that hasn’t played at this level for a while and will take at least a season to get used to the idea that they’re a big club that everyone wants to beat.

Fun fact: At the end of August 2006, Sunderland were in the bottom three of the Championship. They went on to win the title by two points.

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Manager: Nuno Espirito Santo (May 2017), Fourth season in the Championship

Last 10: 5-1-4

Promotion 5/1, relegation 14/1

Molineux was not a happy place last season: Kenny Jackett shouldn’t have been sacked, Walter Zenga shouldn’t have been appointed and credit should be given to Paul Lambert for at least steadying the ship before he also got the boot. Apart from Rotherham, no other club lost more home games and only Wigan and Rotherham scored fewer goals in front of their own fans. Similar to Barnsley in that their away form was far better than their home form: the defence conceded two fewer goals away from home. If some of the gaudier pre-season predictions are to be fulfilled, turning Molineux into a fortress is vital, but mid table anonymity under yet another manager that’s untried in this country seems likely.

Fun fact: despite playing in three different divisions over the last decade, Wolves have only recorded two top half finishes in the Championship during that period.