Amazingly, the ten sides left in this season’s competition actually represent an improvement on last season – even taking into consideration that both Crystal Palace and Southampton are both still a round behind in the competition due to having games postponed due to the riots at the start of the month. We pointed out last season that it’s been almost a decade since a Championship side reached the final and that record looks as if it may continue: the competition provides some early season excitement for clubs further down the league structure, but it could be argued that it’s a complete waste of time for nearly all the clubs in the Premier League and the Championship.
The biggest surprise in what used to be known as the League Cup this week was West Ham crashing out to Aldershot on Wednesday night. Junior Stanislas gave the Hammers the lead after 16 minutes but when Callum McNaughton was dismissed after half time, Aldershot’s Luke Guttridge equalised and Danny Hylton’s 89thminute winner gave the Surrey side a deserved win. It’s the third time this season that West Ham have conceded a vital goal in the last five minutes, a trend that ought to be worrying Sam Allardyce.
Last weekend Southampton continued their impressive start with a 1-0 win over Millwall and Derbyhad no trouble dealing with Doncaster but the biggest surprise was Peterborough’s 7-1 thrashing of Ipswich in the tea time game on Sky. Although Keith Andrews gave Ipswich an early lead, the game was effectively over at half time with Town having conceded four goals in ten minutes and having Lee Martin dismissed for a reckless challenge on Mark Little. Things went from bad to worse immediately after the re-start: Tommy Smith had only been on the field for two minutes before being giving away a penalty and being sent off for a foul on Lee Tomlin, who scored a hat-trick for Posh.
At the bottom of the table, Coventry and Watford played out a 0-0 draw but they still occupy two of the bottom three spots – Doncaster’s defeat means that they’re already two points from safety and they’ve not scored since the opening day defeat at Brighton.
It’s still far too early to discuss what could happen over the rest of the season but with a five point gap between the last play off place and the current leaders, by mid September we may have an idea of the shape of things to come and there are three games this weekend that could provide some pointers this weekend. Game of the week this weekend is Peterborough’s trip to Brighton, which is the only clash between teams in the top six. Posh lost 3-1 at the Withdean in League One last season and have only won one of their last six trips to Brighton in the league and it’ll be interesting to see how Craig Mackail-Smith does in his first game against his old club.
Burnley visit Pride Park in a game that has been tricky for the hosts over the years – Derby haven’t beaten the Clarets at home since January 2007 and lost this game last season – and although Eddie Howe’s side are one of the four teams yet to win a game this season, they’ve played one game less due to Birmingham’s European adventures.
The game with the biggest impact at both ends of the table is Middlesbrough v Coventry. Boro are undefeated while the Sky Blues have only won one of their last fifteen games in the Championship: they’ve also only won once in their last ten visits to Teeside.
There’s only one televised game this weekend and once again armchair West Ham fans will have their Sunday lunches ruined again when the Hammers travel to Nottingham Forest for a league game for the first time since Boxing Day 2004 (Sky Sports 1, 1:15).Forest have a poor record at home to West Ham and having started the season with two draws at the City Ground it wouldn’t come as too much of a surprise if this game ended all square.
Finally this week, congratulations to Birmingham City who reached the group stages of the Europa League on Thursday with a 3-0 aggregate win over Nacional of Portugal. Although this post was published before the draw had been made, it’ll be fascinating to see how the Blues do in the competition and hopefully they’ll be able to fly the flag in Europe for all Championship teams.