By Paula Marcus
With Christmas just around the corner here is a slightly festive look at the lower leagues featuring a stretched in places ‘Twelve Days of Champ’ship’
On the twelth day of Christmas my true love gave to me twenty four teams all playing: Boxing day is one of those rare miracles in the football calendar where all 24 teams in the Championship are all playing on the same day (although not quite the same time). A packed schedule is always something to enjoy.
Eleven Warnock’s shouting: Neil Warnock was his usual vocal self after being sent to the stands in Tuesday night’s 2-2 draw with Reading. Angered by a decision, he made his feelings well known, which resulted in him watching the remainder of the game from the press box. He would have been happy though to see his side score two late goals to keep the pressure on Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Ten men a fighting: When you are near the bottom of the table, things always seem to keep getting worse. So you could forgive Sunderland fans for thinking they were in for a heavy defeat when they went down to ten men away to leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers with 30 minutes still to play. Sunderland, however, dug deep for a respectable point and clean sheet against a team that score for fun.
Nine away losses: Birmingham City have now suffered more defeats away from home than any other team in the division. Their loss at Craven cottage was their ninth in a season that is being known for all the wrong reasons. They also have the slight issue that their home form isn’t that much better and it seems hard to see how they will still be in the Championship next season.
Eight balls a-bouncing: Leeds United keeper Felix Weidwald would be extra thankful for Kemar Roofe’s hat trick against QPR. With United leading 2-0, Weidwald misjudged a shot/corss that was then able to bounce over his head and into the back of the net for a goal already featuring heavily in misplays of the week. Thankfully Roofe was able to save the fans from a nervy few minutes after his injury time third goal.
Seven men try saving: Whilst they may not be in the Championship, it is hard to overlook Plymouth Argyle’s goalkeeping issues this season. On Saturday they fielded their seventh different goalie since August. With injuries to their three first choice players, Argyle have had to bring in three others on emergency loan, with Kelle Ross the latest addition after the returning Luke McComick injured himself again in training Thursday.
Six games with no win: Barnsley are currently in a rut they need to get out of fast if they want to avoid a drop to League One. Their last win was at the start of November and they are currently on a run of five straight losses. With mid-table Brentford and Fulham up next, it may prove difficult for them to get a win before 2018.
Five goals scored: Two games in the last round of fixtures featured five goals scored, with Hull City and Nottingham Forest beating Brentford and Bolton Wanderers 3-2. What is most interesting about these scores is that they are in no way surprising. With the exception of Bolton, who can’t score, all the teams have scored and conceded more than 30 goals this year, giving them great attacks but low ranking defences.
Four drawing teams: With the teams at either end of the table starting to pull clear of the pack, there are a clump of teams at the middle that are still in both fights. Four teams sit on 27 points, meaning that they are nine points from relegation and ten from the playoffs and possible promotion. Brentford and Norwich City have identical form over the past five games, featuring one win, two losses and two draws. Sheffield Wednesday owe their mid table position to a League leading nine draws (four in the last five games), whilst Reading are on their best form of the season with five games undefeated (but just two wins)
Three manager changes: When Nigel Adkins was unveiled as the new Hull City manager last week, he became only the third new manager in the Championship since the start of August. Whilst ordinarily this wouldn’t be something to praise, at some points over the last two seasons we have been changing that many a week. It seems those in charge have learnt change isn’t always best and are opting to stick with what they have (or there are no good managers out of work).
Two away wins: Sunderland’s poor form continues as they have still failed to find that elusive win at home. Thankfully their two away wins have managed to lift them off the top of the table, but I’m sure their fans will be begging Santa for three points at the Stadium of Light this festive period.
And best wishes to all Championship fans!
Listen to Paula’s latest Championship podcast at Premier Punditry.