It is usually around this stage of the season that the league tables begin to take on a clearer picture and start to carry greater significance. Yet ask anyone who they expect to gain promotion out of the Championship in May, and you are likely to be met with an array of contrasting answers.
With eight rounds of the new season now completed , the Championship league table remains incredibly congested, and gives few clues as to which clubs are serious about their promotion aspirations. Just three points separate the top ten clubs, and even 19th placed Watford sit just six points adrift of the early pace setters and well within contention.
This weekend’s action saw the sides who occupied the top two slots before kick off both surprisingly lose at home. Brighton suffered an unexpected defeat at the hands of Birmingham but did at least manage to remain in top spot.
When you consider that Brighton entered the match on the back of a run of five consecutive wins, and Birmingham had a morale sapping 5-0 thrashing by Barnsley last weekend, a routine home victory was widely anticipated. But Birmingham upset many accumulators as Lee Clark’s side picked up three much needed points, with a clean sheet to boot.
Second placed Huddersfield had made an impressive start to life back in The Championship, and will use the precedence set by Norwich and Southampton to give themselves hope that a second successive promotion is within the realms of possibility. But a 3-2 home defeat by Watford will have served as a reality check to Simon Grayson’s men and underlined the requirement to not take any game lightly.
The surprises weren’t just restricted to the top end of the Championship, as Peterborough finally got their campaign up and running at the eight time of asking. A superb hat trick by Emile Sinclair was the bedrock to a 3-1 at Hull, but Steve Bruce will have been far from satisfied from a defensive point of view. That result saw Hull drop home points for the first time this season, as did Middlesbrough who threw away a lead to lose to Leicester.
It has been a strange start to the season for Leicester, who have looked impressive and poor in equal measure thus far. Nigel Pearson’s future had been speculated upon in the run up to the weekend, so he will be hoping that the 2-1 victory at the Riverside will be the beginning of a more consistent run of results as they look to stabilise in the top six. Another manager under the spotlight is Paul Jewell, and his Ipswich side remain second from bottom and without a win since August after a 1-1 draw at Barnsley.
Elsewehere, Cardiff sprung into the top two with a surprisingly comfortable 3-0 win over Blackpool, who are now faltering after a decent start. With the aforementioned results for Brighton and Huddersfield, Cardiff were the main beneficiaries and look unbeatable at home.
Derby took the honours in the Midlands by winning at Nottingham Forest, where the inevitable red card in this fixture went to Forest’s Dexter Blackstock moments prior to Derby’s winning goal. Leeds made it three wins in a week thanks to a 3-2 success at Bristol City, including two goals from villain El Hajdi Diouf and Wolves’ steady climb up to the Championship table continued with a narrow, but deserved win over Sheffield Wednesday, who in turn have now lost five in a row.
Blackburn began post Steve Kean life with a draw at Charlton, Crystal Palace heaped more misery on Bolton by winning at the Reebok and Millwall remain in the relegation zone despite grabbing a last minute point at Burnley. With another two rounds of Championship fixtures scheduled for this week, the fixture list is as congested as the table itself. With six points on offer over a short time span, now represents the perfect opportunity for the real contenders to come to the fore.