Magpies fly,Canaries perched – Championship review

Rafa Benitez is a man who is always up for a challenge and when appointed as Newcastle manager, he was certainly going to be taking one on. Having taking on the Toon in March 2015, the Spaniard had come close to keeping the North East club up. Unforunately they were a just a win away from survival, one that could have been against Man City had Aguero’s goal not stood. Even worse for United would be seeing their northeast rivals Sunderland retaining their place in the Premier League.

Fastforward to October 2016 and all seems different. The opening two defeats seem a long way away. Having nailed Preston 6-1 in the midweek League Cup tie, I imagine Preston fans were fearing more of the same. For Preston it was alas another defeat to the Magpies but a far less defeat. In fact the goals from Newcastle came in the second half.

Hot on the tails of Newcastle are Brighton & Hove Albion. The South coast club are looking to make promotion to the Premier League having been the nearly men for the last few seasons. The Seagulls were flying high as they hosted Norwich City. The Canaries found themselves on the receiving end of  5-0 tanking, that included a Glen Murray hattrick. It was a blow for Norwich as a victory for them would have seen them go second. They have also taken a single point from nine as they look to return to the Premier League.

It was a blow for Huddersfield Town as they were beaten 5-0 at struggling Fulham. The visitors could have gone level on points with Brighton had they won, but strangely it wasnt to happen. With teams above dropping points enabled Reading to close the gap. They beat Nottingham Forest 2-0. Forest despite hitting just over 20 shots, could only get five on target but none in the back of the net.

At the other end of the table, Rotherham fans saw a second win of the season robbed from them as Ipswich scored a ninety fifth minute equaliser. A draw for Blackburn denied them a chance to pull out of the bottom three. The only teams to be happy near the bottom were Wigan who beat Cardiff to close the gap to a point and Derby County who beat Sheffield Wednesday.

The Championship may only be fifteen games in but the battles for promotion are very much taking shape.

Premier League -Week Nine

Another week in the Premier League is done and things are looking very close indeed so far. A single point separates teams from 1st to fifth and five more between leaders Man City and Everton. Not for a while have we seen teams so close after nine games.

Spurs went to Bournemouth looking to win and put themselves top after the lunch time kickoff, but they were held to a goalless draw by a home side looking difficult to beat at the Vitality stadium. Both sides had chances as well as testing the opposing goalkeepers. Lloris had to lively as he did well to keep out Charlie Daniels opportunity. Spurs themselve were unlucky not to break the deadlock as they tried and tried. Spurs  were also considered fortunate to not end up finishing with ten men after Sissoko’s elbow to Harry Arter’s face was missed by the referee.

As the game ended, Spurs would now hope that teams around them would drop points so they wouldnt drop away.

Arsenal found themselves cursing the inability to break through a difficult Middlesbrough who claimed a rare clean sheet in London. I guess Arsenal fans may have gone into the game with a healthy confidence following their European escapades, but it seemed a typical opposite.  They seem to barely test Victor Valdes in the Boro goal, but the home fans could be grateful for an alert Petr Cech. His saves kept the game level and a slightly better birthday for Arsene Wenger had they lost. Thanks to Cech, the only thing lost was a six game winning streak.

Everton found to their cost that having all the possession doesn’t bring the points if you dont convert the chances. They looked like securing a point at Turf Moor but with only eight shots out of twenty on target, it wasnt too be as Bolasie’s equaliser was too be for nothing as Scott Arfield bagged a 90th minute winner. It was the home sides third win of the season and second over Merseyside opposition.

When Liverpool kicked off on the Saturday tea time, they looked to get three points and secure top spot by scoring two goals or more goals against West Brom. The Baggies were never going to a rollover having previously come close to ending Tottenham’s unbeaten run. For the home side, the reds were graced with Coutinho,Firminho and Mane in the mix. It was a Firminho with a sweet cross that saw Mane on the end of it to give the Reds a deserved lead. The home side then went 2-0 up ten minutes before half time when Brazilian wonderkid Coutinho netted home. This scoreline would have sent Liverpool top, but a poorly defended corner allowed McAuley to pull one back. Visions of last seasons 2-2 draw may have caught the minds of Liverpool fans, but they were able to breathe a sigh of relief as the Reds held out to win 2-1 and take their unbeaten run to nine games.

Having taken a point at Anfield, Mourinho was now taking his first visit to Stamford Bridge since his time with Inter Milan. A victory for either side would keep them within touch of the top four. A big enough win for Chelsea could see them overtake Spurs, whilst a victory for Mourinho’s men would see them leapfrog Chelsea and move to within three points of City, Arsenal and Liverpool. A good start was needed by either side and it was the hosts who struck first. Defensive errors allowed Pedro to get through the back line and send the ball home. The game would get no better for United as a poorly cleared set piece saw Gary Cahill strike home.

Chelsea did ride some luck when a high tackle by David Luiz was only met with a yellow card. With them being 2-0 up it may have not affected the overall result, but it may have kept a lower scoreline. Arsenal fans watching the game may have felt a tad peeved at the card considering Granit Xhaka was given his marching orders against Swansea City for a lesser offence. Alas for United there were still goals to come. Eden Hazard struck from fifteen yards and Kante finished the rout eight minutes later. Having started so brightly, it is puzzling to see how United have had a little wobble.

At the other end of the table it’s looking bleak for Sunderland. A measly two points from twenty seven is not what any Mackem wants to see and especially not David Moyes.  I wonder if he regrets ever leaving Everton for Manchester United. The North West club who find themselves one point worse off than this time last season, travelled to West Ham who themselves also had a poor start to the season. It looked like it would finish with teams taking a point each, but a winner deep into second half stoppage time condemned the visitors to another defeat. They escaped last season but sadly for them it appears that time has run out.

It doesnt fair any better for Swansea who are one place above. The opening day win seems a distant memory and relegation looks certain to rear its ugly head for the Welsh club. Five points behind on what they were last season where they recovered to finish 12th doesnt look like happening any time soon. Close results against Liverpool and Arsenal could show promise but they may have a chance to take a step forward on Monday night when they play Stoke City. If they dont take a chance then it will definitely be good night Swansea.

FA Cup rolls on – Fourth Qualifying round

As the season speeds towards the middle of October, that can mean only one thing in domestic cup competitions, the last of the qualifying rounds are here and the draw for the First Round proper takes place on Monday evening.

This Saturday saw sixty four teams battle it out for a place in the first round where they can have a chance of joining other small teams in football giantkilling folklore, noticeably in this round we see former Football League clubs hoping to earn more cash too. Teams like Wrexham, Tranmere, Stockport County, Torquay all looking to get a chance to knock out former league rivals. Tranmere went down 2-1 to Barrow, Wrexham drew whilst Stockport and Torquay both made it into the bag.

Seven games found themselves finishing level. Teams such as Margate, Hemel Hempstead Town and Curzon Ashton look for replay victories and money spinning ties.Some teams stamped their authority in reaching the first round. Dover Athletic, Brackley Town scored 5-0 wins away whilst Eastleigh & Kidderminster thumped their opposition 6-0.

Mixed fortunes for Lincoln as United went out to Spennymoor Town, but City travel to Guiseley. Stamford looked to cause an upset as they hosted Wrexham, they came from behind to earn a replay at the Racecourse Ground and an even bigger upset.

A reasonably good day for Kent clubs in the FA Cup, Dover, Maidstone Utd (3-1 Billericay) and Dartford (3-0 Tonbridge), not so good for Ebsfleet who went down 2-1 to Merstham.

Sam Allardyce – Good riddance

I take a week off abroad and it seems all hell breaks loose. Having appeared to be the victim of a newspaper sting, the FA had no choice but to call time on Sam Allardyce’s England tenure. Allardyce was appointed following the resignation of Roy Hodgson following Euro 2016 exit.

The appointment of ‘Big Sam’was always a questionable one given that he had no major honours and a management win ratio of under 40%. How was a manager with a win ratio that low, ever going to be suited to being England manager. If it wasn’t the percentage rate, it was the unattractive football. There had to be better choices, even if the FA were looking at a foreign manager. Thanks to Celtic the English FA didn’t have to look at Brendan Rodgers.

If Allardyce was to depart from the post as England manager, we would have expected disappointing football and records. We should not have expected him to be booted after one game and under 70 days, unfortunately we shouldn’t have expected any different. Allardyce had been drawn into the darker side of football ten years ago along side his son. You might have expected him to avoid any kind of dodgy stuff but apparently not. In a secret filming he claimed he could get round things. Post departure he claimed he was doing a favour for a friend, in reality Allardyce should have known better.

It appears that the former Sunderland manager could be in further trouble with the FA following the recent incident, not before he apparently receives a £1 million pay off. The logic makes no sense, but then to be honest when did the FA have any logic? They did after all screw over the late Sir Bobby Robson by not offering him a deal post Italia 90.

It is likely that Allardyce will get some punishment, but not enough to keep him from managing again.