Here we go again – Championship Football

Domestic football returned on Friday night with the two games in the Championship. Relegated Sunderland kicked off at home to promotion hopefuls Derby. The result was a 1-1 draw which Sunderland fans would have been more happier about on the opening weekend. The other game saw Nottingham Forest host newly promoted Millwall. It was joy for the home side as they sneaked home with a 1-0 a few minutes before half time. It was Nottingham Forest’s fifth win in six opening round fixtures. The Lions were left to rue missed chances. Despite the lack of possession, they had a total of 23 shots but could get only six of those on target. If they are to stay in the Championship, they will surely need to make more of their opportunities as tougher games ahead.

The other two relegated clubs had mixed results.Hull City who were relegated could only manage a 1-1 draw against Aston Villa, now managed by former Tigers boss Steve Bruce. The second half goal from the visitors not only denied their hosts an opening win, but also denied an opening clean sheet for John Terry making his debut with the club. Middlesbrough though were not so lucky and went down to Wolves after Leo Bonatini scored the only goal of the game.

It was mixed results for the other two teams promoted to the Championship. Bristol City had the honour of being top of the table with a 3-1 win over visitors Barnsley. The Robins record signing Famara Diedhiou netted on his debut with Bobby Reid netting the other two. For the Barnsley it is the opening day curse striking again. They have not won on the opening day for the last five seasons. Surely it can’t continue? Sheffield United were victorious but Bolton Wanderers went down 3-2 at home to Leeds United.

QPR got off to a good start as they beat ten man Reading. Conor Washington’s two goals was enough to see the West London club beat last seasons play off finalists, who found themselves with another defeat on their opening away day game. They have managed only one win in the last thirteen away games. On the other hand it was an extended record for Ian Holloway. He has yet to lose an opening game of the season with QPR, how some would love for an unbeaten start to the season.

Promotion hopefuls Fulham and Norwich saw their game finish one  a piece whilst Ipswich put their final day blues behind them to beat Harry Redknapp’s Birmingham City.

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League One: Battling for Promotion

With Sheffield United having won the league a while back, the only thing for them to worry about is whether they can reach a century of points. Standing in their way are MK Dons and the already relegated Chesterfield. For the next four teams though it’s fighting for that final automatic promotion place.

Bolton Wanderers missed a chance to make things a little less nervy as they were surprisingly held to a goalless draw at home to Bury. They should in theory be favourites for second, given that they play Port Vale this weekend, who not only are battling for League One survival but have failed to win in their last four games. If they fail that hurdle then they will hope that Gillingham who have been playing relegation chicken, will fail to add to their one win in the last seven. Fleetwood though might want to be aware that the only win in the barren run has come against playoff chasing Bristol Rovers, whose dreams of Wembley promotion are crushed. Fleetwood then on the final game of the season host Port Vale. You have to feel for the Vale in that two of the three remaining games come against Promotion chasing teams.

Either way Bolton and Fleetwood are at least assured of a playoff place if they don’t achieve automatic promotion. The only other team with a guaranteed playoff place are Scunthorpe Utd. Their 3-1 win over relegated Chesterfield meant that they could not drop out. For Bradford they in theory only need a point from their home game against Wimbledon. Southend are the only club that could reach 75 points but seeing that they have hit a one win in four game run, even though Southend travel to relegation threatened Shrewsbury, Bradford should be there. Bradford though face Rochdale who are within three points of Millwall who are in the fourth play off spot.

Whilst other teams can probably secure their playoff place with a point, Millwall unfortunately dont have that luxury, regardless of a struggling Southend below them. Both their remaining two opponents Oxford Utd and Bristol Rovers wont be pushovers although in the previous fixtures, they won both games. Things would be easy if that were the case, but at the same time the London club had lost to Port Vale, who as previously mentioned find themselves languishing at the wrong end of the table. Victory for Millwall and defeat for Southend will all but confirm their play off spot. Should Millwall drop points then not only will Southend still have a chance, but if Rochdale beat Oldham, then it could be an uncomfortable final 90 minutes in the last game of the season.