An interesting week at the top of the league
A week last Saturday, Burnley went top of the league with a 2-1 win at Bolton. It was the first time we’d been top since Christmas 2013 when we lost top place at the Riverside Stadium at Middlesbrough on Boxing Day when we were beaten 1-0.
And it was at the same venue that once again we lost that precious top spot on Friday night when Boro beat the most inept Wolves side I’ve seen in a long time.
That it took until Friday was a surprise. I thought Middlesbrough would have gone above us last Tuesday at Blackburn but they were beaten by Paul Lambert’s long ball fanatics and I then thought Hull would have gone above us on Thursday but they lost at Birmingham.
And so, it left us with an opportunity to go back to the top on Saturday against our fiercest rivals and that’s exactly what we did.
It really is tight up there now with us on 68 points, Middlesbrough with one point less, followed by Hull and Brighton who are a further three points away. Boro and Hull both have a game in hand.
I am fairly sure that the two automatic promotion places come May will go to two of those four clubs. Derby, for whom promotion isn’t a priority, are fifth. They are capable still of going above any of the top four but I doubt they’ll be able to do enough to pass three to get into second place.
Sixth place Sheffield Wednesday now look out of the running altogether. They are now hanging on to sixth place only on goal difference from Cardiff after winning just two points from their last four games, this run culminating in a 1-0 defeat to local rivals Rotherham at Hillsborough.
Is Neil Warnock turning things round at the New York Stadium. After kicking off with a draw and two defeats, his Rotherham team have now won two in succession and are now only three points away from MK who sit fourth from bottom.
Suddenly, from being just a point above the bottom club, they are now seven points clear of surely doomed Bolton and four points ahead of Charlton who themselves managed a shock win, if winning at Brentford is considered a shock.
What a strange season it is for Brentford. Having decided to dispense with the services of Mark Warburton, their most successful manager in years, last summer, they looked an unfit, disorganised outfit under Marinus Dijkhuizen. Lee Carsley took over and suddenly they were in terrific form but since Dean Smith has replaced him it all looks to have gone pair shaped.
When Bob Lord was running Burnley, we reached the point where were having to sell too many of our best players. Brentford have taken that to a new level.
I was looking at their match day squad for last season’s play-off defeat at Middlesbrough. That side, including loan players, featured James Tarkowski, Andre Gray and Chris Long (all Burnley), Jonathan Douglas (Ipswich), Moses Odubajo (Hull), Toumani Diagouraga and Stuart Dallas (both Leeds), Jota (now with Eibar on a long term loan), Jon Toral (now switched to Birmingham on loan) and Alex Pritchard who is now watching West Brom from the touchline.
I was looking at Preston’s run recently. They’d suddenly hoisted themselves right up the table with seven wins and two draws in ten games. I was discussing this with a friend of mine recently, a North End fan but a very cynical one, who told me: “We’ve beaten nowt, it’s all the bottom teams.”
To an extent he was correct, although they had drawn at Derby and beaten Sheffield Wednesday. They’ve just played at Cardiff and at home against Brighton. From those two games they’ve won just one point and that’s done a little bit of damage to their hopes of making the play-offs. Had they continued their form and won those two games they would have been just a point behind sixth place Wednesday.
Last week’s review was all about Steve Evans and Leeds’ massive 4-0 defeat at Brighton. It looked certain that he was about to become the latest to get his marching orders, but Massimo Cellino said he wasn’t going to sack him and he was still in charge when they beat Bolton 2-1 at Elland Road this weekend.
After a home win against the league’s bottom club, he said: “We had lots of meetings which went on for most of the week. Not looking for who to blame, those things don’t happen in a good team. We have got a fantastic spirit within the dressing room, from the players to the staff to the head of the football club.”
You couldn’t make it up.
The leading goalscorers, the card counts per club, the high and low attendances and each club’s average attendance are all at Goalscorers – Discipline – Attendances and that can be found within 2015/16 Stats on the top menu.
We’ve a midweek fixture list this week which is down to eleven games with Hull’s involvement in the FA Cup against Arsenal. The fixtures, which are all tomorrow, are below.
Tuesday 8th March
Blackburn v Birmingham
Bolton v Ipswich (kick off 8 p.m.)
Brighton v Sheffield Wednesday
Cardiff v Leeds
Charlton v MK
Fulham v Burnley
Huddersfield v Reading
Nottingham Forest v Preston
QPR v Derby
Rotherham v Middlesbrough
Wolves v Bristol City