First win for Wassall – Warnock still waiting
What a quiet week it’s been in the Championship; just eight games played because of FA Cup commitments for some of the teams and not one change of manager throughout the division with the likes of Neil Warnock and Darren Wassall settling into their new jobs.
As we know, Warnock is still looking for his first win as Rotherham boss, indeed he’s still looking for his first goal, but Wassall got a late present at Brentford two days ago. He’d kicked off his time in charge of Derby with a 1-0 home defeat at home to MK and it looked likely that he was going to add another defeat when they were a goal down at Griffin Park with ten minutes to go. It all changed for him and his team though with three goals to win the game.
When Derby beat Fulham 2-0 on Boxing Day they were top of the league, but this was their first win since, bringing to an end a run of eight games without a victory which had brought just four points. They were close to slipping out of the top six but this win has moved them back up to fifth.
That climb came about because Sheffield Wednesday went down to defeat at Preston in a game they ended with ten men after Fernando Forestieri was sent off. If you are going to go around diving and then trying to use your hands to score, you are best advised not to do it when Keith Stroud is refereeing.
Stroud, incredibly, kept his cards in his pocket when he refereed our 1-0 win at Blackburn earlier this season, but he’s definitely the card man in English football. Forestieri’s misdemeanours have taken Stroud’s card count this season to 145 yellow and 11 red cards in just 34 games and that’s falling short of his average in some previous seasons.
On the subject of Preston, they aren’t doing too badly are they? That win over Wednesday was their third successive victory and they’ve won six whilst losing just once, at home to Brentford, in the last nine games. They’ve moved into the top ten now and that’s a big turn round from the side that looked to be potentially in relegation trouble when they were beaten at Huddersfield on Boxing Day.
Cardiff are another team going well. They are now on an unbeaten run of six games although, prior to Saturday, they’d only beaten teams down in the lower reaches of the league. That changed with a big 4-1 win against Brighton in front of the television cameras.
Having remained unbeaten longer than any other club this season, Brighton hit a slump. They’ve come out of it with four wins followed by a creditable draw at Hull, but this was their heaviest defeat of the season.
Blackburn won in midweek against Fulham with Fulham themselves winning on Saturday, as did Bristol City at MK. That leaves the bottom three in a perilous position with only MK coming close to being within striking distance. We are fast reaching the point where the bottom three are going to be cast adrift and I don’t see any side currently above 21st now being relegated.
Having made that suggestion, just watch things change rapidly, although it is going to be a while before any of that bottom three can move upwards.
The league table is looking good right now. We are in second place and that’s the highest position we’ve held all season. The only other occasion we were second was after the 3-1 home win against Fulham when Hull, us and Brighton all had 31 points with Hull leading the way on goal difference. Our return of 21 points from nine games since Boxing Day, when we were eight points away from Middlesbrough in second place, has been outstanding. Hopefully that sort of form will continue for some time.
There’s a midweek fixture list this week with eleven games tomorrow and one on Wednesday. Those fixtures are:
Tuesday 23rd February
Birmingham v Bolton
Brentford v Wolves
Bristol City v Brighton
Burnley v Nottingham Forest
Ipswich v Hull
Leeds v Fulham
Middlesbrough v Cardiff
MK v Huddersfield
Preston v Charlton
Sheffield Wednesday v QPR
Reading v Rotherham (kick off 8 p.m.)
Wednesday 24th February
Derby v Blackburn