In the Championship ? Play off chase warming up

Last updated : 01 January 2006 By Tony Scholes
Darren Ward - scored again for Palace
It is so tight but it is the supposed bigger clubs who are starting to take the places and three of them are currently occupied by clubs who have been in the Premiership within the last two years. The exception is Watford and I suspect it will be only a matter of time before they start to slide out of contention.

They have won just once in their last eight league games and are being caught by the pack after having previously been well clear. Their latest defeat came against Crystal Palace who have won all three of their games this week. Central defender Darren Ward scored for the second successive game but after Watford equalised it took an Andy Johnson penalty for them to win it.

This is probably the right time to mention the draw at Molineux between Wolves and Plymouth. Wolves are up to sixth place but had to come from behind to earn a point from twelfth draw of the season.

It was 20 year old Elliott Ward who had given the Pilgrims the lead. The defender is currently on loan from West Ham and scored his first ever league goal and it came just four minutes after his brother Darren had scored that first Crystal Palace goal.

Leeds have pulled a few points clear in third place after their 2-0 home win against Hull. They have also won all three games this week and this time they came courtesy of two goals from loan player Jonathan Douglas. It was apparently a Robbie Blake inspired win after the former Claret had missed an early chance.

Norwich are the third team to pick up maximum points and they actually recorded their fifth successive win yesterday, and their third away from home. Paul McVeigh has been in goal scoring form recently and he was on the mark again with the only goal of the game at Leicester.

That’s just one point for Leicester this week but two sides have done worse, Southampton and Stoke. The Saints went on a run of draws under the management of Harry Redknapp earlier this season but the new partnership of Woodward and Burley have not made the best of starts with three defeats from three games.

Chris Morgan - got the late winner for Sheffield United
They were beaten again yesterday at Cardiff although they were without a number of players, particularly defenders, through injury. I don’t think anyone expected to see Southampton in the bottom half of the table but that’s where they are right now and many more poor results and there will be no way of them making the top six.

Stoke had been doing well but we helped turn it all round for them last Monday. They’ve followed that up with two more defeats, the latest coming at Sheffield United. They could count themselves somewhat unfortunate though.

Having gone a goal down in the first half when Nick Montgomery got his first goal of the season, they fought back to equaliser through Mamady Sidibe. But it was the home side who run out winners with a Chris Morgan goal in the fourth and last minute of stoppage time.

It might not have done too much for Stoke but it certainly did for the Blades who later found out they had pulled two points back on Reading after they were held to a 2-2 draw at Derby. It is as far back as October since Reading last dropped points and it could have been worse but for a late equaliser from teenager Shane Long.

For Derby there was another black mark for central defender Andrew Davies, on a season long loan from Middlesbrough. For the third time this season he was sent off for two bookable offences and will now be out of the cup tie against the Clarets. He receives a one match ban for the red card but that is increased to three matches because of his previous indiscretions.

Preston beat Hull and Cardiff in successive home games back in November but until yesterday they remained the only home wins of the season. It’s three now and with not too much difficulty as they saw off a disappointing Coventry. It says a lot about the Coventry defence when I hear they failed to contend with Patrick Agyemang.

David Tuttle - first win as Millwall manager
They are celebrating down at Millwall after they climbed off the bottom of the league for the first time in weeks. It didn’t look as though that would happen when they fell behind early at Brighton whilst fellow strugglers Crewe took the lead at home to QPR.

Millwall were still behind at half time so new manager David Tuttle made three substitutions and it turned the game round. They were level within a minute of the restart and grabbed the winner four minutes later, that second goal coming from Josh Simpson, one of the subs.

That dumped Crewe onto the bottom, and no one who saw them at Burnley a few weeks ago can be surprised at that news. They scored three goals and apart from the early goal they led 3-2 at half time. But it as not enough and QPR came back to win it.

It was a bad day for Dario G and Crewe with the other two in the bottom three both winning, and it has been a bad year for them. They won at Leeds on New Year’s Day 2005 but have recorded only five wins since. Their days look to be numbered in this division, they escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth last May but I suspect they will go this time.

Has time caught up with Dario G and his policy? The collapse of the transfer market has done them no favours and although they sold Dean Ashton a year ago the days of big money sales might now have passed them by.

As we move into 2006, and just before that window opens, we’ll leave the last word to Ipswich manager Joe Royle. They are not the side they were but after an Ian Westlake goal gave them a win against Luton LBJ said, “I think we are going to be a potent force again, but you can’t keep telling people that if you don’t win a game now and again.”

Happy New Year.

The Weekend Results

Saturday 31st December

Brighton 2 Millwall 1

Leeds 2 Hull 0

Burnley 1 Sheffield Wed 2

Leicester 0 Norwich 1

Cardiff 2 Southampton 1

Preston 3 Coventry 1

Crewe 3 QPR 4

Sheffield Utd 2 Stoke 1

Derby 2 Reading 2

Watford 1 Crystal Palace 2

Ipswich 1 Luton 0

Wolves 1 Plymouth 1

The Weekend Stats

Biggest win

Leeds 2-0 v Hull (home)
Preston 3-1 v Coventry (home)

Total goals scored

36

Player scoring most goals
2

Jonathan Douglas (Leeds)
Seth Johnson (Derby)

Highest Attendance

26,387 - Leeds v Hull

Lowest Attendance

5,687 - Crewe v QPR

Total Yellow Cards

32

Total Red Cards

1

Most cards in a game

Brighton v Millwall (5Y)
Leicester v Norwich (5Y)
Watford v Crystal Palace (5Y)

The leading scorers (league only)

12

Ade Akinbiyi (Burnley)
Marlon King (Watford)

11

Kevin Doyle (Reading)
Cameron Jerome (Cardiff)

10

Dean Ashton (Norwich)

9

Carl Cort (Wolves)
Steven Kabba (Sheffield Utd)
Dave Kitson (Reading)
Neil Shipperley (Sheffield Utd)
Ashley Young (Watford)

8

Sammy Bangoura (Stoke)
David Healy (Leeds)
Steve Howard (Luton)
Rob Hulse (Leeds)
Andy Johnson (Crystal Palace)
Gary McSheffrey (Coventry)
Clinton Morrison (Crystal Palace)

7

Dele Adebola (Coventry)
Paul Gallagher (Stoke)
Inigo Idiakez (Derby)
Jason Koumas (Cardiff)
Garreth O'Connor (Burnley)

6

Ahmet Brkovic (Luton)
Mark de Vries (Leicester)
Warren Feeney (Luton)
Joey Gudjonsson (Leicester)
Darius Henderson (Waford)
Phil Jagielka (Sheffield Utd)
Leroy Lita (Reading)
Danny Webber (Sheffield Utd)

Disciplinary Record (all games)

Club

Y

R

Club

Y

R

Brighton

51

2

Millwall

61

11

Burnley

42

3

Norwich

47

2

Cardiff

47

2

Plymouth

43

0

Coventry

57

4

Preston

45

2

Crewe

26

1

QPR

58

6

Crystal Palace

59

2

Reading

30

0

Derby

46

4

Sheffield Utd

46

1

Hull

26

3

Sheffield Wed

33

1

Ipswich

37

4

Southampton

49

4

Leeds

48

2

Stoke

49

6

Leicester

55

4

Watford

42

2

Luton

35

3

Wolves

32

1

The Bank Holiday Fixtures

Monday 2nd January

Coventry v Wolves

QPR v Burnley

Crystal Palace v Leicester

Reading v Cardiff

Luton v Watford

Sheffield Wed v Crewe

Millwall v Derby

Southampton v Brighton

Norwich v Preston

Stoke v Ipswich

Plymouth v Leeds

.

Tuesday 3rd January

Hull v Sheffield Utd

.