Expect more twists in Championship title race as Boro now favourites
Coral now make Middlesbrough narrow 2/1 favourites to lift the Championship title, after a 2-2 draw between fellow promotion favourites Bournemouth and Derby County allowed Aitor Karanka’s Riverside outfit to overhaul them.
A late rally, inspired by Boro skipper and ex-England centre back Jonathan Woodgate’s equaliser, saw them overcome relegation fodder Blackpool, with Spanish striker Kike grabbing the winner at Bloomfield Road.
That victory was Karanka’s fifth consecutive in the league, and sixth across all competitions as part of a 10-match unbeaten run. Defeats are rare for Middlesbrough, with just two in the league (away at Wolves and Ipswich Town) since August.
What’s refreshing to see is all four of the club’s main forwards are sharing the goal burden between them. Behind Boro skipper and penalty taker Grant Leadbitter (11 in the league), Chelsea loan star Patrick Bamford (nine), Kike (seven), Lee Tomlin (six) and Jelle Vossen (five) have all put in key performances en route to the Teesside outfit reaching the second tier summit.
Karanka’s ensemble cast are similar to the set-up Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe has enjoyed. Leading marksman Callum Wilson is on 15 Championship strikes, but can count on scoring support from winger Matt Ritchie (nine), French forward Yann Kermorgant (eight) and long-serving trio Marc Pugh, Brett Pitman (both seven) and Harry Arter (six).
With a single point separating the the top three, the Cherries are 9/4 themselves to get their hands on the trophy. Derby County are the same price under Steve McClaren, but the Rams are much more reliant on Chris Martin, who has a sweet 16 strikes in the league.
The loan additions of Darren Bent and Tom Ince were made late in the winter window to try and ease the burden on Scotland striker Martin at Pride Park, and this duo have started strongly with three apiece. Nearest challengers Ipswich (3/1 to be in the Premier League next term, and 16/1 for the second tier title) are in a similar boat with Daryl Murphy enjoying his best ever campaign with one goal shy of 20.
Watford and their three fabulous forwards, Troy Deeney, Odion Ighalo and Matej Vydra with 33 between them, could still yet fire the Hornets to promotion (5/2 to go up, and 11/1 to finish first), despite the managerial instability on the early campaign.
As there are still 16 games to go, the Championship title race is far from over, and expect more twists and turns, and above all drama between now and May.