Five things we learned from week two of the Championship
The second week of the Championship season had shed further light upon the increasingly intense race to reach the Premier League.
Coral’s Football League experts have reviewed the major stories from the second tier this weekend, and here are our top five discoveries…
Seagulls emerge as surprise early leaders
Be honest, you didn’t have Brighton and Hove Albion down as pacemakers or even figuring in the promotion picture full stop did you? A chronic lack of goals and disastrous first half of 2014/15 saw them finish fifth from bottom. How times have changed.
Under Chris Hughton, a coach derided in his previous position at Norwich City for being overly cautious and tactically predictable, the Seagulls are the only side in the division with a 100 per cent record, albeit after two league outings.
Albion followed up their opening night home win over Nottingham Forest with away day delights at Southend United (in the Capital One Cup midweek) and Fulham through a last-gasp Tomer Hemed penalty.
New signing and Scottish winger Jamie Murphy has all the attributes to step up to Championship level from Sheffield United, while Brighton (now 9/2 promotion chances) also have Bobby Zamora to come back in for a second debut. Things look bright on the south coast.
Relegated pair await adjustment
Burnley (5/1) and QPR (7/1) should still feature in their promotion picture, despite both sides experiencing difficulties settling back into Championship life. Winning was not a habit either side could cultivate in the Premier League last term, and that appears to have rather rubbed off on them.
Sean Dyche needed substitute Matt Taylor’s classy free-kick to rescue a home point against Birmingham City, who have Arsenal loanee Jon Toral as one to watch. Fans inside Turf Moor, however, were left wondering why an early penalty wasn’t awarded when Jonathan Spector hauled down Lukas Jutkiewicz?
Clarets right back Tendayi Darikwa’s minimal contact clip on Clayton Donaldson later resulted in a Blues spot-kick converted by Paul Caddis. Not what you’d call consistent refereeing from match official David Coote.
Hoops coach Chris Ramsey, meanwhile, saw his side throw away a two-goal lead, given to them courtesy of Clint Hill and Charlie Austin at Loftus Road, against Cardiff City. Sean Morrison’s set-piece header and a last-gasp Scott Malone strike saw the Bluebirds snatch a draw.
Boro don’t need Rhodes when they’ve got Nugent and Kike
Pre-season promotion favourites Middlesbrough, now 11/8 to go up and 7/2 for the Championship title, pulled off a transfer coup by bringing proven Championship marksman David Nugent to The Riverside for £4m. That is £10m less than their failed bid for Blackburn Rovers striker Jordan Rhodes.
While such a price tag on Rhodes is over-inflated in the extreme, nifty Nugent is a canny capture for Aitor Karanka. He’s experienced and, although older than Rhodes, also guarantees double figures when it comes to second tier goals.
Nugent might have to wait for a full Boro debut, though, as Spanish striker Kike staked his claim to lead their line with a home brace in the 3-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers. That’s one selection headache up top that’s pretty pleasant for Karanka.
Wolves will challenge
Only goal difference denied Wolverhampton Wanderers a play-off place last season, but they have started the new campaign with determination. A controversial winner at Blackburn Rovers in their opening game apart, they continue to impress.
Coming back to hold Hull City, who were playing Premier League football alongside Burnley and QPR last term, is compelling evidence Kenny Jackett’s Molineux men will be in the mix once again.
With so much young English talent in their squad, Wolves (now 7/2 for promotion) are likable homegrown heroes holding no fear of opposition or reputation.
Rams results evidence you can’t buy the title
In recent years, this phrase has been applied to Chelsea and Manchester City regarding the Premier League. No such luck in the division below…
Despite Derby County’s lauded recruitment, bringing in top-flight calibre players like Darren Bent and Andreas Weimann, plus prove Championship performers such as Tom Ince and Jason Shackell, they are yet to win in any competition, but 2/1 to go up.
The fact that Brighton, so lowly last season, are the early leaders flies right in the face of orthodoxy. New names take time to gel, and that includes Rams head coach Paul Clement, who is cutting his managerial teeth at Pride Park. It’s not as easy as Carlo Ancelotti may have made it look when he was assistant to the Italian.