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Focus On The Bottom

Friday, September 23, 2016 7:50
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(Before It's News)

Before I get to the weekend action, a quick word about the League Cup. Six of the last 16 teams in the competition are from the Championship: Bristol City, Leeds, Newcastle, Norwich, Preston and Reading. Even better news is that will be two guaranteed quarter finalists as the draw paired Leeds against Norwich; Newcastle v Preston is the other all Championship tie. All games will take place during the last weekend of October.

Back to this week and it’s one of those odd weekends where the fixture computer has unwittingly got the bottom six playing each other.

It’s slightly too early for this type of analysis but as a reminder of how important these games could be after eight games last season, Blackburn, Preston and Rotherham were all in the bottom six, as well as two of the three clubs that were eventually relegated.

Setting Wigan aside (based on the fact that at least one promoted team can be expected to struggle early on), it’s significant that five of the bottom current six have something in common. If we assume that half a season is 23 games, none of the current teams in the bottom six have won more than eight games in the Championship over that period. Cardiff, Derby and Rotherham have all changed managers as well, with two of the new appointments (Paul Trollope at Cardiff and Alan Stubbs at Rotherham) raising some eyebrows when they were made.

Preston v Wigan (this evening, 7:45pm KO, Sky Sports 1)

Any hope that the recent 3-0 win over Cardiff at Deepdale was the sign of revival in the fortunes of the Lillywhites was crushed at Brentford last weekend. It’s probably fairer to say that the result showed how bad Cardiff currently are as it was the first time Preston had scored more than two goals at home at this level since May 2011. Simon Grayson’s team have won just 7 of their last 23 games in the Championship and one of their last ten at Deepdale: their previous home win was against Brentford in February.

Wigan earned a point against Fulham last weekend but although they’ve lost all their away games since promotion, the consensus is that they’ve been unlucky -they took the lead at Bristol City and Sheffield Wednesday, but conceded last minute winners against both City and Nottingham Forest. Deepdale has been a relatively lucky ground for the Latics in league competition: they’ve not lost there since April 1995 and have drawn four of their last six meetings at Preston.

Derby v Blackburn

The Rams were denied a victory at Bristol City on Saturday, but that was their first league point for almost a month and I think it’s fair to say that Nigel Pearson has got a slightly different job on his hands than the one he may have been expecting. Derby’s current medium term record is almost as bad as Blackburn and Preston but their problems are exacerbated by having had four managers in less than two years and the baffling decision to loan Chris Martin to Fulham. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they start going on a decent run of form though.

Rovers’ victory against Rotherham last week was their first this season but their away record (two wins in the last ten) has been lamentable for some time – the last time they score more than once away from home was last December and they’ve been shut out eight times in 17 road trips since then. Then there’s the fact that they’ve only won once at Derby in their last 10 meetings in the league: the last time was a Premier League encounter in December 2007.

Rotherham v Cardiff

I haven’t really got much to say about Rotherham because they’re performing exactly how I thought they would, although to be fair their medium term record is better than those of Blackburn, Preston and Cardiff. That’s only because Neil Warnock did so well at the end of last season, although it’s only fair to point out that the Millers haven’t lost at home this season and have only lost twice to Cardiff in the last ten games where they’ve been the hosts.

Cardiff’s drop to the foot of the table is more of a surprise, but with the benefit of hindsight the rot may have set in in South Wales when it became increasingly obvious in the spring that the Bluebirds were not going to reach the playoffs and Russell Slade would be leaving the club. One of the reasons that a place in the top six eluded them in 2015/16 was poor defending away from home and that’s continued this season. I wondered about Paul Trollope’s suitability for the job in the season preview and judging from some of the opinions being voiced by the fans I’m not alone.

The only other televised game this weekend is Aston Villa v Newcastle (tomorrow, 5:30pm Sky Sports 1).

I’ll be back on Monday or Tuesday with a very brief look at the midweek programme; next weekend’s post will be the second in the Market Reports series.

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