In case you missed it, here’s how the top of the table clash played out earlier this week:
Huddersfield v Newcastle (Saturday, Sky Sports 1, 5:15pm) would normally be the choice of game of the week, but I think I’ve been concentrating on the top of the table too much recently – and the bottom of the table is just as fascinating at the moment.
Only four points separate Wolves, Bristol City, Blackburn and Wigan. The Lancashire duo are the bookie’s favourites to join Rotherham in League One next season, but as we’ve seen over the past seasons there are usually a few twists and turns along the way and it’s not as if the four clubs are new to the wrong end of the table.
The big game in the battle to avoid relegation looks as if it may between Blackburn Rovers and Bristol City on Easter Monday, but rather frustratingly I won’t be around to cover it as I’m away for the previous week.
There are three games that look crucial this weekend:
Blackburn Rovers v Wigan Athletic
Rovers have suffered just two defeats in their last six at Ewood Park and have won without conceding in both of their most recent outings in front of their own fans including a win over Derby on Tuesday courtesy of a goal from Craig Conway. A new manager bounce was inevitable, but the last seven years have not exactly made Tony Mowbray a household name when it comes to football management.
Wigan have only lost half of their last six aways, but they’ve only won twice since the start of December. The Latics still have to visit Newcastle and Brighton before the end of the season as well as hosting Bristol City and Rotherham, so they look as if they still have their destiny in their own hands. It’d be a shame if they only lasted one season before returning to League One, but considering the last two winners of that division are also struggling, I wonder if that’s a sign that the gulf between the Championship and League One is beginning to be as wide as that between the Premier League and the Championship.
Wigan have only won one league game at Ewood Park in nine attempts since 2006: a 1-0 win in the Premier League in May 2012, which meant Rovers were relegated to the Championship. Almost five years later, a similar result could contribute to Blackburn being relegated to the third tier for the first time since 1979.
Reading v Wolves
Despite losing at both Brighton and Huddersfield in quick succession, Reading are still pretty formidable at home, having only been beaten once since the end of November. Considering the Royals still have to host Blackburn and Wigan, they could still have a considerable impact at both ends of the table.
Wolves have only lost half of their last six aways but the damage is being done at Molineux, where they’ve lost four of their last five games and failed to beat Birmingham a couple of weeks ago despite the Blues playing most of the second half with ten men after Paul Robinson was dismissed.
Reading have only lost twice to Wolves in their last ten league games in Berkshire, but the last time the visitors won was in April 2005. Since then, three of the four games have ended in draws.
Bristol City v Burton Albion
The continuing mystery of why Lee Johnson is still in charge at Ashton Gate continues: one theory is that having been offered and signed a long term contract before it was adequately proven that he was the right man for the job, it’s too expensive for the club to get rid of him. For the record, City have won twice at home since November, during which time they’ve also blown leads at home against Reading and Cardiff.
Just like Wigan and Wolves, Burton have only lost half of their last six away games but they’re currently unbeaten in three and are currently in their highest league position this season. Something to look out for tomorrow: Bristol City’s home defence is about average for the Championship, but this season Burton haven’t lost an away game when they’ve opened the scoring.
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that this is the first meeting between the two sides at Ashton Gate. The last time City entertained a team from Burton in a league game was when Burton United lost 4-0 just before Christmas 1905. Bristol City won the Second Division title that season, finishing four points ahead of Manchester United.
I’ll be back next Tuesday for a quick look at the midweek games.