Championship wrap: Blackpool and Leeds continue good start
Championship wrap: Ben Barker reflects on the weekend's action from England's second tier
Waterlogged pitches in August is just wrong
The ground staff at The Valley must be cursing the English summer with every known profanity under the (lack of) sun. The decision to abandon a match is never ideal, but on August bank holiday weekend and after four goals and a red card before half-time, it was a disaster. Doncaster Rovers had taken an early lead through Paul Keegan’s header, and added two more goals before referee Lee Collins suspended play in the 26th minute much to the protest of the away side. Doncaster players joined the Charlton ground staff in their attempts to clear the water, and play resumed half an hour later. Simon Church reduced the deficit after the restart and Charlton looked to have another foothold after Keegan was sent off, but the rain showed no sign of relenting and the game was officially abandoned at half-time. Rovers’ manager Paul Dickov labelled the decision as “shambolic” but perhaps we’ll soon see changes in drainage systems at stadiums up and down the country, especially if matches as early as the fourth week are going to be in jeopardy.
Depleted Blackpool continue their impressive early form
Not many pundits or punters would have advised putting your money on Blackpool topping the Championship – albeit until Sunday – after four rounds. Things haven’t gone exactly to plan for Paul Ince in his first full season in charge, with the club struggling to both add and retain players. The writing looked to be on the wall for the visit of Reading then, as Craig Cathcart and Isaiah Osbourne both failed late fitness tests before the match. Step forward Tom Barkhuizen, making his sixth appearance for the Tangerines, who pounced on a mistake by veteran Wayne Bridge to run directly at the Reading backline, bide his time and slam a shot under Alex McCarthy for the eventual winner. Whether it’s luck, over achievement, or a combination of both, Blackpool remain unbeaten in the league. Questions still linger over their ability to make an impression this season and with the other promotion favourites making themselves known early on, the Tangerines’ next fixture against Watford will prove their mettle.
McCormack is vital to Leeds’ promotion hopes
The former Cardiff City man has taken this season by the scruff of the neck and almost single-handedly dragged Leeds United into the early play-off positions. With three goals and two assists to his name already, where McCormack is playing after next Monday’s transfer deadline will surely affect Leeds’ chances of returning to the top flight. Boss Brian McDermott has reiterated his desire to keep the forward but Middlesbrough are thought to have made a final take-it-or-leave-it offer in the region of £2m. Given the Whites’ financial position, they may feel the fee could be used to strengthen and balance multiple areas of the squad. The player himself has declared his happiness at Elland Road, and after a wonderful performance against Ipswich at the weekend, his feelings are no doubt reciprocated by the Leeds faithful.
Watford feeling hangover free
Watford were last year’s unlucky play-off losers but the London side look to have avoided the dreaded hangover. Unbeaten and with 11 goals to show for their efforts, Gianfranco Zola has turned the somewhat unstable, loan-tattered, post-Wembley dinghy into a steady ship with shrewd acquisitions and a delightful style of football. Confident wins over Birmingham and Bournemouth have been followed by thrilling draws against Reading and Nottingham Forest. Lewis McGugan, so often criticised for being inconsistent at Forest, reminded his former club of his technical ability with a cracking equalising free-kick, and could have had a second goal were it not for the heroics of Karl Darlow in goal. Watford will take heart from their early form, and if they can keep it up, will surely go one step further than last year.
Howe is searching for a striker, but he might want a defender
One week remains for Championship clubs to wheel and deal in the transfer market, and Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe has outlined his intention on adding to his strike-force. The Cherries have scored a respectable five goals from their first four games, with Lewis Grabban starring. However, the south coast outfit have also shipped 12 goals – on par with bottom of the table Barnsley. A staggering 11 of those have come from just two games, including five in Saturday’s loss to Huddersfield. While James Vaughan followed in Troy Deeney’s footsteps with a hat-trick against Bournemouth, Howe believed they were just “unlucky” to face the striker in such a rich vein of form. If Bournemouth are harbouring hopes of staying in the division however, limiting the number of goals conceded is just as key as scoring at the other end, and their buying focus may just switch to reinforcing their back-line.