Championship wrap: Bolton left frustrated after winless start
Championship wrap: Ben Barker delivers his verdict on another fascinating instalment of second-tier football
Baffled heads at Bolton
Many were tipping Bolton Wanderers to be in the mix for promotion this year. After a fruitful run of results after Christmas, the Trotters only just missed out on the play-off spots last season, and have recruited well over the summer. Yet, five games into the season and Dougie Freedman’s side are still searching for their first win, having drawn two and lost three. Bolton currently sit bottom of the table, level on points with Millwall – the only other team looking for a maiden win. Freedman must be cursing his luck and will point to two lists in defence of his side – a tough fixture list and a growing injury list. After facing this season’s surprise package Burnley on the opening day, Bolton have played Reading, Queens Park Rangers, Nottingham Forest and Blackburn Rovers in their first five games. Freedman could be forgiven for airing his grievances, with the fixture computer having seemingly turned a cold shoulder to their early hopes of a Premier League return. Having said that, Bolton’s tough start is also indicative of the strength in competition of the Championship, and it’s against the top teams where promotion credentials are tested and earned. Freedman’s hopes may also be dashed by looking at his medical bench, with the injured Marc Tierney, David Wheater, Craig Davies, and Joe Riley all facing varying spells on the sidelines. Add to the list long-term absentees Mark Davies and Stuart Holden, and the immediate future looks bleak for the Trotters.
Time and time again, Burnley have been written off after losing a star striker. Steven Fletcher to Wolverhampton Wanderers, Jay Rodriguez to Southampton, and now Charlie Austin to QPR. This time, however, things have gone a little differently. While Austin is yet to score in the league for his new club, Burnley may have found another talisman waiting in the wings. Danny Ings leads his club’s scoring charts with five goals and, after biding his time on the bench and recovering from injuries, looks set to continue the Lancashire club’s recent proficiency up front. At the age of just 21, Clarets fans will be hoping this No10 will stick around a little longer than its previous occupants. A special mention should go to Sam Vokes too, who has knocked in three goals, and like Ings, found life at Turf Moor tough to begin with. The pair have begun to forge quite the partnership this season, and their goals have helped Burnley to a surprise third place in the league. They face rivals Blackburn after the international break, and whether the club’s impressive form suffers as a result of the lull remains to be seen.
Blackpool riding the wave
What more is there to say about the incredible form of the Tangerines? Doubts lingered whether their impressive, if fortunate, start to the campaign would come to a halt against promotion favourites Watford, but instead they continued to battle against the odds. Despite conceding an early penalty – which was saved brilliantly by Matt Gilks – and relying on the woodwork twice, Blackpool emerged from the first half battering to completely dominate Watford after the break. It came down to the manager’s son to put the icing on the cake and down their opponents, Tom Ince rising off the bench to score a superb solo goal with ten minutes remaining. Gianfranco Zola was humble in defeat as ever, but couldn’t hide his disbelief and dismay at his side’s inability to make their dominance count. Paul Ince managed to add experience in Nathan Tyson and Bradley Orr on Monday, and that could prove vital in keeping the top spot their own.
Clubs eye emergency window despite deadline day drama
There was a distinct lack of transfer activity in the Championship on Monday, for all the rolling-action-news Sky Sports were thrusting our way. It was perhaps a sign of the times that no club dashed to complete a deal. QPR defied the odds once again, signing three players on loan, but the rest of the league was otherwise quiet in anticipation of the emergency loan window opening this week. With the Premier League teams handing in their final 25-man squads this week, Championship teams will keep one eye on any omissions. The likes of Reading and Forest, who both saw deals collapse on the final day of the window, are expected to make moves once the loan window reopens.