English Championship Preview

There was drama aplenty last week as news of a slew of shock results from the Football League Championship filtered through to South African punters. Middlesbrough, Reading and Derby were all on the wrong end of poor results which have had some pretty serious ramifications at both ends of the table. With another full set of fixtures to look ahead to this weekend, let’s see if we can pick a few winners.

Saturday 23 January

5/4 QPR | Draw 21/10 | Wolves 23/20 (14:30)

QPR responded perfectly after the sale of Charlie Austin to Southampton with a resounding win over Rotherham on Saturday evening. After a rather drab first half, two quick goals from Junior Hoilett and Matt Phillips sent the Hoops on their way. Their comprehensive victory was rounded off by a strike deep into injury time by Sebastian Polter. The win was Rangers’ first in six attempts as they look to move further away from the drop zone. Wolves’ four-game winning streak came to an end quite spectacularly as they were humbled 3-1 by Cardiff City at the Molineux. Craig Noone opened the scoring for the Bluebirds as his speculative effort from 30 yards dipped under the crossbar. Noone would double the lead as Wolves again gave him too much space as he curled a magnificent left-footed shot into the net. Michael Zyro pulled one back for the hosts before Joe Ralls put the game beyond Wolves. This looks a tricky game to call, as both teams are experiencing a bit of indifferent form. Wolves do have more quality though and look good value at 23/20.

27/20 Bolton | 23/20 | MK Dons 19/10 (17:00)

Bolton were left staring down the barrel after their 3-0 loss at the hands of Nottingham Forest last weekend. Having conceded twice and being reduced to 10 men after Ben Amos was given his marching orders, the cash-strapped strugglers looked down and out – and aside from a second half Wellington Silva strike that flew over the bar – they never really looked dangerous. Their misery was compounded with seven minutes left to play as Jamie Ward netted a third. MK Dons climbed further away from the relegation zone as they claimed a surprise victory over Reading – their first of 2016. Reading started the game as the better of the two sides and probably should have been two or three up by the end of the match. However, some dogged defending kept the score at 0-0 heading into the last 10 minutes. Up stepped defender, Joe Walsh, who scored his first goal for the club as he smashed home the winning volley from six yards following a Dons corner. Bolton have been awful this season, only winning twice. Back Dons to come away with all three points at pretty generous odds of 19/10.

27/20 Preston | 23/10 | Brentford 19/10 (17:00)

Preston’s impressive three-game winning streak in the League came to an end at Portman Road this weekend as they surrendered a one-goal lead to draw 1-1. The Lilywhites took the lead though Daniel Johnson in the seventh minute. Preston looked the better side throughout the first half and fashioned a number of decent chances, none of which were taken. Those missed would prove costly as Ipswich grabbed their equaliser as Daryl Murphy fired into the bottom corner. The second half was a bit drearier as neither side really managed to assert themselves. Brentford were blown away on their own patch by a resurgent promotion-chasing Burnley side. Conceding three times in the first half, the Bees were never really in the game as they were handed a footballing lesson by their opponents. They would have been buoyed by their second-half performance which was rounded off by an Alan Judge shot that managed to squirm its way beneath Tom Heaton. Brentford have not lost their last three games, conversely Preston have looked much-improved winning three and drawing one of their last four. The smart money’s on the home side who have all the momentum heading forward. Preston to win at 27/20.

12/10 Reading | 9/4 | Sheffield Wednesday 22/10 (17:00)

Reading will have been bitterly disappointed as they went down 1-0 away to struggling MK Dons at the weekend. A late Joe Walsh goal condemning the Royals to their first league defeat in four games. In truth, they were the better team for much of the game, however, failure to capitalise on their chances cost Brian McDermott’s team dearly. Wednesday were clinical as they eased past Yorkshire rivals, Leeds United, in a regulation 2-0 win as they moved up into the promotion play-off places. Gary Hooper said goodbye to his temporary home at Hillsborough with both goals as he prepares to return to his parent club, Norwich this week. Sheffield Wednesday are one of the form sides right now having won five of their last six games. Reading have been all over the shop of late, back Wednesday to continue their great run at 22/10.

3/1 Charlton | 23/10 | Blackburn 9/10 (17:00)

Charlton were absolutely smashed 6-0 last time out by Hull City at the KC Stadium. The loss means that the Addicks have now conceded 11 goals in their last two games and are without a win in their last six. They look destined for the drop along with Bolton come the end of the season unless new manager, Jose Riga, can perform a Redknapp-esque act – highly unlikely. Blackburn continued their slide down the table as they were sunk by a solitary Bobby Zamora goal at Ewood Park last time out. Rovers were the first side to let in a goal against Brighton in six games as the former England centre-forward tapped in after the ball came off the post. Paul Lambert will be desperate for a win against a struggling Charlton side – Blackburn themselves are without a win in six. Lambert will be targeting three points from this game, and I think he’ll get his wish. Rovers, who haven’t been great thus far, have more than enough quality to put Charlton to the sword. Back them at 9/10.

21/20 Leeds | 9/4 | Bristol 5/2 (17:00)

Leeds’ topsy-turvy season continued last time out as they were comfortably beaten away at Sheffield United. In truth, Leeds were never really in the game and had to make do with third choice goalkeeper Lewis Price after injuries to Kieren Westwood and Joe Wildsmith. There were a slew of other injury concerns for Leeds and Wednesday took full advantage with Gary Hooper slotting a quick-fire double to condemn the Sheffield side to their fifth consecutive game without a win. It what was the result of the round, Bristol City shocked league leaders, Middlesbrough, with a 1-0 win at Ashton Gate. Aden Flint managed to get a firm header on Bobby Reid’s injury-time corner to send the home fans into delirium. The Robins will be hoping to climb out of the relegation zone when they travel to Leeds under their new caretaker duo of John Pemberton and Wade Elliot. The teams’ shape has changed under the new management with a lone striker playing up top supported by the likes of Reid and Wes Burns. This is a tough one to call. Bristol will have their tails up following their win last weekend, but travelling to the Elland Road is never easy. A tight affair is expected, but I simply can’t pick a winner. Go for the Matchbet: Draw + Both Teams To Score: No at 33/10 here. 

33/20 Fulham | 27/20 | Hull 1/1 (17:00) 

Fulham scraped to a 1-1 draw last time out against Huddersfield Town after Ross McCormack’s second-minute strike put the Cottagers into the lead at John Smith’s Stadium. The draw meant that the Londoners claimed their first point under boss, Slavisa Jokanovic. Fulham looked good value for their point against Town and will look to kick on from here. They will have to square off against Hull City, who are possibly the league’s best team at the moment. The Tigers pummelled Charlton 6-0 at the KC Stadium last time out taking their goal tally for the season up to a staggering 44. Combine this with their miserly defence that has only let 18 goals, they look as though they could well bounce back into the Premier League. Abel Hernandez netted a first-half hat-trick while Robert Snodgrass, Mo Diame and Isaac Hayden also got their names onto the score sheet last time out. Back Hull City and their wealth of former Premier League players to cruise past Fulham at even money. 

17/20 Cardiff City | 27/20 | Rotherham 31/10 (17:00)

Cardiff City eased the pressure on manager Russell Slade as they powered past Wolves at the Molineux Stadium winning 3-1. Craig Noone grabbed a first-half brace before Polish forward Michal Zyro pulled a goal back for Wolves. Joe Ralls put the game beyond the hosts as he ensured Wolves’ run of four successive victories came to an abrupt halt. Rotherham United were comfortably beaten 3-0 last time out by Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s QPR. The Millers have one of the worst defensive records in the league having shipped 47 goals so far this season. They’ve had no such trouble up front however, banging in 32 goals – far more than the teams around them at the foot of the table. With this in mind, it might be worth having a go at the Matchbet: Cardiff Win + Both Teams To Score: Yes market at 31/10.

6/10 Middlesbrough | 16/10 | Nottingham Forest 47/10 (17:00)

Boro put in their worst performance of the season as they were beaten 1-0 by a struggling Bristol City on Saturday, conceding only their 13th goal of a quite remarkable campaign. Aden Flint’s late winner condemned Aitor Karanka’s side to only their fourth loss of the season. They were comprehensively outplayed by City and will be looking to bounce back with a strong performance this weekend. Forest ran out 3-0 victors over a helpless Bolton Wanderers on Saturday afternoon. Jamie Ward put in a man-of-the-match performance as Dougie Freedman piled more misery on his former employers. Ward won a penalty in the first half as Ben Amos brought down the forward early on in the piece, earning his marching orders in the process. The resulting spot-kick was coolly converted by Nelson Oliveira. Ward was involved again four minutes later as his cross was headed home by Oliver Burke. Ward would eventually claim his goal seven minutes from time after he fired in off the underside of the bar having been put through cleverly by Ben Osborn. This is another difficult one to pick. Having looked through the markets, however, the Both Teams to Score: Yes market offers fantastic value at 5/4. Get on!

19/20 Brighton | 23/10 | Huddersfield 27/10 (17:00)

Chris Hughton’s Brighton and Hove Albion side finally broke their runs of six games without a goal when they beat a woefully out-of-form Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park on Saturday. Former England, QPR, Fulham and West Ham centre-forward ensured that the Seagulls would take all three points back to the south coast with them, and with it, a place back in the top six. Huddersfield failed to hang onto a 1-0 lead and claim a third successive victory last time out as Ross McCormack equalised for Fulham at John Smith’s Stadium. The Terriers have continued their climb up the table after an indifferent start to the season saw them flirt with relegation for a period. However, their five-game unbeaten run sees them sitting in 16th place behind QPR. A win could propel them as high as 13th should other results go their way. Town are in good nick at the minute and look as though they could beat anyone in the league. At 27/10, they look great value to get one over Brighton who have only managed one win in their last six. 

31/20 Birmingham City | 23/20 | Ipswich Town 16/10 (17:00)

Birmingham City put in a mesmeric performance as they cruised past big spending Derby County. A 10-minute blitz saw Birmingham fly into a 3-0 lead after Paul Robinson, Stephen Gleeson and Maikel Kiefenbeld all found the back of the net, shocking the iPro faithful. The Blues are on an impressive run at the moment winning four and drawing one of their last six games. They now find themselves very much in the hunt for a play-off place as they welcome the team that sit two points above them on the table. Ipswich Town could well be leap-frogged by the men from England’s second city this weekend if they lose this encounter. They were disappointed not to have claimed all three points against an ever-improving Preston team. Having fallen behind after seven minutes thanks to a Daniel Johnson strike, before they restored parity through Daryl Murphy just prior to the halftime break. The Tractor Boys are unbeaten in their last six games in all competitions and will be looking continue their impressive form. It’d take a brave punter to call a winner here, as such, I’m backing the draw at reasonable odds of 23/20.

Monday 25 January

29/20 Burnley | 2/1 | Derby County 19/10 (21:45)

The tie of the round will see fourth-placed Burnley welcome third-placed Derby County to Turf Moor on Monday evening. The Clarets were dazzling last time out as they comprehensively outplayed Brentford at Griffin Park. The 3-1 score line could have been different if Burnley had taken a slew of first-half opportunities. They took their foot off of the accelerator in the second half with the game in the bag. Joey Barton scored the pick of the goals as his immaculately chipped free-kick beat David Button all ends up. It all seems to be falling apart for Derby at the moment as they’ve yet to record a win in 2016. They were comprehensively outplayed last week as they slipped to a 3-0 home defeat at the hands of Birmingham City. If they lose out against Burnley this weekend they could find themselves sliding down two places on the log to fifth. Burnley have put in a few mesmerising performances over the last few weeks, and they look good value to beat the struggling Rams at 29/20.

Written by Jason Dewey 

Championship Picks

Wolves WIN 23/20
MK Dons WIN 19/10
Preston WIN 27/20
Sheffield Wednesday WIN 22/10
Blackburn WIN 9/10
Leeds DRAW + BTTS: NO 33/10
Hull City WIN 1/1
Cardiff WIN + BTTS 31/10
Middlesbrough BTTS 5/4
Huddersfield WIN 27/10
Birmingham DRAW 23/20
Burnley WIN 29/20