It’s on your marks, get set, go for an eight-horse promotion charge
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
We’re now well in to the second half of the season and it’s getting towards the business end of another football campaign. There is time for things to change, but I’m pretty sure that the Canaries are now in an eight-horse promotion race.
Just eight points separate those eight clubs and a six-point gap has opened up with the others.
The current form table also suggests that those clubs currently in the upper reaches of the table will stay there.
Can you really see any teams out of the top eight making a sudden push into the pace-setting group?
I know a dark horse normally comes from nowhere but I can’t see it happening this year.
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Of course, the Championship rollercoaster still has twists and turns and while the eight contenders won’t alter in my view, the finishing places will.
Before the season started, several friends who have followed this league closely in recent years said there would be ups and downs to the final weekend. I think they are absolutely right.
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- 4 'Best team in the division' - Bristol boss hails City's stylish success
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- 7 Dowell hoping to make more happy FA Cup memories with Canaries
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- 9 'We are looking to win the next game' - Barnsley boss on Norwich FA Cup visit
- 10 Norwich City transfer rumours: Canaries interested in Luton midfielder
So here goes with a look at the eight horses in the charge for the line in the Championship Grand National.
I’ve outlined where each is in the table, their form over the last six games and how many points each has secured against the other seven in a ‘mini league’ at the top. Performances against the rivals could be crucial in what will be the huge ‘six-pointers’ to come (including City’s clash with Brentford this weekend) – and of course in the two-legged play-off semi finals.
I’ve also suggested the positives and negatives for each club.
Currently top with 51 points and a goal difference of +29. Form in last six games – four wins and two defeats. 10 points from eight games in the mini league among the top eight clubs.
Positives: Top of the league, top scorers, best goal difference, most away wins.
Negatives: Not great in the mini league and they may feel the pressure of being the pacesetters (could a defeat at struggling Leeds on Tuesday be a sign of that?).
Second, 50 points, g/d +24. Last six games – three wins, two draws, one defeat. 11 points from seven games in the mini league.
Positives: Meanest defence home and away, currently in the automatic promotion places and have conceded only five goals in seven games against their top eight rivals.
Negatives: Seven games in the mini league still to come and ‘big club’ expectation could heap pressure on the players.
Third, 50 points, g/d +19. Last six games – four wins and two defeats. 14 points from eight games in the mini league.
Positives: Most home wins, joint top of the mini league, they have the league’s top scorer (Daryl Murphy, 17 goals) and they have a very experienced manager.
Negatives: Least away wins and they may pay the price for having a small squad (they could field only six of the allowed seven substitutes at Millwall on Saturday).
Fourth, 48 points, g/d +23. Last six games – three wins, one draw, two defeats. 14 points from eight games in the mini league.
Positives: Joint top of the mini league, they have the second top scorer (Chris Martin, 15 goals), second best goal difference, a big squad and strong support.
Negatives: Worst current form among the top eight and the weight of expectancy could put pressure on the players.
Fifth, 46 points, g/d +7. Last six games – Four wins, two defeats. Six points from eight games in the mini league.
Positives: Good current form and joint least home defeats.
Negatives: Most away defeats, leakiest defence, small squad and weakest in the mini league.
Sixth, 44 points, g/d +20. Last six games – Four wins, two defeats. Five points from seven games in the mini league.
Positives: Good current form and second highest scorers
Negatives: Poor mini league form and joint most defeats.
Seventh, 43 points, g/d +17. Last six games – Four wins, one draw, one defeat. 14 points from eight games in the mini league.
Positives: Top scorers at home, big squad and big support.
Negatives: Least home wins, an inexperienced managerial team (especially after Phelan’s departure) and eight points off the top.
Eighth, 43 points, g/d -2. Last six games – five wins, one draw. 12 points from eight games in the mini league.
Positives: Good current form and big support.
Negatives: Eight points off the top, worst goal difference and joint least away wins.
How the runners and riders would look if the race to get out of the Championship was held on a slightly different type of turf.
Funny moment - I missed Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday last weekend as I was at Carrow Road. But I’ve tweeted the hilarious moment when Jeff Stelling appears back on screen after a fire alarm at the show’s studios. As always the presenter leaves the panel of former players in stitches. He’s a broadcasting legend but I’m not sure he’ll get a transfer window move to the fire service.
Hero of the week - While those of us at Carrow Road were cheering another goal from one Cameron, Jerome’s young namesake was going one better on his debut for Cambridge United. We know how good McGeehan is after his heroics for the Canaries’ FA Youth Cup team, and he got his loan period off to a dream start with a brace in United’s 4-0 win over Newport. It earned the youngster the League Two player of the week award - and he followed it with an excellent showing in the U’s heroic draw against Man United.
Villain of the week - There’s only one man for the boo boy gong this week - yes, referee Chris Foy. He got Jonny Howson’s sending off at Bournemouth woefully wrong and inexplicably the FA stood by him. And then he unbelievably ruled out a Spurs goal against Sunderland for offside when Vertonghen was several yards inside his own half. Surely it’s time for Foy to be left on the sub’s bench for a few weeks?
Highlight of the week - It’s been a while since I let out such a deep sigh of relief at a final whistle. Having been cruising at half time, the Canaries put us through a nerve-jangling last few minutes to hold on to the win. There is a sense of concern that we got to that place - but after throwing away so many points at home, it was a huge positive to get that vital win.
Prediction - I’ve outlined in the main part of my column my thoughts about the top eight - and I’ll go further here and say I think Derby and Middlesborough will get the automatic promotion places and we’ll be in the play-offs along with Bournemouth, Watford and Ipswich. We’ll beat the old enemy in the semis and bring on the Cherries at Wembley,