Review of the Football League Championship So Far: Part 4

Millwall

MillwallKenny Jackett’s squad have been the hot and cold side of the league this season. They found themselves on the verge of the play-offs earlier in the campaign after they went on a 13-game unbeaten run. However, a run of just one league win in nine games, coupled with the loss of loanee Chris Wood and striker Darius Henderson to Nottingham Forest, means it has been a difficult 2013 so far for the Lions. Their poor form means they are now in danger of being dragged into the relegation fight, particularly with the sides below them showing signs of improved form. Even without Wood and Henderson, there is enough talent in the Millwall squad to see them to safety. But with a number of tricky games still remaining and their recent struggle, it could be a nerve-racking end to season for the London outfit.

Nottingham Forest

Although a majority of the attention has been focused on off the pitch matters at the City Ground this season, the Reds are starting to hit form on the field at the right time. The return of fan favorite Billy Davies as coach in February has bred new life into the club. Forest have won all but one of the Scot’s six games in charge, which has seen them reclaim their place in the play-offs. However, it will be interesting to see if they can continue their form until the end of the season. The teams they have beaten under Davies have mainly been teams languishing towards the bottom of the Championship. Davies lost two play-off semi-finals in his first spell at the City Ground, but if they can carry on taking points off the likes of Hull, Brighton, and Cardiff, it may be the run he needs to finally lead them back to the top flight.

Peterborough United

Peterborough UnitedAs expected, it has proved another tough season for Darren Ferguson’s side. They have again been involved in a relegation scrap for a majority of the season. Strangely, it has not been scoring goals that have been a problem for the Posh this campaign; they have hit five in a match past Bolton and Millwall this season. However, they have also been generous in defense this season, particularly at home, where they have conceded 36 goals: the second worst in the league after fellow strugglers Bristol City. They must also be aiming to collect points from the rest of their remaining games, as 10 defeats both home and away this season has left them with very little room for error. Despite a tough run in in their remaining fixtures, wins over high flying Hull, Cardiff, and Leicester earlier in the season will have given them some hope of securing their Championship status yet again.

Sheffield Wednesday

Last season’s League One runners up have probably found life back in the Championship the hardest out of the promoted teams. Like many of the teams battling for survival, they have found themselves towards the wrong end of the table for a majority of the year, and safety is by no means assured given the tightness of the league. However, they have recovered well from a dreadful run towards the end of 2012 which saw them take just eight points from a possible 54. Credit must go to manager Dave Jones for this turn in fortunes, and also to Owls’ chairman Milan Mandaric, for sticking with the former Cardiff and Wolves boss. The Yorkshire side will particularly have taken inspiration from recent wins over promotion hopefuls Leicester, Crystal Palace, and Brighton. With many of their fellow strugglers still to play though, the most vital part of Wednesday’s season is still to come.

Watford

WatfordSadly for the Hornets’ faithful, their stunning season has been eclipsed by the clubs use of the loan system. Gianfranco Zola’s men have borrowed 12 players in total from Italian sides Udinese and Granada this season, who are Watford’s sister clubs. These include Almen Abdi and Matej Vydra, who have scored 30 league goals between themselves already this season. Many have questioned the fairness of this loophole in the loan system policy, which Watford have exploited. This has overshadowed the superb form the club have been in, which has seen them shoot up the table and made them strong favorites for a return to the Premier League. The Hertfordshire side have lost just four times in the league since the beginning of November and have shook off their inconsistent start to the campaign. They have been particularly ruthless in attack and are the division’s top scorers. Despite games against a number of other promotion hopefuls still to come, it would be hard not to back the Vicarage Road side for automatic promotion. Yet rumors of a change to the loan market system could significantly impact their progress for next season.

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Despite the disappointment of relegation last season and the risk they took with the appointment of the largely unknown Stale Solbakken in the summer, nobody could have predicted the difficulties Wolves would face this season. Solbakken was dismissed after a humiliating FA Cup exit at the hands of non-league Luton Town in January, and left them 18th in the table. However, his successor Dean Saunders has found life at Molineux equally difficult, and has picked up just one win in his eleven games in charge so far. This dismal form has seen them drop into the relegation places, and with the likes of Bolton, Hull, and Brighton still to come in the fixture list, securing their Championship status looks by no means a formality. They must especially improve their home form and take advantage of ties against fellow strugglers Bristol City and Huddersfield to avoid an unthinkable drop to the third tier.