Dec 282011

Totesport give us their views on the teams most likely to win promotion to the Premier League…

The Championship reached its halfway point on Boxing Day with Southampton leading the race after starting where they left off in League One last term. Pre-season favourites West Ham occupy the second automatic spot, while Middlesbrough are the surprise package so far.

Looking ahead to the next 23 fixtures it will be a difficult task to determine which clubs will stay the distance. However, we will endeavour to look at who could be on their way to the promised land of the Premier League by next May.

Southampton have done fantastically well, particularly at St Mary’s where they have collected 34 points from a possible 36 to date and that is where their automatic promotion (6/4 Championship Outright) aspirations will lie.

There was a hint that Nigel Adkins’ men could be on the slide in recent weeks as their 100 per cent home record went following a 2-2 draw with Blackpool, while they lost 1-0 away to struggling Doncaster.

But they got back on track on Boxing Day with a home victory against Crystal Palace and lead the table by three points from West Ham and Middlesbrough.

The Saints’ away form needs some improvement, but as long as they keep performing on home soil and with the prospect of January investment on the cards, they should have enough to make it back-to-back promotions.

Sam Allardyce’s West Ham were the pre-season promotion favourites and have just about lived up to that billing in the first half of the season (6/4 Outright Winners).

Ironically it is the Londoners’ away form – seven wins and just two defeats from 12 games – which has played a big part in their haul of 44 points.

The Hammers’ have been rocked by a recent injury crisis as Matt Taylor, Sam Baldock, Winston Reid, Abdoulaye Faye and Guy Demel are all currently sidelined with various problems.

However, if they can turn Upton Park into a fortress in the New Year, Big Sam’s squad is oozing with Premier League players and is still a good bet to lift the title.

Tony Mowbray has had a massive impact at the Riverside Stadium, having turned last season’s relegation candidates Middlesbrough into potential promotion material (8/1 Outright).

The Teesside-born tactician has even worked on a restricted budget, having slashed the wage bill last summer, but is still managing to work wonders with a squad that is short on numbers.

Boro are currently the form team of the Championship having won their last four successive games and not only sit level on points with second-placed West Ham, but are eight points clear of Blackpool – who sit outside the final play-off spot.

Boro are hard to beat, but have only just started to grind out home wins after drawing too many matches at the Riverside earlier in the campaign. That could be a crucial trait to have acquired as the season progresses, but January could potentially upset the apple-cart.

Skipper Matthew Bates could be sold to avoid him leaving on a Bosman free transfer next summer, while the influential Rhys Williams is bound to attract some of the Premier League vultures.

If Mowbray can keep the duo on board and possibly add to his attacking options where Boro are still short on numbers, then many will be backing him to get the club back into the big time.

Elsewhere, Cardiff (14/1 Outright) have remained a consistent side in the Championship despite the summer upheaval with Malky Mackay replacing Dave Jones and look good for at least a play-off place, while Hull have not been too badly affected by Nigel Pearson’s departure back to Leicester as Nicky Barmby has been pulling results and performances out of the bag.

Reading have shaken off the hangover from last season’s play-off final heart-break to surge up the table and into the play-off places in recent weeks, so are also worthy of consideration.

Blackpool and Leeds remain on the fringes but are lacking consistency at the moment, while Leicester under new boss Pearson have the resources to bring in new faces next month and are only five points off a play-off spot.

Dark horses to make a surge are Ipswich Town (66/1 Outright). Paul Jewell was potentially 45 minutes away from the sack, with his side trailing Barnsley 2-0 at Oakwell earlier this month. However, the Tractor boys’, who boast an impressive squad packed with experience, stormed back after half time to win 5-3 and have since defeated Derby and drawn at Leicester.

Ipswich are currently 19th and nine points off the top-six but with 23 more games to play, they could well motor up the table between now and the season finale on April 28.

Totesport Championship odds:

West Ham United
Cardiff City
Hull City
Leeds United
Leicester City
Birmingham City
Ipswich Town



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Sep 252011

West Ham closed the gap on league leaders Southampton to just 2 points after beating Peterborough 1-0 on Saturday. The Hammers odds to win the title have dropped to 2.88 following their latest win. Southampton could only manage a 1-1 draw away to Burnley in their match. In-form striker Charlie Austin gave Burnley the lead early in the second half before substitute Morgan Schneiderlin levelled late on for the Saints. Austin's goal took his tally to 5 and he is now joint 3rd in the Championship goal scoring table. You can get odds as long as 20/1 for Austin to finish the season as top marksman.

Middlesbrough also dropped points this weekend after a goalless draw with West Ham's next opponents Ipswich. Middlesbrough currently sit just a point behind Southampton in 2nd and are now 9/1 to win the title.

Derby County made it 6 wins from their opening 8 league matches after seeing off Millwall 3-0. Goals from Craig Bryson, Jeff Hendrick and Steve Davies earned the Rams the points lifting them to 3rd place in the table. Despite Derby's excellent start to the season, incredibly they are still 66/1 to win the league! If I was a Derby fan I'd be jumping on those odds.

Early pace setters Brighton slipped to 5th in the table following their 3-3 draw with Leeds on Friday. Brighton are now 11/1 to lift the Championship trophy come the end of the season with Leeds at 28/1. Andy Keogh and Ross McCormack gave Leeds a 2 goal lead before a Craig Mackail-Smith brace and an Ashley Barnes penalty turned the game in Brighton's favour. However, Ross McCormack earned Leeds a point in the last minute with his 8th league goal of the season to level the match 3-3. McCormack is still 12/1 to finish the season as top scorer in the league despite being 2 goals clear of Southampton's Ricky Lambert.

Steve McClaren's job as Nottingham Forest boss looks safe for another day after they beat Watford 1-0 at Vicarage Road. McClaren remains joint favourite to be the first Championship manager out of a job at 5/1 despite this win. Watford now sit 17th in the table just a point above the drop zone. You can get odds of 3/1 for Watford to get relegated with Forest at 12/1.

Elsewhere in the Championship Birmingham's difficult start to the season continued as they needed a late strike from Chris Burke to earn them a point at home to Barnsley. Barnsley took the lead in the first half through Jacob Butterfield but Burke's leveller ended the game 1-1. Birmingham and Barnsley now sit 16th and 17th in the table respectively with Birmingham now as low as 7/1 to drop down to League One with Barnsley at 3.75.

Bristol City and Hull's match also ended in a 1-1 draw. Robert Koren gave the visitors the lead in the second half before substitute Brett Pitman levelled for City. Bristol City now sit 23rd in the table with just 1 win from 8 matches and are 3.50 to get relegated to League One.

Portsmouth picked up a much needed 3 points after seeing off Blackpool 1-0 at Fratton Park. Erik Huseklepp was the Pompey hero after grabbing the only goal of the game with an acrobatic volley. Blackpool drop to 8th in the table with their title odds increasing to 28/1.

Coventry and Reading also drew 1-1 with early goals from Gary McSheffrey and Simon Church. Coventry sit 22nd in the table on just 6 points with Reading 2 points better off in 15th. Struggling Coventry are now 2.38 for the drop after picking up just 1 win from their opening 8 league matches.

John Oster's goal gave Doncaster a 1-0 win and a much needed 3 points against Crystal Palace. Despite winning the game Doncaster remain big favourites for the drop at 1.57.

Sunday's match between Cardiff and Leicester ended in a goalless draw. Early season title favourites Leicester currently sitting 9th in the table are now 9/1 to clinch the title with 6th place Cardiff at 25/1.

Sep 182011

Elsewhere in the Championship Middlesbrough climbed up to first place after in-form striker Marvin Emnes gave them a narrow 1-0 victory away to Crystal Palace. Emnes is one of the bookies favourites for the Championship golden boot at 10/1 after notching his 5th league goal on Saturday. Boro now have a 3 point lead over West Ham with 17 points and have dropped to 8/1 to claim the Championship title.

Brighton finally slipped up away to big spending Leicester City after a Yuki Abe goal earned the Foxes all 3 points. Leicester are now 7/1 to lift the title with Brighton slipping to 9/1.

Steve McClaren's reign as Nottingham Forest boss is looking ever more tenuous after failing to beat rivals Derby County at home. Derby even had their keeper Frank Fielding sent off after just 5 minutes allowing Andy Reid to score from the spot. Derby came back with goals from Jamie Ward and Jeff Hendrick to turn the game around and leave McClaren sweating over his future at the club. Forest are now 10/1 to drop out of the Championship come the end of the season. Following their win Derby replaced the Hammers in fourth place but still remain huge 66/1 shots to win the title.

Promotion hopefuls Blackpool and Cardiff City shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw at Bloomfield Road. Don Cowie gave Cardiff the lead but veteran striker Kevin Phillips earned Blackpool a point with a great strike from outside the box. Phillips is now 12/1 to finish the season as the league's top scorer after netting his 5th goal of the season.

Leeds made it back-to-back wins after seeing off Bristol City 2-1 at Elland Road. Goals from Adam Clayton and Ross McCormack either side of a fantastic strike from Leeds old boy Neil Kilkenny gave Leeds all 3 points. McCormack's 6th goal of the season makes him the current leader of the Championship golden boot and joint 8/1 favourite.

Emile Sinclair enjoyed a dream debut start for Peterborough after scoring both their goals in a 2-1 win over struggling Burnley. Keith Treacy pulled a goal back for the visitors but Peterborough held on for the points to move up to 10th position in the league.

A goal a-piece from Marvin Sordell and Andy Gray earned Barnsley and Watford a point each to leave them in 16th and 17th place respectively. Barnsley are 3.50 for relegation to League One with Watford close behind at 3.75.

A single goal from Robert Koren was enough to secure Hull a 1-0 win over Portsmouth to lift them to 8th in the table.

Doncaster's terrible start to the season continued as Reading picked up just their second league win of the season. Goals from Simon Church and Adam Le Fondre gave the Royals a 2-0 win at the Keepmoat Stadium. Doncaster are huge favourites to get relegated at 1.50 after picking up just one point from their opening 7 games and already 4 points from safety.

Southampton have the chance to overtake Middlesbrough to top-spot when they host Birmingham City later on today.

Aug 212011

Sunday 21st August (13:15) NPower Championship

west ham v leedsToday's match sees Simon Grayson's Leeds United travel south to meet West Ham at Upton Park.

Both the Hammers and Leeds smashed in 4 goals in their previous match, with Leeds picking up their first win of the new campaign after seeing off Hull 4-1. West Ham also got goal hungry with James Tomkins, Joey O'Brien, Carlton Cole and Scott Parker all getting on the scoresheet in a 4-0 win at Watford.

The Hammers are still sweating on the fitness of Tomkins after the hamstring injury he picked up against Watford so Abdoulaye Faye will be standing by if needed. It also looks like George McCartney and John Carew may have to wait until Wednesday's Carling Cup match with Aldershot for their first West Ham appearances, but a place on the bench hasn't been ruled out.

Simon Grayson has a selection dilemma for today's match after Leeds' destruction of Hull last match. Star players Max Gradel and Johnny Howson missed the game through suspension and Grayson must now decide whether to bring them back in or field the same team that performed so well against Hull.

Leeds are still without their 3 first choice strikers, most notably last season's top scorer Luciano Becchio who banged in 19 goals last campaign. Davide Somma and Billy Paynter also remain on the sidelines so Ross McCormack will continue up front as the Whites only fit striker. 

If past meetings between these two sides are anything to go by things don't bode well for West Ham. The Hammers have picked up just 2 wins against Leeds in their last 26 encounters. The Whites have also won a worrying 14 of their last 19 games against West Ham.

This looks set to be a tough match for the Hammers but I still expect them to come out with a narrow victory in a game that will see Rob Green make his 200th appearance for West Ham.

Possible team:


O'Brien, Faye, Reid, Ilunga

Taylor, Nobl Parker, Parker  Noble, Collison



Subs: Boffin, Faubert, Barrera, Sears, Piquionne

Prediction: West Ham 2 – 1 Leeds

Match odds:

Result Best Odds Bookmaker
West Ham 1.67  Bet365
Draw 3.80  Victor Chandler
Leeds 6.00  Victor Chandler


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