Mid-term championship: Blackburn push and Forest’s remarkable rebirth | Championship

The leaders

Not so fast. The stuttering form of leaders Fulham and second Bornemouth – neither have won any of their last five games – knitted things together towards the top to kick off an intriguing second half of the season. A four point blanket covers the first four, with Blackburn nestled in the third above West Brom after rebounding from a 7-0 loss to Fulham last month (this was only the second time they’ve lost a league game by more than one goal since October 2020) by recording six wins in seven games, conceding twice. Among those on Fulham’s scoresheet was Aleksandar Mitrovic, who has scored 25 goals in 27 games for club and country this season and whose total of 22 in the league means he has edged four wrestlers in the division: Hull, Peterborough, Barnsley and Derby.

Blackburn, who finished 15th last season, is the surprise package. Over the summer, they reinvested £ 400,000 of the £ 15million they received for the Adam Armstrong talisman on League One left-back (Lincoln’s Tayo Edun), Harvey Elliott and Taylor Harwood- Bellis came out after productive loan spells, a dozen senior players have left and yet they are mounting an unlikely promotion load. Ben Brereton Díaz, the former Stoke-born England Under-19 forward turned Chilean sensation, provided a streak of goals, and home midfielders Lewis Travis and John Buckley also impressed. Brereton Díaz has scored 19 goals in 23 games since adding his mother’s maiden name to his jersey in August, down from nine in his previous 80 games.

West Brom is solid defensively but urgently needs a real number 9 to kill the teams, Valérien Ismaël eager to find Daryl Dike. Bournemouth have seemed untouchable for so long, with Lloyd Kelly and Gary Cahill forming an unparalleled partnership, but defensive neglect has crept in. Fulham’s lead may have been reduced, but getting them out of pole is another thing. They are lucky to have options in midfield, including the rejuvenated Jean Michaël Seri, the oft-overlooked Neeskens Kebano and Harry Wilson, who tend to have fun at this level. Then there is Mitrovic.

The play-off hunters

Five points separate the fifth Queens Park Rangers and Blackpool, who continues to make impressive progress under 13th-place Neil Critchley, but the former can point to two games in hand over most of his rivals as an opportunity to get closer to West Brom. Nottingham Forest were down with a single point when Chris Hughton was sacked in mid-September, but a few months the outlook is markedly different. Steve Cooper’s side rolls in the mirror of the sixth Town of Stoke, who seem to have struck a healthy balance between experience and youthful exuberance – they haven’t paid fees for any player over 23 since Michael O’Neill took over two years ago – with Mario Vrancic and Josh Awesome Tymon at either end of the scale.

Sheffield united are full of confidence after replacing Slavisa Jokanovic with Paul Heckingbottom and seem well equipped to continue from mid-table. The majority of the squad that won promotion to the Premier League under Chris Wilder remain – Billy Sharp, Ollie Norwood and John Egan continue to be key pillars – but to Iliman Ndiaye who, like Sorba Thomas at Huddersfield, made of great strides outside the league. Boreham Wood, they possess a welcome unpredictability. The 21-year-old striker ran from inside his own half on Monday to beat Fulham for a fourth straight victory. “You haven’t seen the best of him yet,” was Heckingbottom’s verdict.

Iliman Ndiaye (right), in action here against Preston, offers Sheffield United unpredictability. Photograph: Jez Tighe / ProSports / REX / Shutterstock

Wilder is now at Middlesbrough and oversaw an impressive recovery, which restored optimism, although they may need to strengthen their forward line to maintain their push. Coventry City have lost momentum in recent weeks, but the side of Mark Robins, for whom Callum O’Hare was particularly decisive, remains very present in the conversation. Their unlikely climb to the top is one of the stories of the season. Millwall and Huddersfield seem too inconsistent to disturb the first six.


Weighted down by a penalty of 21 points, from County Derby the main goal is to survive as a club, no matter in the division. All hope of standing was gone a long time ago, but Wayne Rooney continues to pull results from the sack with a one-team mishmash. The administrators, Quantuma, remain confident to sell the club in January. Last month, supporters rallied to repay the club’s £ 8,304 debt to St. John Ambulance, one of dozens of creditors.

Reading are another side looking after a point deduction for breaking financial rules. They have no shortage of pedigree – Andy Carroll, Junior Hoilett, Danny Drinkwater, Scott Dann, Alen Halilovic, Baba Rahman, George Puscas, the list goes on – but a team that started last season so promisingly has shown little. signs of takeoff, though midfielder John Swift was one of the division’s most notable performers for a team one place above the drop.

Keane Lewis-Potter celebrates after scoring the goal that saw Hull defeat another struggling team, Cardiff, last month.
Keane Lewis-Potter celebrates after scoring the goal that saw Hull defeat another struggling team, Cardiff, last month. Photograph: James Marsh / Rex / Shutterstock

Peterborough run away from targets but are by no means adrift and hope to hang around Cardiff, shell, who has lost only one of his last seven games, City of Bristol and Birmingham In trouble. Second-bottom Barnsley are far from replicating a memorable last campaign – they’ve won one of their last 21 games and are the worst scorers in the division – but head coach Poya Asbaghi ​​can see green shoots. “I’m sure when we start winning we can create a machine that goes on and on,” he says.

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