Championship promotion race remains wide open

by Sean Bell

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

QPR’s 1-0 victory at Doncaster on Saturday left them nine points clear of second-placed Norwich City and, notwithstanding any possible points deduction from the FA for the signing of Alejandro Faurlin, poised to return to the top flight for the first time since 1996. Yet whilst Neil Warnock’s side have undoubtedly been the Championship’s outstanding side all season the question of who will join them in the Premier League next season is as unresolved as ever.

The sides in second and third place are unsurprisingly those enjoying the best run of recent form. Norwich earned a valuable point at Hull at the weekend and their propensity for late winning goals means that they stand an excellent chance of successive promotions under manager Paul Lambert. It is only nineteen months since his Colchester side annihilated Norwich 7-1 at Carrow Road on the opening day of the 2009-10 season, a result which saw him replace Bryan Gunn in the Canaries’ hot seat.

Swansea are another side with a bright young manager in Brendan Rodgers and their 3-2 victory over Nottingham Forest was inspired by a scintillating performance from Scott Sinclair, one of the Championship’s outstanding performers this season who is now fulfilling the potential that saw Chelsea sign him from Bristol Rovers at the age of sixteen. They currently lie one point behind Norwich in third place.

Last season’s play-off finalists Cardiff had appeared to be the likeliest challengers to Rangers earlier in the season, and buoyed by the loan signing of Craig Bellamy, October saw them go on a run of five successive league victories, but inconsistency and recent injuries to Jay Boothroyd and Michael Chopra have left them playing catch up in fourth place.

Below them Leeds have possibly exceeded expectations by maintaining a promotion challenge in their first season back in the Championship, whilst Nottingham Forest’s terrible run of form has seen them fail to register a victory in their last seven league games, and they also surrendered their 36-match unbeaten home record against Hull a fortnight ago.

Outside the play-off zone, the pressure is even more intense. Reading have been inspired by their F.A. Cup run and are now unbeaten in seven league matches, Burnley under new manager Ernie Howe have gone three games without a win but are still well placed, and Watford, Hull, Leicester, and Portsmouth are all within six points of the top six. With over half of the division still in with a realistic chance of winning promotion, the Championship remains the most unpredictable and exciting league in Europe.

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  • stan

    QPR need 15 points from 8 games, it’s in the bag.
    As for the runners up, its anyones from 10, it really is that tight.

  • jezz

    Qpr deserve it, best team, not by much but still should have enough now. I think 9 more points will do it. Norwich need to play Swansea. Holt, I mean Norwich to finish 2nd.

  • bobby

    Mathematicaly we(qpr) only need 13 points,since Norwich still have to play Swansea and that is assuming they both win all their remaining games.So it is in the bag.
    But we do not feel able to relax until the threat of a points deduction is removed.Not comfortable having our fate in the hands of the muppets from the FA.
    Hopefully our lawyers will be bigger than theirs.
    Or maybe we have some Masonic contacts who can do a `deal`.

  • Sean Bell

    Yes, I agree, bobby. I still think the FA have got something up their sleeve. I just don’t believe they would have created such a fuss only to slink away afterwards. A ten-point deduction and it’s still up for grabs though Rangers still have some very winnable games in their run-in.

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