Sunday, August 9, 2009

Life In The Championship Will Be Tight, As Day One Results Prove

Everyone expects this year's Championship to be one of the closest battles in years. No less than 12 teams will be battling it out for promotion, while for many, the difference between the playoffs and the relegation zone will only be a few points.

Today's results offer credence to that theory. Of 11 matches played between the opening two days, only three teams won, while eight games finished all square.

The opening day's fixture list threw out two matches that caught everyone's attention.

Banished from the bright lights of the Premiership, Newcastle and West Brom took on each other in a real clash of the heavyweights, while the next generation of management faced each other for the first time as Darren Ferguson led Peterborough into battle against Nigel Clough's Derby County.

Newcastle and West Brom played the first of our draws, as BBC premiered their new Championship slot on a Saturday evening. The Baggies took the lead through Shelton Martis after he bundled the ball home after Newcastle's dodgy defence failed to deal with a set piece.

If anything, Newcastle's constant trouble in handling West Brom's free kicks and corners gave credence to another theory. That the Magpies will find life in the Championship more difficult than expected.

And having sold their best two defenders to European competition chasing Spurs and Aston Villa, won't help matters at St. James in the slightest.

In the end, Damien Duff equalised for Newcastle, but the hero of the day was young Dutch keeper, Tim Krul, who made a string of fine saves after coming on as sub.

Nigel Clough's Derby County were one of the few teams to win, at the expense of the younger Ferguson's Peterborough.

Miles Addison, the 20-year-old who scored against Manchester United in the FA Cup last season, scored early for the Rams. The goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of Peterborough, as Derby went on to dominate most of the match.

A typical half-time talk from Ferguson meant that Posh came out a better side in the second half and despite equalising through a penalty, Gary Teale's fourth goal in three years was enough to seal the points for Derby.

Elsewhere, Cardiff City got off to the perfect start in their new £50m stadium. Nigel Adkins, Scunthorpe came to upset the party atmosphere, but got knocked out before they knew what hit them as the Bluebirds hammered four without reply past Irish international, Joe Murphy.

The most expensive Championship signing of the summer, (Michael Chopra £4m), scored twice on the opening day for Cardiff.

The only other team to record a victory on the opening Saturday of the calender were Nigel Pearson's Leicester City who beat Swansea 2-1.

The rest of the matches finished level.

Crystal Palace's young side played out a 1-1 draw with Plymouth Argyle.

Promotion-chasing Preston were held to a 2-2 draw against playoff chasing Bristol City.

On loan Spurs starlet Adel Taarabt stole the show at Loftus Road despite QPR scraping a draw against Ian Holloway's Blackpool.

Brendan Rodgers got his managerial career at Reading off to a solid start as they drew 0-0 with Nottingham Forest. It was a game that they were expected to win, but Forest are no bad side, and could provide a number of shocks this season.

Sheffield Wednesday were held to a 2-2 draw by relegation favourites Barnsley, while Watford began the season with a disappointing 1-1 with Doncaster, and last but not least, Middlesbrough drew 0-0 with Sheffield United.

There are a number of teams with huge financial backing this year. Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Ipswich, Derby, and West Brom, are only a few who come straight to mind.

The rewards for promotion being so great, expect a busy January if any of these teams are as expected, involved in the shake up.

With so many striving for promotion, the race looks like it will be one of the most exciting ever, and with such a slender line between the playoffs and the relegation zone, this season could be everything we hope for.

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