Week one of the Football League Championship certainly threw up one or two surprises – none more so than Fulham’s magnificent win over Newcastle at Craven Cottage.
There is yet another full set of fixtures coming your way this weekend with the match between Norwich and Sheffield Wednesday shaping up to be an absolute classic. Let’s take a look at week two’s fixture list below:
Friday 12 August
Brighton 9/10 | Draw 47/20 | Nottingham Forest 31/10
Brighton didn’t get their season off to an ideal start drawing 0-0 with Derby at the iPro Stadium last weekend. How the game ended goalless I’ll never know. There were plenty of chances for both sides with Scott Carson and David Stockdale putting in mammoth performances between the sticks for their respective sides. While Chris Hughton would have been impressed with how his attacking players fared, he’d have been concerned with the back four who seemed a bit a sea when Derby upped the ante.
Forest were made to work incredibly hard for their 4-3 victory over newly promoted Burton Albion at the weekend. Philippe Montanier would have bene reasonably happy with his side’s performance, although conceding three goals at home to one of the division’s weaker sides will concern him. Britt Assombalonga started the season with a bang claiming two goals against Burton – including what proved to be the decider. With both sets of defences looking wobbly, I’d take both teams to score at even money.
Saturday 13 August
Wolves 12/10 | Draw 22/10 | Reading 47/20
Wolves were extremely lucky to come away with a point away at Rotherham at the weekend. The men from the Midlands were down 2-0 inside the first 20 minutes before George Saville grabbed a goal back before half-time. Domnic Iofra got his marching orders midway through the second half before Jon Dadi Bonvarsson grabbed the equaliser in the 65th minute.
Jaap Stam got his Reading tenure off to a winning start as the Royals claimed a fairly regulation win over Preston North End at the Madejski Stadium last week. The Londoners probably should have won more comfortably, however, some poor finishing let them down in the final third. Former Chelsea academy star, John Swift grabbed the only goal of the game with a magnificent first-time shot which beat Anders Lindgaard all ends up. Reading looked good at the weekend, and with better finishing could have won more comfortably. I’ll be backing them to come good against a Wolves side that struggled against Rotherham last week.
Newcastle 13/20 | Draw 11/4 | Huddersfield 17/4
Newcastle and Rafa Benitez were brought back down to Earth with a resounding thump at the weekend. Despite dominating for large periods, it was Fulham who grabbed the lead through a marvellous Matt Smith header on the stroke of half-time. The Toon were unlucky not be awarded two penalties for clear and obvious handball offences that the officials inexplicably missed. They’ll be looking to bounce back this weekend in front of their home fans.
Huddersfield Town will be keen to pile more misery on Newcastle after they edged past Brentford at the John Smith’s Stadium on Saturday. Elias Kachunga opened the scoring for the Terriers five minutes after the break before Nico Yennaris pulled one back for the visitors. The home support were sent into rapture just two minutes later after summer loan signing, Kasey Palmer netted the winner with a poacher’s finish after Rajiv van La Parra saw his effort saved. As much as I love this Huddersfield side, I just don’t see them getting one over Newcastle at St. James’ Park – back the Toon at 13/20.
Barnsley 11/4 |Draw 9/4 | Derby County 1/1
Barnsley have to endure the wrath of Grant Ward as the summer signing from Tottenham netted a superb second half hat-trick against the Tykes. It was a bizarre game at Portman Road, where neither team really threatened at all in the first half. One thing is for sure though, Barnsley are going to need to tighten their belts defensively if they are to stand any chance at home to a Derby side who looked threatening in their first game.
The Rams will have been slightly disappointed not to come away with all three points against Brighton and Hove Albion at the weekend. They created the better chances and had an opportunity to win the clash at the death with former England striker Darren Bent heading just wide in stoppage time. They played well and move the ball with purpose, with just about everything going through the highly rated youngster, Will Hughes. Derby are the better team and should be backed at generous odds of 1/1.
Aston Villa 7/10 | Draw 26/10 | Rotherham 4/1
Aston Villa started life in the Championship with a bit of a lull after they went down 1-0 to Sheffield Wednesday at the Hillsborough Stadium. It wasn’t all doom and gloom for Roberto Di Matteo and his men, however, as they dominated the game – while not really creating many clear-cut chances – before Fernando Forestieri capitalised on a scuffed clearance from Pierluigi Gollini to net the winner.
Rotherham would have been a bit disappointed following their 2-2 draw with Wolves at the weekend. After racing into a two-goal lead and Wolves being reduced to 10 men, the Millers couldn’t hold on as Icelandic international Jon Dadi Bonvarsson grabbed the equaliser – perhaps a sign of things to come for Rotherham. Villa looked good this weekend despite their loss and should prove too good for Rotherham – back Villa to claim a straightforward victory at 7/10.
Preston 12/10 | Draw 43/20 | Fulham 23/10
Preston never really got going against Reading at the weekend and were perhaps lucky to escape with just a 1-0 defeat. The Lilywhites conceded 82% possession in the first half as they away fans let their frustrations be heard at the Madejski. There was a slight improvement in the second half, although they never really looked like taking their chances – a sign of things to come perhaps?
Fulham will be on cloud nine after their fantastic opening day win at home over a star-studded Newcastle United. Matt Smith’s header on the stroke of half-time lifted the roof off of Craven Cottage with many punters and pundits – myself included – not giving the Cottagers a chance in hell against Rafa and his men. While I like the look of this Fulham side, I don’t fancy them away from home. The draw looks good here at 43/10.
Leeds 5/4 | Draw 43/20 | Birmingham 9/4
Life for Gary Monk at Leeds got off to the worst possible start as they were smashed 3-0 at Loftus Road by a rampant QPR side. Leeds were let down by silly individual errors which often creep into teams that have seen wholesale squad changes over the summer with Robert Green and Ronaldo Vieira at fault for the first two goals. We can expect an improved performance from the Yorkshire club after Gary Monk – a tactically astute manager – has a proper go at them.
It was more of the same for Birmingham as their home form woes from last season appear to have followed them into this campaign. They looked flat and unimaginative against Cardiff and have Thomasz Kuszczak to thank for their point after the former Manchester United and Poland goalkeeper pulled off a string of fine saves. Neither team look particularly threatening in front of goal – as such, I’ll stick my neck out and back the 0-0 draw at 7/1 here. For those of you less willing to go correct score, back the draw at 43/20.
Wigan 23/20 | Draw 9/4 | Blackburn 24/10
Wigan were bitterly disappointed with their opening day loss at Ashton Gate as Bristol City’s late showing downed the Latics. Gary Caldwell’s men opened the scoring in the 32nd minute before two goals in the final 10 minutes from Tammy Abraham and Bobby Reid secured the three points for the Robins.
Wigan go up against fellow relegation candidates Blackburn United this weekend. Rovers were humbled 4-1 in front of their home fans thanks largely to a barnstorming first half performance by Norwich City. Owen Coyle’s men looked hopelessly at sea against the high-flying Canneries. I’m not sure whether or not Blackburn will survive another season in the Championship. Wigan should look for an improved performance in front of their home fans – take them to beat Blackburn comfortably at 23/20.
Brentford 27/20 | Draw 9/4 | Ipswich 39/20
After a 2-1 defeat on the opening day of the season at the hands of Huddersfield Town, Brentford will have to travel to Portman Road to take on and Ipswich side who are buzzing after their fine win in matchweek one. Huddersfield could probably have beaten the Bees by a few more had it not been for some shoddy finishing.
Ipswich, as mentioned earlier, are on a massive high after handing Barnsley a 4-2 defeat. Grant Ward is the name on everybody’s lips as the former Tottenham midfielder netted a wonderful second-half hat-trick. Ipswich looked excellent, but a few defensive errors let the Barnsley nick two goals – both teams to score at 15/20 looks good value.
Burton Albion 16/10 | Draw 9/4 | Bristol City 33/20
Burton Albion were involved in one of the early contenders for game of the season as they narrowly went down 4-3 to Nottingham Forest at the City Ground on Saturday. While they failed to claim any log points, the Brewers would have been encouraged after scoring three times against one of the more established sides in the league. They will, however, need to work on some defensive frailties moving forward if they want to avoid a relegation scrap.
Bristol City claimed all three points against Wigan Athletic on Saturday after two late goals from Tammy Abraham and Bobby Reid overturned Alex Gilbey’s 32nd-minute opener. It was an ideal start for City who many tipped to go down at the end of the season, and they’ll be looking for more of the same against another newly promoted side this weekend. Bristol to win at 33/20.
Norwich 1/1 | Draw 47/20 | Sheffield Wednesday 26/10
Following their 4-1 dismantling of Blackburn at Ewood Park at the weekend, Norwich will have their sights firmly set on Sheffield Wednesday in what should prove to be the game of the weekend. The Canneries were out of the blocks in a flash as they raced into a three-goal lead inside the first 25 minutes by which point Blackburn were out of the contest. They’ll look to make another break-neck start against Wednesday this weekend – and lord knows they need it against one of the best teams in the division.
Like Norwich City, Wednesday got their season off the perfect start with an excellent 1-0 victory over Aston Villa at the weekend. Fernando Forestieri claimed the only goal of the game in the 85th minute in what proved to be quite a turgid affair. The little Italian latched on to a loose clearance from the Villa ‘keeper to finish coolly. If the Owls are to gain promotion this season, Forestieri’s form will be key. I don’t want to pick a winner here – both sides boast Premier League quality and should push for promotion. With so much attacking talent, take both teams to score at 17/20.
Sunday 14 August
Cardiff 23/20 | Draw 22/10 | QPR 24/10
Cardiff were unlucky not to claim all three points away at Birmingham City over the weekend. Had it not been for an outrageous performance from the Blues’ Polish stopper, Tomasz Kuszczak, the men from Wales could well have won the game by two or three goals. They’ll have to up their game this weekend, however, as they come up against a QPR side who blew Leeds out of the water.
QPR’s dominant display against Leeds fired off a very serious warning shot to the rest of the league as the Hoops hope to mount a promotion push. Their credentials will face yet another stern test as they travel to Wales to take on a Cardiff side who are notoriously difficult to beat at home. I really think that under Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, QPR can push for promotion. They certainly have the quality to beat Cardiff, although I’m going to play it safe and back them on the double-chance against a more than competent side at 13/20.
Written by Jason Dewey for @Hollywoodbets.