What can be learnt from matchday 19 of the Championship?
Leeds can have real aspirations of promotion
Leeds put in the performance of the weekend on Saturday as they overcame table-topping Derby County by a two-goal margin. A brace from Mirco Antenucci moved the Whites away from the relegation places, and prevented Derby from moving clear in the race for promotion. Despite a run of poor results for Leeds, with the Derby victory just their second win since September, a promising performance over the Rams has proven that the Yorkshire club can overcome even the toughest opponents in the division. Ties with Ipswich, Nottingham Forest and the return visit to Derby follow before the New Year, and a run of strong results could move the Whites well within the play-off places heading into 2015.
Derby have shown their weakness
A fourth defeat of the season for Derby prevented them from moving four points clear of Ipswich in second place, and has shown that the Championship still remains a division in which there are no guarantees for promotion. They have impressed against big teams when allowed to show their true ability, but with out-of-form Leeds defeating them, it has shown that they struggle when faced with sides who pressure them when on the ball. Renowned for their passing style, the Rams are often gifted possession of the ball allowing them to impose themselves with the talent in their squad. However, Leeds - as Wigan, Brentford and Charlton have done before - limited their time on the ball by harrying them. A memorable defensive performance by the Whites showed their true spirit, but Derby should be aware of their limitations when facing sides willing to exert themselves for the good of the team.
Cardiff have recovered from their poor start
Promotion back to the Premier League was expected of Cardiff following their relegation, but things did not get off to a good start for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. However, Russell Slade has led the club up the table since his appointment, and a 1-0 victory at Watford - their first away victory since April - moved them onto equal points with the Hornets, and just two outside of the play-offs. It is incredible that a side who were deemed to be in turmoil earlier in the campaign could be seriously challenging for promotion, but the state of the Championship means that no one can be written off. Performance levels are still below-par, but results are positive, and Slade has his team set-up to complete their goal without being fancy or excessive. It may not be the best football to watch, but they can surely put up a real fight heading into the new year.
Can Ipswich mirror Burnley’s success last season?
Ipswich are the surprising high-fliers of the Championship season, sitting just one point off Derby following a 94th minute winning goal against Charlton on Saturday. The Tractor Boys have conceded just 19 goals in 19 games, and a strong defence has been the basis for their rise up the table. An expected mid-table side at the opening of the campaign, Mick McCarthy’s men have done nothing but overachieve so far, and where they are let down on talent in their squad, it is made up for with the team spirit shown. McCarthy has excelled at getting the most from his limited resources, and, like Burnley last year, no one could begrudge them should promotion to the Premier League be assured.
Consistency could cost Nottingham Forest
A return to form was expected of Forest following their 3-0 demolition of Wolves last week, but a late collapse against struggling Birmingham showed the Reds true problems this term. A lack of consistency is costing the side, and strong performances on the field are too often being undermined by bad showings in the following weeks. Forest were unfortunate to concede a late penalty, but if they have real hopes of promotion they should not have been overawed by the Blues side in the manner in which they were. Performances need to improve on a week-by-week basis, and the jury is still out on whether Stuart Pearce can lead a side on a real promotion charge.