Football

Half-term report: Npower Championship

Who will following in QPR's footsteps come the end of the season? (©GettyImages)
Who will following in QPR's footsteps come the end of the season? (©GettyImages).

Barnsley: B-
Current position: 16th

Highlight: A run of four successive wins propelled Barnsley to within two points of the play-offs. That pre-winter surge, coupled with the form of Craig Davies gives Tykes fans reasons to be cheerful going into the New Year that a relegation scrap won't follow. Keeping hold of Jacob Butterfield may assist the mood at Oakwell.

Lowlights: With Davies often finding the net at one end, manager Keith Hill will be looking to tighten up things at the back, which while it makes the Yorkshire side one the most entertaining to watch in the Championship, means they've conceded more goals that bottom side Coventry City.
 

Birmingham City: C+
Current position: 15th

Highlights: After avoiding administration, Chris Hughton's ability to unite his players in the wake of charges against owner Carson Yeung is remarkable, strangely using the Europa League to help galvanise the team domestically. The gamble of signing Marlon King appears to be paying off, while increased opportunities for Nathan Redmond in the New Year is likely to only improve City's fortunes.

Lowlights: Now just two wins off the play-offs, it was The Blues' bad start that denied them a genuine New Year promotion push. A lack of away wins, just two - the last coming in November - will have to improve if Hughton's men have designs on the top six.
 

Blackpool: B
Current position: 7th

Highlights: As many as 42 players came and went from Bloomfield Road this summer but little has halted Ian Holloway building another side worthy of a promotion tip. Heavy 5-0 wins over Bristol City and Leeds United, with a defence who has conceded just eight goals at home, provide the highlights of the first half of the season.

Lowlights: The return to Liverpool of Jonjo Shelvy on loan is a genuine blow to The Tangerines. The former Charlton man acted as a decent replacement for Charlie Adam. Replacing him, plus transferring their impressive home defensive record to their away days, where they've conceded 20, will also strengthen their promotion push.
 

Brighton & Hove Albion: C
Current position: 11th

Highlights: After five wins out of six, Brighton topped the Championship, giving fans reason to believe a double promotion was on the cards. Their roaring start has laid the foundations for a comfortable season, with their away form, where they picked up more points than Southampton, particularly important.

Lowlights: Craig Mackail-Smith's goalscoring drought has coincided with Brighton's own slip, with the Scot having struck just once in his last 15 games. Poyet will be eager to prevent a run which saw the Seagulls fail to win for nearly two months, ruining their perfect start.
 

Burnley: C+
Current position: 9th

Highlights: The best away record outside the top six has been the foundation of their play-off push under Eddie Howe. Kieran Trippier has excelled at full-back, while Jay Rodriguez continues to flourish, having notched 12 goals.

Lowlights: The Clarets' inability to settle for draws, which while it has seen them earn as many wins as Cardiff, leaves them with as many defeats as Millwall. Howe's squad, the average of which is just 23 could be the reason behind this, with youthful exuberance often getting the better of them in the latter stages.
 

Cardiff City: B+
Current position: 4th

Highlights: Victory over West Ham United on the opening weekend very much set the tone for the rest of the season, but it wasn't until the defeat at Peterborough United that we saw the best of Cardiff. Defeat at London Road sparked an 11-match unbeaten run helping the Bluebirds into the play-offs.

Lowlights: The club's run in the Carling Cup, which sees them take on Crystal Palace in the semi-final, could work as an unwelcome distraction from the club's league commitments, which leaves them with seven fixtures in January. Questions remain whether the club have the resources to strengthen significantly in the upcoming window.
 

Coventry City: E
Current position: 24th

Highlights: Having held off the advances of Middlesbrough, Lucas Jutkiewicz is producing the sort of form to keep Sky Blues fans believing survival is a possibility in the New Year. Sporadic victories have so far kept Andy Thorn his job at the Ricoh Arena, wins that include Monday's crucial win over relegation rivals Bristol City.

Lowlights: The resignation of Ken Dulieu as chairman and as head of football operations has been the tip of the iceberg at Coventry, who have seen numerous board members walk out, and fans demand clarification over the future ownership of the club. On the pitch, three wins all season leave the club five points from safety at the bottom with Thorn seemingly powerless to prevent the slide, nor keep hold of striker Jutkiewicz. Bleak times ahead.
 

Crystal Palace: C
Current position: 10th

Highlights: Just one defeat at home this season has been the cornerstone to Palace's success, as has been the impact of the club's youth players, with Nathaniel Clyne and Wilfred Zaha playing leading roles in the Championship, and Jonathan Williams starting to impress after breaking through in the Carling Cup. Glenn Murray has added a touch of finesse to the Eagles' impressive build up play.

Lowlights: Success in the Carling Cup has coincided a poor run of form in the league, with just two Championship wins coming since October's win over Southampton. A two-legged semi-final with Cardiff follows, but of bigger concern to Dougie Freedman will be tying down Clyne to a new deal after keeping hold of Zaha.
 

Derby County: C-
Current position: 14th

Highlights: An impressive start saw The Rams joint third after eight games but injury to Steven Davies, a catalyst for much of their early form, sparked a downturn in fortunes. Movement in the transfer market is expected, to improve a home record that is close to matching last season's effort.

Lowlights: A run of one win in twelve games, which included a pointless November has seen Derby plummet down the league. Victory over Leeds United could spark a revival, but supporters will fear a second half of a season similar to last term where relegation may loom.
 

Doncaster Rovers: D
Current position: 23rd

Highlights: The appointment of Dean Saunders following the sacking of Sean O'Driscoll helped produce the first league win against Crystal Palace, and further victories over pre-season promotion favourites Leicester City and leaders Southampton have helped spirits at the Keepmoat Stadium. The club's unique transfer policy which has seen the likes of El Hadji Diouf and Pascal Chimbonda join the club is keeping the interest of the home faithful.

Lowlights: Billy Sharp is almost certain to leave the club in the upcoming transfer window, and without him, you worry where the goals might come from, of which he has nine. Rovers' form on the road is the worst in the division, with 10 defeats from 12 games.
 

Hull City: A-
Current position: 5th

Highlights: The loss of Nigel Pearson has done nothing to halt Hull on their march to promotion, and with five wins from eight caretaker Nick Bamby looks odds on to get the job full time. Barmby has changed little selection wise since taking over, with four players having feature in every league game this season, with one of those, Robert Koren, having hit seven goals.

Lowlights: With the club's defence among the best in the league, Barmby will be looking to make some of those important wins more comfortable in the second half of the year. Just two, two goal wins have come in Barmby's first and most recent wins against Derby and Millwall; getting Aaron McLean firing regularly might be a priority.
 

Ipswich Town: E
Current position: 19th

Highlights: The manner of their second half comeback against Barnsley will give manager Paul Jewell reason to believe he can turn things around at Portman Road. The goals of Keith Andrews and Michael Chopra have been regular, but amid defensive calamities, have often paled into insignificance.

Lowlights: Heavy defeats, first at the hands of Southampton and then Peterborough United, who hit seven, left Jewell on the brink after just four league games. One defeat in eight followed before seven successive defeats against left Jewell feeling the strain again. Another expected Town promotion push has yet again fallen flat.
 

Leeds United: B-
Current position: 8th

Highlights: Given the summer transfer window loses, the injury to the likes of Luciano Beccio and Jonny Howson, Leeds can be content, if not delighted with their season thus far which was overshadowed by the death of club favourite Gary Speed last month. Scoring during the 11 minutes appreciation towards Speed during the hammering of Nottingham Forest is very much the highlight of the season thus far.

Lowlights: Injuries have ensured Simon Grayson's men have been unable to string together the necessary results to mount a promotion push. While scoring hasn't been an issue, at the other end, possessing the joint worst defence in the top half means defenders will be on the manager's January wishlist.
 

Leicester City: D-
Current position: 12th

Highlights: After what has been an up and down five months, the fact that The Foxes are only five points off the play-offs has to be taken a positive going into the second half of the season. Nigel Pearson brings with him a wealth of promotion experience, with supporters undoubtedly hopeful that their club can be the ones to make the annual late play-off surge.

Lowlights: After starting as promotion favourites, the club have somewhat flattered to decisive. The likes of Jermaine Beckford and Neil Danns, both summer recruits have contributed very little while those hoping for a honeymoon period under Pearson have been disappointed, with just two wins coming from his first six games.
 

Middlesbrough: A
Current position: 3rd

Highlights: Tony Mowbray's men have almost gone unnoticed at the top of the Championship after similarly quiet summer on the transfer front. Marvin Emnes' impressive early season form has been replaced by the brilliance of Barry Robson, but the real headlines are being made at the back by the Championship's tightest defence, which is led by Joe Bennett and Rhys Williams.

Lowlights: While Boro's away from is as good as anyone's, the club's home form, which has seen them pick up just five wins has to improve if they're to catch the top two. Scoring goals in front of their own fans is also an issue, with only Bristol City and Doncaster having scored fewer. Holding onto Williams could become an additional challenge in January.
 

Millwall: D
Current position: 20th

Highlights: Wins against their rivals at the wrong end of the table are what keeps The Lions a full five points clear of the drop zone. Despite being 20th the club lie just as many points from the top half of the league while their defensive record outstrips the likes of Cardiff City and Blackpool.

Lowlights: Having failed to score in 11 of their 23 league games, the problems for Kenny Jackett's men lie in the goals department. Darius Henderson is leading the charts with eight decisive strikes, not least because when he does find the net, Millwall don't lose.
 

Nottingham Forest: E-
Current position: 22nd

Highlights: With four goals in 10 starts Ishmael Miller has played his part since his move from West Bromwich Albion. Taking Newcastle United to extra time in the Carling Cup shows the club have some fight left in them despite a poor start, while with goal difference only separating them from safety the club are hardly cut adrift.

Lowlights: The appointment of Steve Cotterill has done nothing to improve matters at the City Ground. Forest have failed to score to seven of their last eight games, in which they've yielded just four points. They're the division's lowest scorers and fourth leakiest defence around. What Cotterill produced during his time with Portsmouth will give supporters little hope that their dismal form can be turned around.
 

Peterborough United: B
Current position: 13th

Highlights: Many were expecting Darren Ferguson's one-dimensional code to be cracked yet again in the Championship this season, but few have had an answer to the Posh's free-flowing attacking play. As many as 42 goals have been scored in 23 games, including seven in the humiliation of Ipswich. Two successive clean sheets show defensive, things are improving.

Lowlights: Despite the back-to-back shutouts, Ferguson's men are leaking goals at an alarming rate, the second most in the division. Injury to captain Grant McCann is also a blow, while Ryan Bennett is likely to be target for a number of Premier League sides.
 

Portsmouth: D
Current position: 17th

Highlights: In the end, the club were probably quiet happy to see the back of manager Steve Cotterill, who departed for Nottingham Forest in the Autumn. Michael Appleton has since steadied the ship with two wins, two draws and two defeats. A derby score draw with neighbours Southampton has assisted his rapport with supporters.

Lowlights: Worries continue to linger surrounding administration in the New Year, a word everyone around Fratton Park have heard too often. New faces are likely to be few and far between, with goals a particular problem with just 24 netted, as many as fellow strugglers Millwall.
 

Reading: B+
Current position: 6th

Highlights: After a start that threatened to work as a playoff final hangover, which saw them collect just four league wins by early November, has been turned around by a run of six wins in eight games, including three successive victories against West Ham United, Leeds United and Brighton.

Lowlights: The lack of a genuine replacement for Shane Long might be the difference come the end of the campaign, with Simon Church top scoring with just six. Furthermore, having matched many of their rivals at the top of the league at home, it's on the road where the problems may begin to mount for The Royals. They face Cardiff City, Middlesbrough, West Ham United and Southampton all away from the Madejski in the New Year.
 

Southampton: A
Current position: 1st

Highlights: The club matched Liverpool's 40-year consecutive home wins record when they defeated Hull City while Ricky Lambert has made a mockery of those who predicted he'd fail in his step up from League One, with 15 goals so far this season. Fellow headline maker Adam Lallana provides artistry up top.

Lowlights: Eleven wins out of twelve at home, but it's on the road that Saints have found themselves to be fallible. Only Leicester have a poorer record in the top half, while without Kelvin Davies between the sticks, as shown against Blackpool, Nigel Adkins' side look vulnerable.
 

Watford: C-
Current position: 18th

Highlights: Sean Dyche's Championship draw specialists can be happy with their season's work after guiding themselves to six points above the drop zone. The loss of star striker Danny Graham and manager Malkay MacKay would have had supporters fearing the worst, but an inability to win until victory over Reading had led to an upture in the Hornets' fortunes.

Lowlights: Dyche has guided Watford to back-to-back wins just once this season and with five draws in their last six games, the club are seemingly treading water in the Championship. Keeping hold of Marvin Sordell is imperative to any hopes they have to beating the drop, with any transfer dealings likely to be limited. Chris Iwelumo's inability to find any form has been typical of Watford's plight in front of goal.
 

West Ham United: A-
Current position: 2nd

Highlights: Not done with the panache, or even the players the Upton Park support would like, but Sam Allardyce is well on his way to delivering promotion at the first time of asking for West Ham. The likes of new signings Kevin Nolan and Sam Baldock have played their part, but local lad James Tomkins has caught the eye, in a defence which has registered 10 clean sheets.

Lowlights: The club's away form will be of some concern, with defeats to Cardiff City and Ipswich City early on preventing The Hammers from hitting the front. Things have improved of late, but defeat to Burnley, when the opportunity arose to go top, provided evidence that they've not totally conquered their problems at home. January additions expected.

Topics:
Peterborough United
Leicester City
Doncaster Rovers
Portsmouth
Ipswich Town
Reading
Watford
Bristol City
Football
Millwall
Championship
Southampton
Cardiff City
Derby County
Nottingham Forest
Barnsley
Crystal Palace
Birmingham
West Ham United
Middlesbrough
Hull City
Leeds United
Coventry City
Blackpool
Brighton & Hove Albion

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