Championship Chat

Championship Chat: Foxes hard to halt

Wednesday 6th November 2013 11:12

James Marshment backs Leicester for promotion, has sobering words for Birmingham, and blasts 'bad dad dancer' Jim O'Brien in Championship Chat.

The Sky Bet Championship is often overlooked for the glamour and glitz of the Premier League, but there's much to be celebrated in the second tier as we find out in this weekly Thursday column.

The race for promotion, and the bid to stay in the second tier, is likely to be as competitive as ever, as we examine all the key talking points from the weekend, and also take a look at what's to come in the matches ahead.

Feel free to let me know your thoughts in the story comment box, below, or follow me on Twitter here.

To see all the weekend's goals, click here.

Goal of the weekend: Jake Forster-Caskey, Brighton v Doncaster

If you're the son of former Spurs midfielder Darren Caskey, and stepson of former Brighton favourite Nicky Forster, much is always going to be expected of you.

Taking the ball in his stride, the teenage midfielder took a touch to steady himself before unleashing a dipping, swerving 35-yarder that gave Ross Turnbull no chance in the Donny goal. OK, so the wind may have played its part, but you can't take anything away from Forster-Caskey for the best goal so far of his fledgling career.

Worthy of mentions: Michail Antonio, Sheffield Wednesday v Reading; Jim O'Brien, Barnsley v Ipswich; Jason Lowe, Blackburn v Middlesbrough.

Team of the week: (4-3-1-2) Jason Steele; Liam Moore, Matt Mills, Wes Morgan, Jeffrey Schlupp; Michail Antonio, Rodolph Austin, Dale Stephens; Stephen Dobbie; Ross McCormack, Matty Fryatt.

Special mention this week goes to Blackpool loanee Stephen Dobbie, who netted the first goal of his second spell on loan with the Tangerines. And what a priceless one it proved to be as his last-minute strike earned Paul Ince's men all three points from their clash at fellow promotion-hopefuls Nottingham Forest.

Quote of the week: Nigel Pearson

You can't keep a good man down and the Leicester manager was in expected chipper mood after his side had impressed in a 3-0 win at Watford on Saturday lunchtime.

"We've got a better balance than last season, and we've got a better side than last season," he proudly proclaimed. "The players have used a difficult experience (last season's play-off semi-final heartache) and turned it into a positive one. So I'm relatively satisfied with how we're developing."

Player of the weekend: Michail Antonio, Sheffield Wednesday

Finally Sheffield Wednesday have a league victory under their belts and the weekend's emphatic 5-2 victory over Reading owed, as much as anything, to the brilliant display from the Owls powerhouse.

He obviously wanted to impress being the game was against his former employers and - having scored with a brilliant 20-yard effort into the far corner, and weighing in with two assists - it's safe to say it was mission accomplished for a player who, on his day, can be unstoppable.

Gaffe of the week: Manuel Almunia, Watford

In a weekend of own goals galore (there was three in total in the division) it was Chris Woods' weird opener for Leicester which was probably the strangest of the lot.

Closing down a backpass on Almunia, New Zealander Wood knew little about what was to follow as the Watford keeper slammed his clearance straight into the Leicester striker's head with the ball then ricocheting into the back of the net. A clearly taken aback Wood did his best not to look rustled as he celebrated his unusual opener, but there was no hiding the fact that his head had taken a bit of a bashing in the process.

Game of the week: Sheffield Wednesday 5 Reading 2

Anyone who claims they saw this one coming is either a liar or some reincarnation of Paul the Octopus as the Owls finally claimed their first three-point haul of the season.

We've already highlighted the brilliant contribution of Michail Antonio to the Owls' cause, but equally impressive were the efforts of loanee frontmen Matty Fryatt, who netted a double, and Connor Wickham, who scored once.

Dave Jones insists the result was 'only a matter of time' for Wednesday and he'll hope the victory will prove a turning point in what looks to be another season of fighting relegation for the South Yorkshire club.

Watch highlights of the game in the video above.

Result of the week: Watford 0 Leicester 3

Returning to the scene of last season's memorable play-off semi-final second-leg clash between the sides, it was easy to see why Sky chose this game for live coverage on Saturday lunchtime.

The Foxes may have suffered heartbreak there last season, but their performance at Vicarage Road suggests Nigel Pearson's side are determined to take the automatic route out of the division this time around.

In a dominant display, Leicester netted three times through Chris Wood's fortuitous opener, Anthony Knockaert and Lloyd Dyer to send a clear message of intent to their promotion rivals.

And going by this performance, it would be hard to see many stop them this season and returning to the top flight after a nine-year absence.

Disappointment of the week: Nottingham Forest

If Leicester are bang on track for promotion, then the wheels have very much fallen off for their East Midlands rivals Nottingham Forest after Saturday's 1-0 defeat at home to Blackpool made it successive defeats.

In fact, Forest now have just one win in five (or just two in their last eight) and with first-choice centre-halves Danny Collins and Kelvin Wilson facing three months on the sidelines, it could get worse before it gets better for Billy Davies' side.

Celebration of the week: Jim O'Brien, Barnsley

Looking like a man who'd forgotten what to do when you score a goal, O'Brien celebrated Barnsley's equaliser at Ipswich on Friday night with the kind of dance you'd expect from your slightly-intoxicated Dad at a family wedding.

Great goal; inept celebration!

Hot topic of the week: Birmingham in freefall

Saturday's dismal 1-0 home defeat against Charlton probably wasn't that unexpected given their 10 men had pushed Premier League Stoke all the way to penalties earlier in the week.

But the lame performance which accompanied the result will be of a major worry to all associated with the club, as they slipped into the bottom three for the first time this season.

Saddled with spiralling debts, Blues have had little to cheer of late and talk that the club may be forced into a fire sale of some of their better players in January, will do little to appease the mood around St Andrew's.

Sacking Lee Clark would do little to change the club's fortunes either, and it's hard not to feel sorry for a man who can do little to halt their plummet towards League One.

In some respects, perhaps relegation wouldn't be the worst thing to happen to Birmingham City as they look to escape the clutches of the ill-fated Carson Yeung regime. Maybe then it would allow the club to clear the decks and start once again from a (hopefully) even keel.

What's to come...

Live on Sky:

Reading v QPR (Sky Sports 1HD, Saturday 12.15pm kick-off).

Match of the weekend:

Leicester v Nottingham Forest

The East Midlands rivals lock horns at the King Power Stadium as Nigel Pearson bids to heap more misery on Billy Davies' out-of-sorts Nottingham Forest.

Bet of the weekend:

Blackpool to beat Ipswich, Huddersfield to beat Birmingham & Leicester to beat Nottingham Forest. A £10 bet with Sky Bet pays £92.40 at the time of writing.

By James Marshment, follow me on Twitter here.

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