The second weekend in the Championship saw a host of goals, sending-offs and controversies. Five teams continued their excellent start to the season, whilst West Ham finally got off and running. Favourites Leicester suffered a shock defeat, whilst Leeds’ woes continued.
These and much more as TheHardTackle picks out Top 6 highlights from the opening weekend.
1. Five clubs continue their perfect start
A good start to a season is imperative and for five teams in the Championship, the first two games couldn’t have gone much better. After winning their opening games, Blackpool, Brighton, Cardiff City, Derby County and Southampton all followed up with another 3 points to maintain their 100% starts to the season.
On Saturday, following their impressive debut at their new Amex Stadium home, Brighton made the short trip to South Coast rivals Portsmouth. Gus Poyet’s team came away with the 3 points, thanks to summer signing Craig Mackail-Smith’s first-half goal, although they did ride their luck, with Portsmouth’s Liam Lawrence missing a last-minute penalty. Fellow promoted side and South-Coast rivals, Southampton, also gained a 1-0 away win. They travelled to Barnsley’s Oakwell ground, with veteran striker David Connolly nodding in the winner. The Saints had to play the last 6 minutes of the game with 10 men following Richard Chaplow’s sending-off, but they held firm to continue their good start. Nigel Clough’s Derby also won away from home, as they beat Watford 1-0 at Vicarage Road.
On Sunday, Blackpool continued to shrug off the disappointment of relegation from the Premier League as they beat Peterborough United 2-1 , whilst Cardiff’s new boss Malky Mackay oversaw a 3-1 victory for the Bluebirds against local rivals Bristol City.
2. Steve Davies right on cue for Derby again
Steve Davies – two matches, two fantastic goals!
For many people, hearing the name of Steve Davies brings back memories from the world of Snooker, when youngster Steve Davis won numerous World Championships in the 1980’s. After the first two Championship weekends, for Derby County fans at least, the name Steve Davies will be associated with stunning, winning goals. On the opening day of the season, midfielder Davies smashed a 30-yard left-foot screamer into the Birmingham City net to give the Rams a 2-1 home win against their midland rivals. A week later, at Watford’s Vicarage Road, he was at it again. With the scores tied at 0-0, Davies received the ball on the edge of the home side’s box. With his back-to–goal and at an angle, Davies shifted the ball on to his left-foot, before creating space to unleash another brilliant left-foot shot high into the net. Once again the goal was enough to give the Rams all 3 points, continuing a great start to the season for both club and player.
3. There’s still life in the old dog yet
Throughout his career, Kevin Phillips has scored goals. He started at Watford, before his knack of being in the right place at the right time propelled Sunderland to the Premier League and then kept them there for several seasons. Spells at Southampton, Aston Villa, West Brom and most recently Birmingham all served to emphasise the fact that ‘Super Kev’ knows where the back of the net is.
Following Birmingham’s relegation last year, 38-year old Phillips moved on to fellow relegated side Blackpool. After playing the full 90 minutes in the Seasiders opening victory at Hull, Phillips started Sunday’s home match with Peterborough. Shortly before half-time, Phillips put the home side 1-0 up, then just after the restart, he doubled his account. Despite a late George Boyd goal, Blackpool hung on for the second successive victory. With Phillips in this kind of form, the Tangerines will be pushing for a return to the top flight next season.
4. Nolan shows his Premiership class
Last weekend, a disappointing 1-0 home defeat to Cardiff ruined the West Ham debut of midfielder Kevin Nolan. This week, the ex-Newcastle United star showed his Premiership pedigree to give the Hammers a 1-0 win away at Doncaster Rovers. After only five minutes, Nolan made a trademark lung-bursting run into the Rovers box to connect to a deep cross, firing a sweet volley` past the Doncaster keeper.
He nearly doubled the lead when his sumptuous 30-yard lob beat keeper Woods all ends up, only for the crossbar to come to Doncaster’s rescue. The win gives West Ham a platform to build upon as they bid to return to the Premier League. With Nolan hitting his stride, you wouldn’t bet against it.
5. Ex-England managers struggle
It proved to be a difficult weekend for the division’s two ex-England managers. Sven-Goran Eriksson saw his big spending Leicester City side fall at home to Reading, whilst Steve McClaren’s Nottingham Forest lost 2-0 at Millwall.
In what was a clash of two sides likely to be involved in the end-of-season shake-up, Leicester looked the most likely to take the lead with striker David Nugent hitting the foot of the reading post. As the game wore on though, the visitors came into the match. On 64 minutes, Noel Hunt headed home from a corner, and in the final minute, Hal Robson-Kanu cemented the Royals’ win with a measured left-foot shot.
After a disappointing 0-0 home draw against Barnsley, McClaren was looking for his Forest side to get their season off and running when they visited the New Den on Saturday. However, it was Millwall who controlled the game, running out comfortable 2-0 winners, to add to the impressive 2-2 draw achieved at Reading the week before. Already 5 points behind the league’s pace-setters and yet to score a goal, McClaren will desperately be looking to bring in a striker in the coming weeks.
6. The Battle of Elland Road
With home fans demonstrating against chairman Ken Bates following a lack of summer spending, there was a nervous tension around Elland Road on Saturday afternoon. On the pitch, the visit of Middlesbrough sent things from bad to worse, with no fewer than three players sent-off.
Leeds’ main creative force Max Gradel was first to go, after receiving a second yellow card in the 27th minute. The numbers were squared up when Middlesbrough’s Tony McMahon received his marching orders after a collision with Leeds captain Jonny Howson.
On 60 minutes, Boro’s Rhys Williams fell under a challenge from already booked Howson. The referee initially looked to be booking Williams for a dive, but incredibly reversed his decision and issued Howson with his second caution, therefore reducing the home side to 9 men.
The Elland Road faithful’s dismal day got even worse when Boro striker Marvin Emnes scored a brilliant individual goal to give the visitors all three points and leave Leeds pointless after two games.