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30 Oct 2009 12:57:07

Championship preview

// A bit of a hack but it works// The article snippet is wrapped onto a second line, even when #article-sub is emptyif( $("div#article-sub").children().length == 0 ) {$("div#article-sub").remove();} Gordon Strachan takes charge of his first game as Middlesbrough boss as the Halloween weekend offers treats aplenty in the Championship. The former Coventry, Southampton and Celtic tactician was named as Gareth Southgate's successor earlier this week and has been charged with the task of putting bums on seats en route to promotion back to the Premier League. And the Scot's first opportunity to put on a show for the Boro faithful arrives this Saturday when lowly Plymouth travel to the Riverside. Should Strachan clinch victory over a Paul Sturrock side which has been super glued to the depths of the division thus far, drawing level on points with Newcastle at the top could beckon should results go the Teessiders' way. Toon boss Chris Houghton, who this week earned the Magpies job on a permanent basis, could find his table-toppers dislodged off the summit by the time Monday's clash at Sheffield United kicks-off with a host of teams breathing down their neck. Leicester impressed in Monday's 1-0 victory over struggling Reading and will be bidding to join Newcastle on 27 points with victory on Friday at in-form QPR, who are aiming to make it four wins on the spin to get back into a play-off spot. West Brom will be hoping to lead the league again, albeit perhaps only for 24 hours, when Watford journey up to the West Midlands. However, Roberto Di Mateo's outfit have been in indifferent form since their pace-setting start and should the Baggies slip up, second-placed Cardiff will be looking to extend their automatic promotion advantage against Nottingham Forest. Dave Jones' Bluebirds are unbeaten in five, but face the sternest of tests on Sunday when Billy Davies' Forest make the trip to South Wales on the back of a draw with Crystal Palace - a minor blemish which still sees them the form team in the league. Bristol City occupy the last of the play-off spots and can hold off the chasing pack with a success over Sheffield Wednesday, who have succumbed to defeat in their last two league outings. Blackpool and Preston lurk a point outside of a play-off position and the pair will be attempting to grab a top-six place this weekend with clashes against Doncaster and Crystal Palace respectively. At the foot of the table, the fixture list has thrown up a number of archetypal 'six-pointers' with the likes of Ipswich versus Derby and Peterborough against Barnsley offering plenty. Roy Keane's Tractor Boys continue to be denied their first win of the season, but will be hopeful their time has finally come when Nigel Clough, fresh from his chairman Adam Pearson resigning in midweek, brings his strugglers to Portman Road. Darren Ferguson's Posh look like they are destined for a relegation battle this term and will keen to put Tuesday's 5-2 Carling Cup defeat to Blackburn behind them against the Tykes, who also fell in the cup to holders Manchester United. Free-falling Reading have now lost four on the bounce and under-fire boss Brendan Rogers will be desperate to emulate Liverpool's blue-print of avoiding five successive reverses when the Royals travel to Coventry. Scunthorpe, who were on the receiving end of a 5-1 cup defeat to Manchester City on Wednesday, must lick their wounds quickly with the visit of Swansea completing the weekend action.


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