Football League Winners and Losers [21/08]

Winners


CHAMPIONSHIP

Old School Managers

Who could have seen this coming? After four matches, the last remaining 100% records belong to two Championship stalwarts in Neil Warnock and Mick McCarthy. Victories over Wolves and Brentford preserved Cardiff and Ipswich’s perfect starts, with these two old school managers setting the pace for the rest to follow.

While other clubs had sizeable transfer budgets to throw around over the summer, Warnock and McCarthy had to spend carefully to improve two squads that spent most of last season languishing in mid-table. Cardiff’s Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, a free transfer from Rochdale, has been the bargain of the season so far with four goals in four league matches – including the winner against Wolves – while recent Ipswich signings Joe Garner and Martyn Waghorn have seven strikes between them.

McCarthy reacted in typical downtrodden fashion to Ipswich’s 2-0 win over struggling Brentford…

…while Warnock allowed his romantic side to come out after Cardiff triumphed against Wolves at Molineux, managing 17 shots to just 12 for the hosts despite ceding the majority of possession.

“It was a cracking game, a typical Championship game that I love,” said the 68-year-old, who has won seven promotions in his career and reached the top flight with Notts County, Sheffield United and QPR.

“I don’t have long left in football and I’m going to enjoy going away from a game like this. You come away and you go ‘Wow.’ I thought it was great.”

Nathaniel Mendez-Laing

At this stage last season, Mendez-Laing was yet to score for Rochdale in League One and had been subbed off in three of the club’s first four games. What a turnaround, then, for a player who started his career at Wolves but made just a single appearance before he was sold to Peterborough.

It was a run of six goals in ten matches between February and April that caught Cardiff’s eye, and Warnock is delighted to be profiting from the winger’s current purple patch. “I knew Mendez was going to score as soon as he took his first touch because it has been that way for him, he’s really been on fire,” said the Cardiff boss. “He’s exceeding my expectations, I hadn’t dreamed of this.”

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Nottingham Forest

Forest climbed level on points with third-placed Wolves thanks to a 2-1 victory over pre-season favourites Middlesbrough. Mark Warburton’s side owed their success to Barrie McKay and Daryl Murphy getting on the scoresheet for the second and third time this season, as well as some profligate finishing from Britt Assombalonga, who was jeered throughout on a miserable return to the City Ground.

Samuel Saiz

With Chris Wood on the verge of joining Burnley for £15 million, it was a good time for Samuel Saiz to score his first Championship goal for Leeds in a 2-0 win away to Sunderland. The Spanish forward, who arrived from SD Huesca in July, bagged a hat-trick in a 4-1 EFL Cup thrashing of Port Vale on his debut, and will now look to forge a potent partnership with Caleb Ekuban as Leeds work out how to replace the 30 goals Wood contributed last season.

Aston Villa

Even during their gloomy final few seasons in the Premier League Villa still commanded an impressive record against Norwich, winning six of the last eight meetings before Saturday. It was perhaps the perfect opportunity then for Steve Bruce’s side to get up and running in the new campaign as Conor Hourihane led the charge with a hat-trick in a 4-2 victory.

Bruce saw his faith in exciting young duo Andre Green and Keinan Davis rewarded, with Green giving Villa a 2-0 lead with a delightful finish just before half time and Davis setting up Hourihane’s first and hitting the crossbar moments later. Considering the fortune Bruce has spent during his ten months in charge, it will be somewhat ironic if Green, a product of the youth setup, and Davis, who joined from Biggleswade Town in 2015, end up leading a promotion push.

QPR

Cardiff and Ipswich might be hogging the headlines, but QPR are staking their own claim to being the surprise package at the top of the Championship. Ian Holloway’s side came from behind to beat Hull 2-1 thanks to a 91st-minute strike from second-half substitute Idrissa Sylla. Although most pundits tipped them to struggle, seven points from four games represents a solid start for the Rs.

LEAGUE ONE

Shrewsbury Town

Shrewsbury were among the favourites for relegation after surviving by just two points in the previous campaign, but Paul Hurst has done well to reshape his squad with tidy midfielder Jon Nolan a particularly shrewd addition from Chesterfield. As a result, the Shrews have won all four of their matches so far, keeping pace with Wigan, Peterborough and Fleetwood following a 3-2 win over Rochdale on Saturday. How long can they keep it up?

Walsall fan Davey Drew

If you missed it, this was the story of the weekend in the Football League as Walsall supporter Davey Drew thought he’d found a bargain with his hotel booking for the trip to Portsmouth.

Let me present to you a story in two tweets:

There was a happy ending for Davey though as Walsall picked up a valuable point at Pompey and defender Joe Edwards offered to pay for his ferry. All’s well that ends well.

Blackburn Rovers

A first win of the season away to a team that hadn’t lost at home for 18 months. We predicted a bright season for Rovers after some smart dealings over the summer, but Tony Mowbray desperately needed a result to kickstart their season following back-to-back defeats. A hard-fought 1-0 win at Bradford could serve as a springboard.

Jack Marriott and Kieffer Moore

The pacesetters for the League One golden boot went head to head at London Road as Peterborough hosted Rotherham – and both found the net in Posh’s fiercely contested 2-1 victory.

Marriott’s second-half brace took the points, but Moore briefly cancelled out the 22-year-old’s opener as he followed up his hat-trick against Southend. Moore is on loan from Ipswich until the end of the season when he’ll be out of contract – if he continues his current form, there will be a long list of suitors.

LEAGUE TWO

Forest Green Rovers

A first win in the Football League earned in a thrilling 4-3 fightback against Yeovil. At one stage Rovers were 3-1 down, but they battled back to 3-3 before Omar Bugiel headed home a late winner.

Mark Cooper’s side have a chance to make it back-to-back victories when they travel to struggling Colchester at the weekend.

Accrington Stanley

A last-gasp victory against much-fancied Mansfield to leapfrog their opponents and move into the top seven. With Kayden Jackson and Billy Kee linking well in attack, Stanley could have a shot at repeating their promotion challenge of 2015/16.

Losers


CHAMPIONSHIP

Daniel Farke

Farke’s appointment at Norwich in May was greeted with plenty of optimism and brought a host of new signings, but the former Borussia Dortmund II boss is quickly learning the unforgiving nature of the Championship.

A credible 1-1 draw in the opening game at Fulham preceded a disappointing defeat at home to Sunderland, and now a 2-0 win over QPR has been followed by a 4-2 loss at Aston Villa.

Patience is required while Farke impresses his ideas, but the search for consistency perhaps wasn’t helped by dropping Nelson Oliveira after his goal in the midweek victory against QPR.

Still, at least this fan got his wish…

Brentford

The Bees ended last season with a 3-1 defeat at home to relegated Blackburn and they have started the current campaign in similarly sluggish fashion. Dean Smith’s side have just a point to show for their four games so far and lost 2-0 at Ipswich on Saturday despite recording 65% possession and 22 shots to just five attempts for the hosts.

The lack of cutting edge is a worry, with Brentford supporters left wondering where star playmaker Jota was at the weekend. Smith explained that the Spaniard has been sidelined with a back injury, but it has been reported that Derby, Burnley and Swansea are all eyeing bids in the last week of the transfer window.

Reading

Despite beating Aston Villa in midweek, Reading still look to be suffering from play-off final hangover, losing 1-0 to Preston on Saturday thanks to Jordan Hugill’s composed finish.

Jaap Stam was forced to replace injured midfielders John Swift and Liam Kelly in the first half at Deepdale and will hope to have both back soon as he looks for more creativity in a side that have scored just three goals so far.

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Fraizer Campbell

With Abel Hernandez potentially ruled out for the season due to a ruptured Achilles, Hull needed Campbell to fill the void against QPR. Instead, the striker failed to muster a single attempt at goal and was hooked at half time.

It hasn’t been a fairytale return to Hull so far for the 29-year-old, whose only goal in the last 18 months came against the Tigers in a 3-3 draw in December. Campbell has scored just three strikes since February 2015, so it’s little surprise Leonid Slutsky hopes to bring in a new forward ASAP.

LEAGUE ONE

Northampton Town

It has been a disastrous start to the season for the Cobblers, who were thrashed 4-1 by Charlton on Saturday to make it four straight defeats in all competitions.

Matt Grimes is a shrewd signing on loan from Swansea, though, and Justin Edinburgh will hope the midfielder can help to halt a slide that has left Northampton winless since March.

Bury 

It looks like Bury are still adjusting to the huge turnover in personnel after signing 19 players over the summer and allowing 20 to depart.

Given the wages that the likes of Jermaine Beckford, Alex Bruce, Joe Murphy, Chris Maguire and Harry Bunn will be on, it looks like a costly gamble on promotion. A 3-2 home defeat to previously pointless Bristol Rovers – that comes on the back of a 4-1 thrashing at Wigan – reinforces the scale of Lee Clark’s task.

Oldham 

It probably wasn’t the smartest idea to give Wigan a two-goal head start.

LEAGUE TWO

Harry Kewell

Four games into his managerial career, Kewell is yet to pick up a single point at Crawley having lost all three matches in League Two and suffered a 5-1 defeat to Birmingham in the EFL Cup.

That Crawley have failed to score in their last two outings is a significant concern, with Kewell urging his players “to be brave” after losing to Cambridge: “We’ve got to be one and we’ve got to be all together here. We’ve got to work together to turn this club around.” It’s already sounding a little desperate.

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Yeovil Town

One step forward, two steps back. After putting their 8-2 embarrassment at Luton behind them by beating Accrington, Yeovil threw away a 3-1 lead at Forest Green Rovers to lose 4-3. Darren Way has a long season ahead with one of the smallest squads in the division.

Coventry City

After a promising start to life in League Two, a bump at home to Newport. There’s still a long way to go before this record is banished:

Are there any stories from the weekend that we missed? Drop us a line on Twitter @TheSetPieces.

For Premier League Winners & Losers, head over to our friends at Football365.

Football League Winners and Losers [21/08]
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