At the end of round 22 of the Championship fixtures, Wolverhampton Wanderers are still setting the pace at the top, while Birmingham City slip to the bottom of the table. Elsewhere, Sunderland picked up their first home win in just under a year, writes Callum Doughty.
Friday night saw the league-leaders travel to Hillsborough to face out-of-form Sheffield Wednesday, with the away side looking to continue their seven-game unbeaten run. Thanks to a sumptuous first-half Ruben Neves goal they did just that, holding out for a 1-0 win. Wolves continue to lead the way at the top the Championship, with the win now taking them to 51 points, guaranteeing the top-spot on Christmas day. The defeat for Sheffield Wednesday piled more pressure on their manager, Carlos Carvalhal. The Owls are now winless in six games and are ten points off the play-off places.
The support for Carvalhal at Hillsborough is becoming decreasing, and the time may soon come for a change of manager on the blue side of Sheffield.
Pressure is also building on Steve Cotterill down at Birmingham City as their 2-1 defeat to Queens Park Rangers, combined with Sunderland and Burton Albion both winning 1-0, meant they fell to the bottom of the Championship. Cotterill has only been in charge since the beginning of October but the Blues have lost seven of the eleven league games he’s taken charge of. Some fans are calling for his head already, but the problems at St. Andrews run a lot deeper than the manager and you get the feeling sacking Cotterill wouldn’t yield the results Blues fans are expecting. The last few seasons have seen Birmingham escape relegation by the skin of their teeth, and you feel they will need a similar kind of renaissance this season in order to avoid dropping down.
Birmingham’s fall to the bottom of the league was helped by Sunderland finally winning a game at home, as they overcame Fulham 1-0. 18-year-old Josh Maja came off the bench and scored the only goal of the game to give The Black Cats their first win at the Stadium of Light in 364 days. Their last home win came on the 17th December 2016, a 1-0 win over Watford.
The victory means Sunderland have picked up four points from their last two games, after holding league leaders Wolves 0-0 at Molineux last weekend. The appointment of Chris Coleman is looking to be a shrewd one and one that will keep Sunderland in the league. Sunderland welcome the aforementioned Birmingham to The Stadium of Light next weekend and will be confident they can make it two wins in two at home to end their torrid 2017.
As things stand, it looks like nobody will be able to stop Wolves on their march to the Premier League. Their last three performances have been below par, but they have still managed to grind out results and didn’t conceded in a goal in each of those outings.
The chasing pack are determined not to let them get away though, and it’s difficult to forecast who may be joining them in the automatic promotion places. Despite predictions that they may fall away, Cardiff City are looking like the best bet for second place, with Neil Warnock in charge they know how to pick up results, as demonstrated by this weekend’s 1-0 win over Hull City.
As for the bottom of the table, Birmingham look dead and buried already. It would take a huge upturn in form for them to sustain their Championship status come the end of the season. Bolton Wanderers look they will be joining them in League One, after falling to a surprise 1-0 defeat to fellow strugglers Burton Albion, who may also finally fall through the trap door. Sunderland will be confident they can now stay up, and with good reason, two huge results for them in the last two games shows they do have the ability.
The Championship is, however, a strange and unpredictable league, and there’s still plenty of time for things to change.