Championship Preview: Gameweek 4

David Meyler

David Meyler

Here are The Football Lab’s predictions for 2 of the weekend’s games in the Championship. Charlton Athletic, Hull City, Preston North End and Ipswich Town have all avoided defeat in their first 4 games, and will hope that continues at the weekend. Charlton and Hull face each other at the Valley, while Preston and Ipswich meet at Deepdale.

Charlton v Hull

With Burnley struggling for goals and QPR looking suspect at the back, Hull City have a much better chance of an instant return to the Premier League than the other teams who dropped from the top flight last term. Steve Bruce’s side are joint-top with 7 points from a possible 9, after a 2-1 win over Fulham on Wednesday night.

In that match, midfielder David Meyler put in a very strong, battling performance, and he could become an important player for Hull this season. Tom Huddlestone is clearly a gifted player, having spent much of his career with Tottenham Hotspur, a club with Champions League ambitions. However, Huddlestone is not particularly energetic, and he does not offer the same kind of grit and determination that Meyler can provide in the middle of the park.

When Hull rose from the fourth tier to the Premier League between 2003 and 2008, they had midfield battler Ian Ashbee captaining the side, and players like him are often the key components of a promotion winning team. The quality of Hull’s attacking play dipped in the second half of their match against Fulham, and when that happens, it is important to have players in midfield who can offer a degree of grit and tenacity when out of possession. Largely due to defensive qualities Meyler offered, Fulham were unable to find a way through, which meant that the match was 1-1 in the latter stages.

Hull took advantage of this, as Sone Aluko scored the winner after Nikica Jelavic’s knock-down. It will please Steve Bruce to see the forwards, Chuba Akpom and Sam Clucas along with Aluko and Jelavic, open their respective goalscoring accounts so early on in the season. All 4 players will be confidently vying for a place, and up front, it can be vital to have such strength in depth.

Like Hull, Charlton Athletic are unbeaten so far this season. The Addicks have picked up 5 points from their first 3 league games, and hit 4 goals past Dagenham & Redbridge when they progressed to the 2nd Round of the League Cup last week.

They might have failed to score in their 0-0 draw at Nottingham Forest on Tuesday, but Guy Luzon’s side forced the opposition goalkeeper into 2 excellent second half saves, and were arguably the better team at the City Ground.

Luzon’s main concern at this point, is that he will be without strikers Tony Watt and Reza Ghoochannejhad. Simon Makienok is a useful striker in terms of winning high balls into the box, but he is not a natural goalscorer. Watt, who has already netted 3 times this term, has more of the speed, skill and all-round niftiness required to provide a direct goal threat. Hull, on the other hand, have strikers they can rely on, and this blog will back the visitors on this occasion.

Preston v Ipswich

Preston North End have had a strong start to life in the Championship. When the Lilywhites first won promotion, many neutrals believed that the form of strikers Joe Garner and Jermaine Beckford would be key to their chances. In fact, it has been their defensive strength that has been key so far.

Simon Grayson’s side are yet to concede a league goal, and in games against Middlesbrough and Rotherham, their opponents failed to register a single shot on target. This Preston side have organized themselves so effectively, goalkeeper Jordan Pickford may as well spend his games reading the paper!

Although, he may be wise to refrain from doing so against Ipswich Town, who have scored 8 goals in their first 4 games in league and cup. The Tractor Boys are buoyed by news that Freddie Sears has signed a new contract, as the striker has already scored 2 goals. New winger Ryan Fraser seems to have given Ipswich a bit more pace out wide, which they lacked at times last season.

Intriguingly, Ipswich have had less possession than their opponents in all 4 of their matches. However, they have managed 25 shots on target in that time, while opposing teams have totalled 13. While some people might criticize their direct style of play under Mick McCarthy, this blog would argue that it is more effective, and better to watch, than possession-based football.

Ipswich never have the problem of holding onto the ball for too long in the middle of the park, because there is simply no sense in giving opposition defenders time to re-organize themselves. Ipswich like to hit their front men, Daryl Murphy and the aforementioned Sears, early on, and that is better than simply dallying on the ball.

In most games, this blog would back Ipswich to record a win, but it is hard to see any team having much joy against Preston’s defence at the moment, which makes a draw the sensible choice.