Championship season review: Charlton, Derby, Doncaster, Huddersfield
The Addicks looked in serious danger of a return to League One for the vast majority of the season, with Chris Powell failing to reproduce the consistency or the ability to score the goals which saw the club finish 9th in the 2012-13 campaign. Despite an FA Cup run which continued to the quarter-final stage, just one win in seven in the league at the start of the calendar year saw the former England left-back pay with his job.
He was replaced by former Standard Liege coach Jose Riga, who took over a team at the foot of the Championship table. Given a contract until the end of the season, the Belgian made a solid start, as Charlton lost only one of their first five matches with him at the helm.
Impressive victories on the road at Leeds and Nottingham Forest followed, along with a vital 3-2 win over fellow strugglers Yeovil in April. Hat-tricks from Marvin Sordell and Callum Harriott at Sheffield Wednesday and Blackpool meant that survival was ensured after the penultimate match of the season but Riga's contract was not renewed. Whoever replaces him will be expected to guide Charlton to a steadier campaign next year.
A fantastic first season with Steve McLaren at the helm almost ended with an unlikely return to the Premier League, but the Rams fell agonisingly short of a seat back at the top table of English football.
Nigel Clough was in charge when the season kicked off back in August but he was dismissed to the surprise of many after Derby won just three of their first nine league matches. A 1-0 defeat to local rivals Nottingham Forest was the final straw and he was replaced by McLaren - with the change proving to be a masterstroke.
The club lost just one of their next 14 games, catapulting them into the promotion reckoning. A 5-0 demolishing of Forest in March did not harm McLaren's popularity, and while Leicester and Burnley pulled away at the top, the Rams were undoubtedly the best of the rest, displaying an attractive brand of attacking football, which saw them end the regular season as the Championship’s top scorers.
A comfortable victory over Brighton & Hove Albion, 6-2 on aggregate, took Derby to the play-off final at Wembley but they couldn't break down 10-man Queens Park Rangers as a late Bobby Zamora winner deflated them.
Doncaster Rovers returned to League One at the first hurdle after an agonising final day saw results go against them in the battle to escape the Championship trapdoor. Manager Paul Dickov must now rise to the challenge of bouncing back at the first opportunity.
It was goals that were the problem for the Yorkshire side, with Dickov - appointed after the conclusion of the 2012-13 season - left to lament a lack of attacking incisiveness. That toothless-ness in the opposition box saw Rovers finish as the second lowest scoring side in the division, with Chris Brown's tally of nine in 43 games setting the standard.
Despite a run of poor form going into the New Year, Doncaster gave themselves every chance of survival after only one defeat in six in March, a run which ut them eight points clear of the bottom three at one stage. But Dickov's men took their foot off the pedal, picking up just a single point from their last seven fixtures.
A loss on the road to champions Leicester City on the last day sealed their fate, with relegation rivals Birmingham City scoring a dramatic stoppage time goal against Bolton Wanderers to send Doncaster down on goal difference.
Huddersfield Town safely assured a third consecutive season of Championship football with a campaign of consolidation in manager Mark Robins' first full season.
The Terriers did no more than casually flirt with the relegation zone, partly thanks to an impressive opening few months where they lost only two of their first ten league matches.
Inconsistency was the problem for Robins' side - like so many in the Championship. To illustrate, Huddersfield slumped to a dismal derby defeat at home to Sheffield Wednesday in February, but thrashed Barnsley 5-0 just a week later.
Ultimately, the Terriers can put their survival down to winning the vital games against teams in and around them in the league. They beat Yeovil (twice), Barnsley, Millwall and Birmingham in the second half of the campaign, with a thirst to win the relegation six-pointers proving to be crucial.
And, notwithstanding the ten-game winless streak which saw sweat glands open in March and April, a run which coincided with an injury to top scorer and key man James Vaughan, enough points had already been amassed to allow Robins to build his squad for another assault on the second tier.
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