Championship Analysis – Lower-key Blackpool sneak up to fifth after Millwall victory

It’s fair to say that Blackpool were many people’s second team last season after dazzling the Premier League with football as bright as the club’s tangerine shirts, not to mention those endlessly quotable soundbites from manager Ian Holloway. It made a mockery of a section of the media’s bizarre prediction the summer before that Blackpool would be the worst team in Premier League history. But for all the ups of that campaign, it was one that ultimately ended in failure, being relegated on the final Sunday of the season following a horrible dip in form after the turn of the new year.

Since May the limelight has somewhat dimmed at Bloomfield Road. With many changes in personnel over the summer, including the sales of central midfield partners Charlie Adam and David Vaughan, as well as forward DJ Campbell, who netted 13 goals last season, Holloway’s side were generally not considered as front-runners for promotion this season. Even the charismatic manager himself has been comparitively quieter so far this season.

Nevertheless, it’s been a great few days for the club. Two excellent wins – an astonishing 5-0 triumph at Elland Road against an in-form Leeds team on Wednesday, followed by Saturday’s 1-0 victory at home to an equally in-form Millwall – have propelled Blackpool up to fifth spot. Admittedly the division for the most part remains too close to call, but with shrewd recent signings in Lomana Lua Lua and playmaker John Jo Shelvey on loan from Liverpool, Blackpool are starting to show glimpses of the kind of flamboyance they graced us with in the top-flight last season.

Talking of flamboyance, the goals keep coming for Southampton, who are five points clear at the top following a 4-2 win at Coventry. Perhaps surprisingly it was the Saints’ first victory away from St Mary’s since mid-August. West Ham stay second after a hard-fought 2-0 win at Hull, whose second defeat of the week saw them drop out of the top six. Middlesbrough recovered from their flat performance at Southampton last weekend to record a second successive win over Watford and stay third.

Coventry are now five games without a win, and their defeat at the Richo Arena saw them slump to 23rd, but there was better news for the two other clubs – Doncaster and Bristol City – in the relegation zone, who both secured vital victories to remain afloat, if still adrift. The signs for the Robins are encouraging, having taken seven points from a possible 12 since the appointment of Derek McInnes as manager. For Doncaster there were emotional scenes as striker Billy Sharp was among the scorers at Ipswich for the second successive game, following a distressing week in which he lost his two-day-old son.

In Sunday’s action, Leeds bounced back admirably from their midweek mauling to record a fine win at still managerless Leicester, a result that took Paul Grayson’s side back up to seventh. Meanwhile, Reading ended Birmingham’s six-match unbeaten streak with a 1-0 win at the Madejski Stadium, and Brighton recorded their first victory in ten matches at home to Barnsley. It could be a timely one for Gus Poyet’s side, who travel to the leaders in a fortnight’s time.

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