It never stops does it, the Championship. It’s brilliant. If anything ever doesn’t go to plan on the pitch, you’ve most likely got a another game to put it right three days later. Even better, when your side can’t stop winning, you’ve only got to wait another three days to have that glorious feeling of being content with the world. I walked out of Barnsley happy. There was no need to be jubilant or celebratory, it was job done with plenty left to spare. It’s a great feeling when your football team are very good – one we’ve rarely felt.
Ipswich come to our place on Saturday and like Brentford did, they arrive with the Championship’s best defensive record having conceded just nine goals in 13 games. The bad news for Ipswich fans is that they’ve scored just ten times in that same period and their fans have had to suffer four goal-less draws this season. Brutal. So while they’ve impressively prevented Vile, Brighton & Wolves from scoring they’ve also failed to score against Blackburn and Stevenage this season. I suppose they are a product of good coaching from McCarthy (it’s really hard to coach a team to keep clean sheets – ask Alan Pardew, John Carver or Steve McClaren) but he lacks the resources and quality to do anything at the other end of the pitch. As there’s no way they’ll get relegated, playing it safe is frustrating Ipswich fans who would happily relinquish hard earned clean sheets for a bit of excitement.
I get the feeling if we score then we win. So I hope that happens. United are doing what they should do. I keep talking about two points a game. two goals a game. This week we’ve played two games and scored 5 goals. In the three game week even if we were to lose on Saturday we’ll have collected the two points a game required for promotion. it doesn’t make Saturday a ‘free game’ but it’s certainly not the end of the world if we draw (or lose). I like the fact that we keep winning by two goal margins as well. We’ve won seven of our 15 games this season by two goals or more. Our goal difference is already worth an extra point.
As we’re now top of the league for the first time this season there is real pressure on the ‘chasing pack’ not to make any mistakes. Huddersfield’s form has collapsed and I noticed they only have 15 goals in 13 games. Once the defence starts to creek, that goal scoring record is not going to get you promoted. Norwich seem really capable of blowing leads and Brighton the same. Both have dropped silly points this week in games they really should have won. Norwich face Preston at home (four wins in a row) and Brighton are at Wigan. Compare and contrast to United this week. I believe by 17.00 Saturday we’ll have lengthened the gap on at least one of these teams.
I’m confident of a win here because of the superb form of the ‘spine’ of our team. I think Darlow has been excellent since his re-admission to the side and one goal conceded in the last three games is proof of that although it’s his excellent form coming for balls from his line that impress me. Ciaran Clark is one of the best centre backs I’ve seen in a long time at United. What were Villa were doing playing him in midfield? Shelvey has had things written about him recently that will make him blush. Rafa Benitez said this about Dwight Gayle on Tuesday night: “I made it our priority in the summer to get him and Matt Ritchie to the club.” It doesn’t get much better than that for Gayle when your manager says that you were the main man before you scored a goal, never mind before you got 11 in 11 games. If all of those players play anywhere near their ability, then we’ll win. That’s ignoring the other players, all of whom have performed superbly since the middle of August.