This week we had a timely reminder that the Championship is still shape shifting and settling into place.
Boro picked up two big away wins at teams who, while struggling this season, have been tough places to go in the past for Boro and still could have tripped us up. They were two solid, battling victories to really put us back on track. Suddenly we’re just outside the playoffs with one or two teams around us starting to falter.
There have been some surprising results elsewhere as well, with the Championship living up to its reputation as a challenging and unpredictable league. At the weekend, only one of the top six managed to win, with Wolves, Leeds and Cardiff all failing to win against teams in the bottom half. Sheffield Utd took advantage to go top but then slipped up at QPR mid-week, who picked up an unlikely double scalp of league leaders after beating Wolves on Saturday.
The league is ever-changing this season – two months ago Leeds were top and Villa were facing a relegation battle, now they are level on points. Derby have come out of nowhere to take a play-off spot, while Norwich previously climbed their way up just to fall back down again. Just 3 points separate 6th from 14th, so it’s anybody’s for the taking right now.
What Boro need to do now is take advantage of the chaos. If they can get their heads down, put together a consistent run over the next 5 or 6 games then suddenly the season could take on a whole new perspective. They’ve shown they can navigate tricky away games after a poor run, now they need to put together consistent performances and results.
It looks like Monk has settled on a preferred formation and team, and the players are finally starting to ‘click’. Now they need to make a real statement. Three of the next five fixtures are against teams above them. If they can win those matches, it will send out a strong message to the rest of the league that Boro mean business. It will help them break free from the scrum of teams chasing a play-off place, before setting their sights on the top two.
The Championship is in a sliding, shifting, changing state of flux and anything could still happen. Boro need to make sure that when it all settles, they are sitting near the top.