It was a good week all round for the majority of the East Midlands clubs in the Football League. Chesterfield were an unfortunate exception to this rule this weekend. They lost ground in the League Two promotion race, being comprehensively beaten 3-0 by rivals Southend at Roots Hall. It was a sobering afternoon for the Spireites, who despite dominating large parts of the game, could not convert any of their 13 attempts into goals.
It was a frustrating day for Mansfield as they traveled to the South Coast to take on a beleaguered Portsmouth who were on a run of only 1 win in 13 league matches before the visit of the Stags. In a game devoid of much quality, it was the visitors who took the lead on 51 minutes. Portsmouth rallied and managed an equalizer late on to deny Mansfield an important away victory. It’s been a mixed season to say the least from the Nottinghamshire side. As with any club at this level, squad depth is vital and this something Mansfield simply do not possess. Reinforcements may be vital in this transfer window to stop the rot
Notts County seem to be going from strength to strength under the new management team of Shaun Derry and Greg Abbott. Derry as a player has seen it all and done it all. He was a whole hearted midfielder and this attitude seems to have rubbed off on his new squad. A 1-0 win away at Stevenage means 3 consecutive league victories for The Magpies. County are now out of the drop zone after the weekend and are lying in 16th position. The second half of the season will hopefully bring success to a large fan-base that have been deprived of very little cheer since promotion to League One.
Moving up the league pyramid, things just keep getting better for Derby County, Nottingham Forest and Leicester City. The three East Midlands giants are all currently securely in the top 6 of the Championship table with no end to their current form in sight. Leicester in particular have taken all the plaudits in the division this year. Their win at 1-0 victory at Leeds on Saturday lunchtime temporarily took The Foxes 7 points clear at the top, before QPR reduced the deficit with a 2-1 win at home to Huddersfield. Their squad is already full of quality, and this quality also come in depth, but it wouldn’t be beyond Nigel Pearson to dip his toes in the transfer window waters to ensure that last season’s play-off heartbreak is not repeated.
Forest are another team that are rapidly reaffirming their status as promotion contenders. This comes after they suffered a slight blip after a solid start to the season. The return of Billy Davies appears to have given the squad a sense of continuity and stability. Forest are unbeaten in 10 matches and the comprehensive 4-1 victory over Blackburn at the City Ground means that Forest are 5th in the league standings and sit 5 points clear of 7th place Brighton. Despite this run, manager Davies is till very eager to strengthen his squad for the last onslaught. Playing right back Greg Halford as a makeshift striker has only further emphasized his need to reinforce this squad. They are arguably a top class striker away from being in the top 2 come May.
Derby are without doubt the surprise package of the Championship season and the transformation of the Rams since the appointment of Steve McClaren has been nothing short of remarkable. After a slight rocky patch over the New Year that saw Derby lose 3 matches in a row in all competitions, they returned to form with a hard fought 1-0 win over play-off chasing Brighton at the iPro Stadium. Chelsea loan signing Patrick Bamford scored the decisive winner and it is exactly this quality of signing that has seen the change in Derby’s fortunes. The additions of Michael Keane and Andre Wisdom have also signaled intent from Derby. It is vital McClaren continues in exactly the same vein over the remaining matches to ensure this resurgence does not become a flash in the pan. A team with Derby’s facilities and fan-base deserve to be fighting for honours at the end of the season.
~ Matt Jones