Coming from the pack – Championship play-off outsiders?

Another hard-fought weekend in the Championship saw QPR return to the top of the table after a convincing 3-1 won over Reading.

Previous leaders Cardiff suffered a second successive home defeat to continue their miserable November, this time at the hands of Nottingham Forest.

Forest now fill the last of the play-off places alongside Swansea, Derby and Leeds.

But as I said in my last post, the league remains incredibly open.

Here I have a look at four teams in the bottom half who won’t win the league, but have the potential to reach the play-offs.

Although Middlesbrough are still in the relegation zone and lost at home to Millwall on Saturday, the old saying goes that ‘form is temporary, class permanent’.

The pre-season favourites have suffered a nightmare start to the season, costing Gordon Strachan his job. Yet with 2/3’s of the season remaining, they are just 10 points off sixth place.

And Tony Mowbray has promotion credentials having led West Brom to the Premiership just two seasons ago.

The spine of the team is also one of the strongest in the division.
David Wheater is an England international centre back, Barry Robson and Gary O’neill are fine central midfielders and in Leroy Lita and Kris Boyd, ‘Boro have a front pair capable of scoring bags of goals at this level.

When it clicks, expect the team to rocket up the table.

The Riverside Stadium
There is work to be done at the Riverside

Leicester are a changed side since Sven arrived, having taken 17 points from nine games since the Swede returned to England.

There poor start means the title is out of the question, but their recent form is excellent and the top 6 must be considered possible.

Any side that can afford to leave Matty Fryatt and Martyn Waghorn on the bench has strong options up front, and Curtis Davies is a solid defender at this level.

Crystal Palace v Leicester City
Matty Fryatt was prolific last season but currently warms the bench

If Sven’s magic continues, expect the Foxes to be knocking on the door come the end of the season.

Steve Cotterill has done a tremendous job at Portsmouth, who have overcome there well-documented off-field problems to remain in contention.

On the field there is an abundance of class at Championship level.

Similar to Middlesbrough, the Fratton Park club have a number of players with Premiership experience and quality.

Liam Lawrence is potentially one of the top 10 players in the division, and although they lost to Barnsley on Saturday, the Oakwell side rarely lose at home.

Ashdown-Halford-Ward-Rocha-Mokoena-Lawrence-Mullins-Hughes-Utaka-Nugent-Kitson is a starting line-up of top six quality, leaving aside the fact Kanu, Sonko and Hriedarsson could not even make the starting XI.

Lastly, Ipswich are beset by injury problems and rumours of growing pressure on manager Roy Keane.

But the Tractor Boys started the season in fantastic form and with a clean bill of health may still come again.

Senior players such as Martin Fulop, Gareth McAuley and Carlos Edwards have played at international level.

And if the precociously talented Connor Wickham, only 17 but already in the England u-21 squad, starts firing, the old miser Keane may end the season with a smile on his face.

Ipswich Town v Bristol City Aug 2010
Ipswich started the season well but must improve

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