We may be less than a quarter of the way through the campaign but already the League One powerhouses are throwing their weight around.
Six of the seven clubs who headed the market in the pre-season title betting have stormed into the top seven places with free-scoring Peterborough leading the way in what promises to be a titanic battle for promotion.
Sunderland went off favourites for the third season in a row and this time they’ve started like they mean business. Sixth in the table with only one defeat – the best record in the division – Phil Parkinson’s boys are the type of side, like Ipswich and Hull, who are probably benefiting from the absence of any crowds and the sky-high expectations that come with massive vocal support.
Addicks Hooked on a Championship Return
4/5 and Peterborough at
20/23 head the promotion betting, though given the quality of the clubs around them, neither price looks that attractive. One of those big dangers has to be Charlton who, at
11/4, represent far better value.
Holding Charlton back at the start of the season were ownership wrangles and a transfer embargo. Both have been resolved in the club’s favour with Thomas Sandgaard completing his purchase which preceded a flood of new arrivals at The Valley and despite going out of the FA Cup, their league results have been impressive.
Lee Bowyer’s men are on a six-match winning streak and it’s the last two successes in that sequence – against last term’s playoff semi-finalists Portsmouth and Fleetwood – which show they can muzzle the division’s top dogs.
Bolton Struggling to Restore Former Glories
Bolton, like Charlton, are emerging from a transfer embargo; but unlike the Londoners, they are doing it from a league lower and they are finding it seriously difficult to put any sort of run together.
Wanderers were 5/1 title favourites in August; now they are
9/1 just to be promoted and Ian Evatt’s men are already nine points adrift of seventh spot having won just two of their opening 11 matches.
At the business end it is Newport County leading the way with Forest Green, Exeter and Cheltenham all in close order as the West Country mounts a concerted effort to dominate the promotion race. Exeter are playoff regulars – the Grecians have lost three of the last four playoff finals – but inspired by the fortunes of the city’s rugby club (the new European champions) will feel their time is now.
U’s Shaping Nicely
Port Vale have won four of their last five and there’s a sense that moneybags Salford City will improve once new boss Richie Wellens has settled in, but it may pay not to overlook
5/2 shots Cambridge.
Lead by striker Paul Mullin – a man who had never reached double figures in a single campaign but has bagged 12 goals in 11 – they have already beaten a quartet of top-ten rivals, and if you’ve not heard much about young boss Mark Bonner now, he could well be front-page news by May.
*All odds correct at time of writing