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Championship Chat: Mac's back to lift Rams

James Marshment tips Steve McClaren to lift Derby in this week's Championship Chat, and also has praise for Sam Vokes and Scott Malone.

Last Updated: 25/10/13 at 09:41 Post Comment

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The Sky Bet Championship is often overlooked for the glamour and glitz of the Premier League, but there's much to be celebrated in the second tier as we find out in this weekly Thursday column.

The race for promotion, and the bid to stay in the second tier, is likely to be as competitive as ever, as we examine all the key talking points from the weekend, and also take a look at what's to come in the matches ahead.

Feel free to let me know your thoughts in the story comment box, below, or follow me on Twitter here.

To see all the weekend's goals, click here.

Goal of the weekend: Scott Malone, Millwall v Leeds

The left-back netted only the ninth, but probably best goal, of his senior career at The Den on Saturday as he played a starring role in Millwall's hard-fought 2-0 win over Leeds.

Combining with Liam Trotter, Malone twice played a one-two with his team-mate before curling a first-time effort beyond the reach of Paddy Kenny.

Worthy of mentions: James Vaughan, Huddersfield v Blackpool; Danny Guthrie (second), Reading v Birmingham; David Nugent (first), Leicester v Barnsley.

Team of the week: (4-3-3) Tom Heaton; Alex Baptiste, Jack Hobbs, Richard Dunne, Scott Malone; Danny Guthrie, Ed Upson, Niko Kranjcar; Sam Vokes, David Nugent, Jordan Rhodes.

Special mention this week goes to Burnley's journeyman striker Sam Vokes. After six loan spells over the past three seasons, the Wales international has never really had a place he can call home - until now! Again it's credit to the man-management of Clarets boss Sean Dyche, but it now seems as though the former Wolves frontman is finally realising his potential. His brace at the weekend took his tally for the season to six - and he was at it again when he netted the opener at Doncaster in midweek, making it an impressive return of seven in 13 games.

Quote(s) of the week: Brian McDermott

The Leeds boss was expectedly downbeat after their latest reverse at Millwall and quickly warned his players about the standards he expects.

"I'm very disappointed. It's the first time that's happened with me.

"The second half came as a shock to my system. I'm bitterly disappointed with the players we've got, who are decent but are not at the level at this moment in time.

"We need to turn this round as quickly as we possibly can.

"If the fans see another second-half performance like we did then we're going to have a problem. We need to keep the fans with us."

Leeds laboured to a 2-1 win over Bournemouth in midweek and McDermott was slightly more enthused with the three points when he said: "We showed great guts.

"I definitely think we deserved to win. The only thing that mattered in this game was the result. Nothing else."

Player of the weekend: Richard Dunne, QPR

Experienced Republic of Ireland stopper Dunne didn't make a single club appearance for Aston Villa last season, so it wasn't a major surprise when he was allowed to make a free transfer to QPR over the summer.

But the no-nonsense defender is absolutely back to his best having helped his new club keep an eighth successive clean sheet against Middlesbrough. Impressive stuff.

Gaffe of the week, #1: Danny Ings, Burnley

There's very little you can fault Ings for so far this season, with his 10 goals proving instrumental in the Clarets' rise into promotion contention.

But if there's one thing you can pick him up on, it's his celebration after scoring the opening goal in the weekend win over Charlton which left the striker needing stitches after splitting open his hand.

Ings kicked the advertising hoarding, got his foot lodged underneath and in the subsequent fall, gashed his hand so badly that he spent the half-time interval getting patched up.

Gaffe of the week, #2: Adam Bogdan, Bolton

The Bolton keeper made a howler of Massimo Taibi proportions against Yeovil, allowing Ed Upson's weak shot to slip through his arms and legs and trickle over the line.

Bolton hit back to get a late point, but Bogdan's blooper will have had Bolton boss Dougie Freedman hopping mad.

Game of the week: Derby 4 Ipswich 4

With new manager Steve McClaren watching in the stands, Derby made an inauspicious start to the new era when they found themselves 2-0 down after nine minutes and 4-1 down by the half-time interval.

Clearly that had been enough for the former England manager to take, and 45 minutes later - following his rousing speech in the dressing room - the Rams were celebrating a hard-earned point from a 4-4 thriller.

If McClaren can have this much effect after a half-time dressing down, imagine where the Rams will be come the end of the season!

Watch highlights of the game in the video above.

Result of the week: Millwall 2 Leeds 0

The Lions take the honour for the second successive week, following up their win at Charlton with a well-deserved home win over McDermott's lacklustre Leeds.

Steve Lomas' side scored two excellent goals through Martyn Woolford and the aforementioned Malone and could have added more, having struck the woodwork twice in the game.

Disappointment of the week: Sheffield Wednesday

The Owls were one of just two sides in the division yet to taste victory going into their weekend clash with South Yorkshire neighbours Doncaster, so this was a real opportunity for Dave Jones' side to get off the mark.

Sadly for the struggling Owls, it was one they couldn't take as former loan target Federico Macheda struck his third goal in two games to give Rovers all three points and a win that could be hugely significant come the business end of the season.

They fared little better in midweek either, Matty Fryatt's goal putting them seconds away from a first three-point haul at Brighton, before Keith Andrews' injury-time strike denied them once again.

Celebration of the week: Danny Guthrie, Reading

The midfielder was absolutely dumbfounded when credited with the Royals' opener in Saturday's 2-0 triumph over Birmingham, his free-kick into the box missing a plethora of players before nestling into the corner of Darren Randolph's goal.

As his team-mates celebrated around him, Guthrie - fully aware his effort wasn't intentional - could only point to himself in total surprise as if to ask: "Surely that's not my goal?!"

Hot topic of the week: Return of the Mac

Many will feel the sacking of Nigel Clough was a little on the harsh side, but given he'd had four and a half years in charge at Pride Park, the Rams made very little progress under his tenure.

A win percentage of 33% isn't particularly bad at this level, but it certainly wasn't good enough as far as Derby's ambitious owners were concerned. While Clough had consolidated and stabilised the club during this time, league finishes of 14th, 19th, 12th and 10th didn't show the club he was making the required level of progress on the field.

With that in mind, maybe his sacking wasn't that much of a shock.

Some will see the return of McClaren as a gamble (the former England manager coached there between 1995-99, before going on to have great success with Manchester United, and later Middlesbrough), it will give the club fresh impetus and a fresh approach.

While Derby cannot expect to be among the promotion contenders this year, he will be expected to push them towards the upper reaches next season, and if his half-time speech on Tuesday is anything to go by, this could mark the start of an exciting new era at another of the Championship's sleeping giants.

I also believe his appointment will help to further nurture the career of Will Hughes and, having appointed an experienced backroom team in Eric Steele and Paul Simpson, should help the club make a significant strides forward.

What's to come...

Live on Sky: Birmingham v Bolton (Sky Sports 1HD, Saturday 12.15pm kick-off).

Match of the weekend: Derby v Leeds

Steve McClaren's first match in charge and he should have reason to be confident - the Rams have won nine straight games aganst the Whites.

Betting tip of the weekend: Derby v Leeds - Derby to win to nil (11/4)

A £10 bet with Sky Bet returns £37.50 at the time of writing.

By James Marshment, follow me on Twitter here.

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