Championship: Middlesbrough claim the title-race driving seat

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There isn’t a league in the land experiencing as tight a title race as the Championship. Into the home straight with five teams separated by as many points, the division was dealt another twist in its latest round of mid-week matches.

Heading into a season-shaping run of three games having won just two of their last seven, Aitor Karanka’s Middlesbrough had just cause for trepidation.

However, an aptly fraught 1-0 win over Derby came hot on the heels of a 4-1 thrashing of Ipswich. Those wins now make the joint leaders of the second tier the title favourites with Ladbrokes, at a price of 15/8.

Now feeling as confident as the only male at Royal Ascot’s Ladies Day, Boro have Bournemouth in their sights next. Another win and a camel’s-back-breaking five point gap will emerge between the two.

Sharing top spot with the Teessiders is Watford, whose ability to remain in the title hunt despite going through managers like toilet roll is mightily impressive.

Under Slavisa Jokanovic, the Hornets have jumped from sixth place during their current six-game unbeaten run and deposed of Wigan 2-0 last time out. They are 5/2-shot to claim Championship glory come May.

Until recently Norwich (7/1) were the form horse in the race under plucked-from-obscurity manager Alex Neil’s guidance.

The former Hamilton Academical boss had won six straight before losing at home to Wigan. Since then, a 4-1 triumph over Millwall has been tempered by two consecutive draws. They face Nottingham Forest, themselves steaming up the rails, next.

Derby’s defeat to Middlesbrough leaves them five points off the trophy chase and a 7/1 chance with Ladbrokes. Five winless outings suggests their bid is tailing off at the wrong time, with eighth-place Wolves and Watford their next two assignments.

Beyond their battle with Middlesbrough, then Ipswich immediately afterwards, Bournemouth arguably have the easiest run-in.

Their league-leading +39 goal difference keeps them in the hunt as 11/4 third-favourites in the market, but wins against their closest rivals are imperative if they are to make good on such a price.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.