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Five Championship talking points from matchday nine

:Headline: Five Championship talking points from matchday nine:
Sports Mole picks out five topics for discussion on the back of another weekend of Championship action.

Following the conclusion of the latest batch of Championship action, Sports Mole looks back to pick out five of the biggest talking points.

1. Brighton's lead reduced

It is now successive draws for Chris Hughton's men, which has allowed the chasing pack to jostle into position right behind them. A late Gary Madine strike - his first goal for the latest on a growing list of clubs - was enough to earn Bolton Wanderers a battling 2-2 draw at the Macron Stadium.

Middlesbrough are the side closest to taking the Seagulls' place at the top of the table, having cruised to a 3-0 victory against Leeds United in the last of the weekend's Championship action. Boro's squad looks particularly strong and, along with Derby County, they appear to be in a decent position to finally earn a Premier League return this time around.

As for Brighton, Hughton has continuously stated that competing for a top-six place is his side's ultimate aim this campaign. That is often the ploy taken by managers in an attempt to relieve some of the expectations, of course, but in this case you have to feel that the former Norwich City boss has a point. After last season's disappointments, the South Coast outfit can be more than happy with their start this time around.

2. Blackman-inspired Royals making good strides

The late summer signings made by Reading certainly caught the eye, giving supporters hope of a campaign that will actually provide some promise unlike the last few. The 5-1 thrashing of Ipswich Town a few weeks back sent out a real message to the rest of the division, although defeat to Derby in their next outing saw the Royals back to square one so to speak.

It is now four wins from five in the league, however, including back-to-back wins on the road for Steve Clarke's charges. While Orlando Sa claimed a lot of the credit for his treble in the triumph over Ipswich, it was Nick Blackman who was the true star of the night with his superb display from a wide position.

The much-travelled forward now appears to have found a place where he feels settled, yet the worrying concern for Reading is that at this rate he will be snapped up in four months' time. Eight goals already this term certainly suggests as much, but if he can continue at this scoring rate then the Berkshire club will have much to cheer about between now and the end of the season.

3. Cottagers clicking; QPR faltering

The biggest result of the weekend came at Craven Cottage on Friday night, where Fulham stuffed local rivals Queens Park Rangers 4-0 on the banks of the Thames. The third goal in particular, in which Ross McCormack finished off a flowing team move, stood out on a night to remember for the Cottagers.

Fulham have now lost just one of their last five games - winning three of those fixtures - while scoring 12 goals in the process. QPR appear to be going the opposite way, meanwhile, failing to win any of their last four.

That run includes a decent point away at Hull City, in fairness, but a rare home defeat against Nottingham Forest and a somewhat fortunate draw against a struggling Blackburn Rovers at Loftus Road certainly does not offer much hope for the future. That was all before the heavy West London derby defeat, which leaves Chris Ramsey looking over his shoulder.

4. New additions proving key

The general view is that managers truly make their money during the off season when recruiting new players to bolster their ranks. Some of those new players have been hits while others, it is fair to say, have not quite repaid any of their valuation just yet. This weekend saw the return of Joey Barton to the Championship, following a one-year hiatus back in the big time.

Burnley may have suffered a disappointing defeat at home to Reading, but the introduction of their summer acquisition certainly seemed to up the tempo. It was a decent enough debut for Barton, who is likely to play a key part in the Clarets' hopes of an instant promotion between now and May.

Elsewhere, Emyr Huws maintained his impressive scoring run at new club Huddersfield Town by scoring his fourth goal in the same number of games, while Bristol City's Jonathan Kodjia has also struck it rich - even if his side have not - having found the net five times so far. It is a marathon and not a sprint, yet already certain names are rising to the top.

5. Leeds victims of own downfall

No side have been harder to read so far this season than Leeds United. Sat firmly in mid-table, with 11 points to their name from the opening six weeks, the campaign could still go either way for the Whites. Four draws in succession at the start of the season suggested that they would be tough to beat, yet that has not strictly been the case.

Sunday lunchtime's loss at Middlesbrough was an example of how to press the self-destruct button, when firstly Giuseppe Bellusci headed the ball into his own net under little pressure, before a costly slip from Sol Bamba allowed the Smoggies to easily wrap up the points late on.

In fairness to Leeds, the one major decision in the game - Mirco Antenucci's disallowed goal - did go against them. There is little denying that they were second best at the Riverside, however, making it just the two league wins all season. On the flip side, that was also just their second defeat in the Championship - perhaps underlining why they seem destined for more mid-table mediocrity this term.

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Championship Table
1Leeds UnitedLeeds40229960332775
2West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom402014667382974
4Nottingham ForestNott'm Forest401813953401367
6Cardiff CityCardiff40151695751661
7Derby CountyDerby401612125552360
8Swansea CitySwansea401415115047357
9Preston North EndPreston40169155250257
10Blackburn RoversBlackburn401511145550556
12Bristol City401510155359-655
13Sheffield WednesdaySheff Weds401410164954-552
14Wigan AthleticWigan401311164550-550
15Queens Park RangersQPR40148185966-750
17Birmingham CityBirmingham401213155163-1249
18Charlton AthleticCharlton401210184654-846
19Hull City40129195468-1445
20Huddersfield TownHuddersfield40129194963-1445
22Stoke CityStoke40127215061-1143
24Luton TownLuton40117224673-2740
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2Manchester CityMan City31203877334463
3Leicester CityLeicester32167960312955
5Manchester UnitedMan Utd321410851312052
6Wolverhampton WanderersWolves321313645341152
7Sheffield UnitedSheff Utd32121193331247
9Tottenham HotspurSpurs32129115044645
12Crystal Palace32119122837-942
13Newcastle UnitedNewcastle32119123343-1042
15Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton32712133444-1033
16West Ham UnitedWest Ham3286183856-1830
18Aston Villa3276193660-2427
20Norwich CityNorwich3256212560-3521
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