DO not think that tonight’s Championship action is the calm before the weekend storm for Leeds United, Hull City, Huddersfield Town and Middlesbrough.
The quartet square off on a huge Championship double-header, as close to a ‘Super Saturday’ as it gets in Yorkshire - with Town hosting Leeds in a West Yorkshire derby which promises to be as tense as negotiations between Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin at the UN.
Out east, there’s a real cracker between in-form Hull City and Middlesbrough, two sides who you would perhaps wager won’t be too far apart when the daffodils come out in the spring.
But first things first, Tuesday evening, with Leeds back at Elland Road five days on from a fraught night against Blackburn Rovers. This time bogey side Cardiff City are the visitors, with the stadium minus one notable spectator in the shape of owner Massimo Cellino, who declared that he is done with watching Leeds games after getting a barrage of stick on Thursday.
Hull, running hot, visit a side who have picked up of late in Brentford, while a trip to Middlesbrough is probably about as welcome as a visit to the dentist for Rotherham, fresh from a thumping at Derby.
The fixture list has also been unkind to Chris Powell’s Town, handed a long midweek trek to Reading, joy of joys.
Two League One sides are also in action and it’s a particularly big night for the embattled Lee Johnson, seeking to avoid a seventh successive defeat as Barnsley boss - a run that the Reds have not experienced in 56 years. They head to Coventry, not exactly a hospitable venue for Barnsley over many years.
Elsewhere, Bradford City can move into the top 10 in the Leauge One table with victory over visiting Blackpool. Plenty to play for then...
Here’s a few pointers ahead of the action.
Brentford v Hull City. A win on a November night a long way from home is what sorts out the firm contenders from the wanabee aspirants.
This is the sort of fixture that Steve Bruce and Tigers supporters would have probably been groaning at when the fixtures were unveiled in June. A winter’s midweek trip to West London to a venue that is far removed from Stamford Bridge, the Emirates Stadium and White Hart Lane as it gets..
But in the event, the games simply cannot come thick and fast enough for Hull, whose reaction post relegation has been a real success story and speaks volumes for the shrewd management of Steve Bruce.
Unbeaten in ten games in all competitions and chasing their fourth successive win, life is sweet for the amber and black nation. If they claim another three points this evening, albeit against a side who have rediscovered their mojo after a torrid early season, then it will be the perfect preparation for Boro on Saturday - which in terms of intensity will be akin to a top-flight meeting.
Hull are keeping the back door shut - their record of eight league goals against is the best in the country per games played - and have goals in them. If they record another shut-out at Griffin Park and grab a goal or two, it will be exactly the sort of result that has the hallmark of promotion class rubber-stamped through it. These are the nights which ultimately count for a lot and get you over the line.
Leeds United v Cardiff City. Odds against Leeds - again....A victory tonight would be as big as any in recent times at Leeds.
Down on the floor, mutiny in stands, an owner who has pledged to stay away, confidence on the pitch haemorrhaging...Life is as tough as it gets at the minute for Leeds.
And now the arrival of bogey side Cardiff, who have not been beaten by Leeds in 17 matches...Lovely.. It is not a time for pretty football and niceties tonight. More just somehow getting over the line, by hook or by crook - with the winless home monkey on their backs having long since turned into a gorilla, 12 matches and counting.
Steve Evans has spoken about certain players not being up to the required mentality of being Leeds United footballers and has also referred to the necessity of avoiding all off-the-field distractions and focusing on the controllables.
Regardless of the stuff off the pitch, it is fair to say Leeds players owe supporters something after a dismal performance against Blackburn. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and let’s face it, Leeds players have been here before.
If Leeds somehow contrive a win, it will be as big as any, certainly this calendar year. Including the winter win over champions Bournemouth and the victory at Boro.
Middlesbrough v Rotherham. Looks straightforward on paper, but inspiration for Redfearn perhaps.
After a little blip a few weeks ago, Boro are back on the straight and narrow, buoyed by a memorable Capital One Cup success at Old Trafford which got plenty in football talking. To his credit, grounded boss Aitor Karanka said that the win would be rendered meaningless to him at least, if they lost to Charlton and Rotherham.
The first part of the equation was comfortably avoided with the Addicks bringing virtually nothing to the table and easily dispatched 3-0 on Saturday, without laying a glove on Boro.
Next up are the Millers, yet to win under Neil Redfearn, although he will need to reminding of his last visit to the Riverside in February, when his Leeds side scored early and somehow repelled all kinds of pressure to triumph 1-0.
A victory tonight would probably even trump that achievement for Redfearn, who was disappointed with his side’s meek offering in rolling over 3-0 at Derby at the weekend. The Millers’ first job is frustrating Boro and causing a bit of angst in the home stands, with Teessiders no doubt fully expecting a comfortable win. The Championship has the capacity to surprise, just ask Boro - whose sole home defeat this season has come at the hands of another struggler in Bristol City. Redfearn could certainly do with a catalyst to his tenure.
Reading v Huddersfield. Will Wells and Dempsey get the nod for Town.?
Town’s final half-hour at Turf Moor was certainly improved on the sixty minutes which preceded it. Ok, it didn’t yield any tangible rewards, but they at least won the second half 1-0 at Burnley - and you would venture that not too many teams will do that this season.
Positive cameos from the bench came from Nahki Wells and Kyle Dempsey, who both provided food for thought for Chris Powell, especially with Ishmael Miller being out of sorts and Dean Whitehead being suspended for tonight’s long trip. Both would be justifiably disappointed if they didn’t get the nod this evening.
Famously, the Madejski was a venue where Town claimed a bonus-ball win in August 2014 under caretaker boss Mark Lillis, running the show after a torrid opening to 2014-15, which saw Mark Robins fall on his sword early on.
A point would be an excellent result for Town this evening, let alone a win and provide momentum ahead of the Leeds game. Town, as Powell ventured, have been in numerous games this season - but remain a bit of a work in progress at the business end still.
Coventry v Barnsley. History against the Reds, that’s for sure.
Barnsley have been setting records of the unwanted kind of late following an awful October. Their weekend defeat at Scunthorpe was the first time that they have lost six successive matches at third-tier level and you have to go back 56 years for the last time they lost seven on the spin.
You have to go back much further for their last victory in Coventry, try 23 games ago in - wait for it - 1923.
Lee Johnson may be one of the youngest managers on the circuit. But he will not need spelling out the facts, namely that the Reds must stop the rot in the next few games or the calls for him to be replaced will reach a deafening crescendo. Many will be hoping he turns it around, including the Barnsley hierarchy who are desperate for him to provide a bit of managerial longevity.
Johnson loves the Reds job and has taken the club into his heart, but equally he needs the currency of results soon or the sands of time will run out. At least, it’s a new calendar month with October one of the forgettable in living memory for Barnsley supporters.
Bradford v Blackpool. Don’t let a fine point at Millwall be spoiled.
Unbeaten in five league matches in October, City will now be keen to start November as they mean to go on.
Bradford have been strong and consistent in the past calendar, exemplified by an excellent result at the New Den when they stood tall against in-form hosts at the toughest of venues.
Tonight’s game, when there is a bit of expectation on the hosts, is the sort in which Bradford have all too often in recent years slipped up in.
A barometer of their progress will come tonight, with the hosts mindful that victory will see them move into the top ten at a nice stage of the season. Opportunity knocks.
Sheffield Wednesday v Brighton. A match to savour.
The pair famously locked horns in a 1983 FA Cup semi-final at Highbury and while tonight’s clash is by no means as marquee, it’s a big one in terms of the Championship landscape.
Both sides were decidedly average last term, but how they have got their act together since - with Brighton unbeaten in the league this term and leading the way and aiming to take a leaf out of south coast rivals Bournemouth’s book.
The last week has been a dream for Wednesday, seven days on from a magnificent cup slaying over Arsenal. Victory tonight will not be quite as heralded, but extremely substantive all the same and arguably just as important in the great scheme of things.