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Championship review: Preston worthy leaders; Rigg's super Sunderland cameo; Duff & Swansea at odds?

Preston North End broke up for the international recess as worthy Championship leaders, Michael Duff's approach and Swansea City's traditions are failing to gel and 16 year-old Chris Rigg added to his reputation with Sunderland. All this and more from the latest round of the Championship...


Preston North End

Preston go into international break number one in the Championship on top of the league after recording their fourth successive win at Stoke. It's been a brilliant start for Ryan Lowe's side who have rattled off a near perfect 13 points out of the first 15 available to take top spot.

How have they done it? Well Preston certainly fall into the bracket of teams able to leverage stability and consistency at the start of the season while many others are getting to grips with new players, managers and systems. They haven't changed massively from last campaign and the new signings at the club have all had an impact.

We name checked Mads Frokjaer-Jensen in this column last week and against Stoke it was new signing Duane Holmes laying on two goals for fellow newbie Will Keane.

The perceived wisdom will argue that Preston have made hay while the sun is shining in respect of the level of opponents they've faced during the first five games and things will get harder. That may well be a perfectly reasonable take, but Preston are solid, well drilled defensively and don't give away many chances. That means that despite being an unexpected early leader, I'm certain North End won't give up that crown without a fight.


Chris Rigg (Sunderland)

Ok, he only came on with eight minutes of Sunderland's game against Southampton remaining, but I've been itching to talk about Chris Rigg. Not since the 'you have to see this guy' messages from Birmingham fans about Jude Bellingham a few years back has a fanbase been so sure about a youngster becoming an important player at their club.

Rigg may only have been on the pitch for the closing stages of a game that was honestly already won for Sunderland but he still managed to send everyone away talking about him. It was the end of a pretty perfect afternoon at the Stadium Of Light where an early opening goal left Southampton vulnerable and as the game got more stretched Sunderland were able to take advantage and race into a 4-0 lead.

Rigg's cameo was most definitely 'icing on cake' territory as he rose to head home goal number five, that's hardly what his supposed strengths are but this guy is just a natural footballer.

How Sunderland nurtures the 16 year old through this breakthrough period will be interesting. Their intentions will no doubt be to do things carefully and methodically, but if Rigg's potential is as we imagine then that might not be possible. The first EFL goal is in the books, the first start cannot be far away and when it comes we might be at lift off on what could be a hugely exciting career.


Duff's Tough Swansea Start

One of the Championship's most fascinating managerial changes this summer was Swansea City's choice to replace the Southampton bound Russ Martin with Barnsley boss Michael Duff. Don't get me wrong Duff deserves his chance in the Championship after taking Cheltenham to promotion in League Two and Barnsley to the play-off final last season in League One.

My fascination about the move however came from the change in footballing philosophy we were expecting Swansea to undertake going into this season. With Martin, Swansea were the Championship's ultra possession team, drilled to pass opponents to death whatever the time or place. When it worked I'll admit it looked pretty pure and noble football, when it failed it looked foolhardy and not fit for purpose.

Duff's Barnsley side was pretty much the opposite, an ultra high pressing and quite direct side drilled to blow opponents away before they even knew what had hit them.

As you can imagine it's not been a quick fix for Duff and Swansea's defeat at home to Bristol City this past weekend means zero wins so far for the new manager. There's been plenty of players signed for Duff to try and shape his new look team around, in the other direction star man Joel Piroe has been sold to help pay for the new faces. Barnsley were a slow burner last season but when they started getting good results in the Autumn they basically didn't stop getting them right the way through to that unlucky defeat at Wembley in May.

A slow burn after this big change at the club will likely be tolerated by the more understanding Swans fans, but this is the Championship and we all know what's coming if things move just that bit too slowly.


Dexter Lembikisa (Rotherham United on loan from Wolves)

Rotherham's game against Norwich last Saturday frankly looked all set up for an away win. The Canaries had been in fine form and knew a win would potentially be enough to send them top of the table, meanwhile Rotherham were looking for a first win of 23/24 with the international break coming at the end of the round. Rotherham knew they needed something to kick start this battle and up stepped on loan Wolves full back Dexter Lembikisa.

We were midway through the first half when Rotherham set themselves up for a long throw coming in from the left hand side. While the penalty box filled with players looking to make first contact, Lembikisa took up a position on the edge of the penalty area ready to land on anything that came his way. In went the throw in, Rotherham's Fred Onyedinma got a touch and the ball headed towards the lurking Lembikisa who duly thrashed the bouncing ball into the top corner to give Rotherham the lead.

The Millers got a second through former Norwich striker Jordan Hugill and saw the game out 2-1 for a vital win. Rotherham have broken their transfer record twice this window but their spending is still relatively modest compared to many of their rivals. With that being said, good loan signings are a vital component for competing in the Championship and Lembikisa might just tick that box.

Follow Benjamin Bloom on Twitter @BenjaminBloom

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