For over two months now, since mid-December, a pattern has emerged in the Championship, the second tier of English football. In general, the team starting the weekend in third place has been unable to win. There have been two exceptions to this, but the trend has been pronounced enough for commentators to call it a curse, “the curse of third place”. In 12 of the last 14 rounds of fixtures the team in third place has been unable to gain more than a point on the top two. West Bromwich Albion and Leeds United have been the two top-placed teams in the division for over three months.
This weekend’s fixtures have kept the pattern going. The teams in third, fourth and fifth place (Fulham, Brentford and Nottingham Forest respectively) all drew. West Brom, top of the table, won 3-0 at Bristol City and Leeds, in second place, beat Reading 1-0 at home to move five points clear of Fulham in third.
Here, after an hour of checking results and the “As it stood” tables since last December on the BBC website, is a summary of how the third-placed teams have fared throughout the last 14 rounds of matches, beginning on Saturday 14 December 2019. The two occasions when the third-placed team managed to win are marked in bold.
Saturday 14 December 2019
Fulham start the day in third place and drop to sixth after losing 1-0 at Brentford; Preston North End go third with a 2-1 win at home to Luton. Town
Saturday 21 December 2019
Preston start the day in third and draw 1-1 at Cardiff; Fulham beat Leeds United 2-1 at home (thanks to a very dodgy penalty decision) to go third. The following day Sheffield Wednesday beat Bristol City 1-0 at home to go third, ahead of Fulham.
Thursday 26 December 2019
Sheffield Wednesday begin the day in third place and are 2-1 up at Stoke City after 92 minutes; Stoke score in the 93rd and 97th minute to win 3-2; Brentford beat Swansea 3-1 to go third.
Sunday 29 December 2019
Brentford start the day in third place and lose 1-0 at Millwall; Fulham beat Stoke 1-0 at home to go third.
Wednesday 1 January 2020
Fulham start the day (and the New Year) in third place and lose 2-1 at home to Reading; Brentford win 4-0 at Bristol City and Nottingham Forest win 3-2 at home to Blackburn to go third and fourth respectively.
Saturday 11 January 2020
Brentford start and finish the day in third place by beating QPR 3-1 at home.
Friday 17 January / Saturday 18 January 2020
The weekend’s fixtures begin with Brentford in third place; Fulham win 1-0 at home to Middlesbrough to go third. On Saturday 18 January Brentford draw 0-0 at Huddersfield and remain in fourth place
Wednesday 22 January 2020
Fulham, in third place (on goal difference from Nottingham Forest), draw 0-0 at Charlton.
Tuesday 28 January 2020
Fulham in third place do not have a fixture; Nottingham Forest win 1-0 at Brentford to go third.
Saturday 1 February 2020
Nottingham Forest begin the day in third place and lose 2-1 at Birmingham; Fulham beat Huddersfield 3-2 at home to go third.
Saturday 8 February 2020
For the only time in this sequence, the teams in third, fourth and fifth place all win: Fulham 1-0 at Blackburn; Nottingham Forest 2-0 at home to Leeds; Brentford 3-2 at home to Middlesbrough.
Tuesday 11 February / Wednesday 12 February 2020
Fulham start the midweek round of fixtures in third place, level on points with Leeds United, who draw at Brentford. On Wednesday 12 February Fulham miss the chance to overtake Leeds by drawing at Millwall, and remain third.
Saturday 15 February 2020
Fulham start the weekend in third place, level on points with Leeds United, and lose 3-0 at home to bottom-placed Barnsley. Leeds win 1-0 at home to Bristol City to move 3 points clear.
Friday 21 February / Saturday 22 February 2020
Fulham, starting the weekend in third place, draw 1-1 at Derby; they remain in third place after the games on Saturday 22 February, when Brentford draw 2-2 at home to Blackburn and Nottingham Forest draw 0-0 at home to QPR. Leeds United beat Reading 1-0 at home to go 5 points clear of Fulham in third. West Brom win 3-0 at Bristol City to move 9 points clear of Fulham.