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EFL: Dan Childs' monthly round-up

It is early days in the EFL season but there have already been plenty of surprises, including unfancied Reading tasting life at the top of the Championship, Oxford's slow start in League One and Barrow's superb progress in League Two.

After the opening month of the campaign Racing Post football writer Dan Childs takes a fresh look at all three divisions and reassesses the promotion and relegation battles.

Blades can maintain promotion charge

Cash-strapped Reading top the Championship table after winning four of their opening six games, but Sheffield United have been among the most impressive second-tier sides and have every chance of sustaining a promotion push, which can be backed at 7/4.

The Blades opened up with a 1-0 loss at Watford, when they were hamstrung by the absence of several injured players.

They have responded with three wins and two draws, including a superb 3-0 success at home to Blackburn, who had begun the season with three successive victories.

Paul Heckingbottom’s team have been quite circumspect in the transfer market, but new arrival Ahmed Ahmedhodzic has looked a class act on the right of the back three and talented midfielder Sander Berge seems fully engaged despite early-summer transfer speculation.

United are reportedly on the lookout for a new striker and, if they make the right acquisition, they could be tough to stop.

All of the relegated clubs should be prominent despite their mixed starts to the season.

Burnley and Watford took nine points from their first six games, while Norwich shook off a poor start to record three successive victories.

Fast-starters Reading and Hull may lack the depth to chase for a top-six finish, but West Brom are a team to look out for because they have played far better than their results have suggested.

Albion have been dominant in most of their games and were particularly impressive in a 1-1 draw at home to Watford.

Blues woes could continue

Birmingham have made a poor start and could be heading for a long hard season having struggled to add the necessary quality and experience to a young squad.

The Blues took five points from their first six games and were brushed aside 2-0 at newly-promoted Rotherham.

Combative midfielder Hannibal Mejbri has arrived on loan from Manchester United, but the Blues look short in all departments and face a struggle to retain their Championship status, they are 4/6 to be relegated.

Rotherham, unbeaten after their first five games, could be ready to dispense with their yo-yo tag (they have experienced three promotions and three relegations over the last six years), and Coventry should pick up despite taking one point from three away games.

Coventry did not play a home match in the first month of the season due to issues with their pitch but their position inside the drop zone is probably a false indication of their ability.

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Pompey signs are looking good

Portsmouth fell short in an ultra-competitive League One promotion race last season, but they lead the way after six games in 2022/23 and should stay in the hunt throughout the campaign, with a title success available at 7/1.

Another exciting promotion battle is in store with heavyweight clubs Ipswich, Sheffield Wednesday and Derby positioned second, third and sixth after six games.

Derby's lack of goals (five from the first six matches) is a concern, but Ipswich and Wednesday look top-two contenders, as do fourth-placed Peterborough, who possess a fearsome front two of Jonson Clarke-Harris and Jack Marriott.

Picking a winner is tough, but Portsmouth have done some great business, including the acquisition of centre-forward Colby Bishop from Accrington, and they should be in the shake up towards the end.

MK Dons are gaining ground after a poor start (three successive defeats) and they could still have a decent chance of finishing in the top six.

Battle for survival for Forest Green

Forest Green are finding life a lot tougher in League One than they did in League Two and they may be at risk of an immediate return to the fourth tier.

Ian Burchnall's side slipped to third bottom after a 5-0 loss at Sheffield Wednesday, which extended their League One winless sequence to four matches.

Burton have made an even worse start – taking one point from six games – and are facing a struggle throughout the campaign.

A battle against relegation could also be on the cards for Morecambe and Cheltenham, who have started slowly and are operating on smaller budgets than the vast majority of their divisional rivals.

Orient look promotion bound

The League Two promotion battle looks wide open, but it is hard to ignore the title chances of 13/2 Leyton Orient, who top the table after winning five of their first six games.

Orient are scoring plenty of goals and are still waiting to involve talented striker Aaron Drinan, who has missed the early part of the season through injury.

Mansfield have made an inconsistent start, winning three and losing three, but they have a strong squad and should be in the top-three mix.

A top-seven challenge could be maintained by Barrow, who flew out of the traps, winning five of their first six games.

Towards the foot of the table, slow-starters Hartlepool and Rochdale could continue to struggle but Crawley are likely to improve once manager Kevin Betsy gets the best out of talented attackers Dom Telford and Tom Nichols.

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