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Managers feel the heat as Championship battle intensifies

FEW Football League managers would boast of job security, but if the npower Championship incumbents see it through the weekend unscathed it will mark the first time since 2008 that all 24 bosses who began the season have survived until the start of October.

There are clear candidates to be the unfortunate first out of a job, though, and for three of the managers who may be feeling heavy pressure mounting there are away assignments this weekend.

This is a sticky time for such men. In the first three days of October last year, Steve McClaren walked away from Nottingham Forest after a rocky start to the campaign, and Keith Millen parted company with Bristol City. Sean O'Driscoll had been ousted by Doncaster in September.

This time the vultures may be circling around Paul Jewell at Ipswich, Steve Kean at Blackburn and Darren Ferguson at Peterborough.

Jewell overhauled his squad in the summer but it has yet to work out for the former Wigan and Bradford manager, and Ipswich sit second-bottom of the table, with only Peterborough, who have suffered seven straight defeats, beneath them.

Luck has deserted Jewell, whose side head to Barnsley tomorrow with strikers Paul Taylor and Michael Chopra both ruled out by injury.

Taylor has a broken foot and Chopra a thigh strain, and Jewell was knocked back in his attempt to bring in fresh firepower this week.

"We made an enquiry for a striker this week but the player concerned looks as though he is going back to a club where he has played before," Jewell told club website itfc.co.uk.

Jewell was still looking to bring in a frontman today, and said: "If we do, great, if not then we will just get on with it."

Few sides are likely to fancy trips to Hull this season, with the Tigers looking an accomplished side under Steve Bruce, so Peterborough's task at the KC Stadium is daunting.

Ferguson has introduced extra training sessions this week and said: "We are looking forward to the game. It will be tough because Hull have started well, particularly at home. I watched Hull at Leicester and Leicester played very well that day and deserved the victory.

"On Thursday, every member of the squad trained and that is great for me to have everyone available for selection."

Blackburn head to Charlton at the end of a week which has seen the club's director of football Shebby Singh admit the speculation surrounding Kean's future is getting "worse by the day".

Kean's team fell two points short of a target of 16 from their first seven games but they stand third in the table. Crowds at Ewood Park have been low and there has been hostility towards Kean from many of those who have attended games, with the Scot struggling to find support.

Bolton's Owen Coyle gained respite when his side beat Sheffield Wednesday last weekend, and Wanderers have home advantage against Crystal Palace tomorrow, when they will be looking to climb into the top half with victory.

Former Ireland international Coyle said: "We have to use that win at Sheffield Wednesday as a catalyst to drive us forward to pick up wins in the home games. We need to pick up points that the performances deserve.

"I think the players are now realising how demanding the Championship is."

Birmingham manager Lee Clark cut a sorry figure after his side's 5-0 home loss to Barnsley last weekend, calling the performance "awful".

They will show a change in defence for the trip to leaders Brighton, with former Aston Villa centre-back Curtis Davies replacing the injured Pablo Ibanez.

Leeds, who appear increasingly close to being taken over by Middle East investors, have enjoyed back-to-back home wins against Nottingham Forest and Everton, knocking the latter out of the League Cup.

Tomorrow they travel to Bristol City whose manager Derek McInnes told Bristol City Player: "Leeds will come here in buoyant mood but it's important we take full advantage of being at home."

Wolves have home advantage against Sheffield Wednesday, as Dave Jones takes his Owls side to his former club, and Middlesbrough tackle a Leicester side managed by former Riverside favourite Nigel Pearson.

Huddersfield, in second place, will look to at least consolidate that position when Watford visit the John Smith's Stadium, while Burnley welcome Millwall to Turf Moor.

Cardiff and Blackpool, both teams with designs on promotion this season, clash in Wales.