The Championship continued its deserved reputation as a hotly-contested league on Saturday as 22 teams did battle.
Derby, at the summit were only seven points clear of the bottom half following last week’s results whilst no team had won more than the sum of their losses and draws. Derby, Watford and Wolverhampton tied at the top with 26 points; AFC Bournemouth and Middlesbrough fourth and fifth with 24.
Sixth-placed Canaries, on 23 points – opening the round on Friday evening – hosting our upcoming opponents Bolton Wanderers at Carrow Road. Newly settled Neil Lennon’s side were two goals down by the hour mark, Cameron Jerome consigning the visitors to defeat. Lee Chung-Yong halved the deficit with five minutes to go but the home side held on to secure the first three points of the round; the victory was Norwich’s first in six, moving third.
Wolverhampton Wanderers – who have lost just once in their last ten league outings – hosted rivals Birmingham in the Saturday’s early kick-off, it was Gary Rowett’s first match in charge of Blues. The event passed without a goal though the home side controlled the match, recording 67% possession. Neither team were able to make it count going forward; the result lifting Birmingham to within one point of safety.
Derby County somewhat surprisingly fell to thirteenth-placed Brentford at Griffin Park. Chris Martin put the visitors ahead but the Bees came out fighting in the second half. Andrew Gray curled in just after the restart, with the home side going on to take all three points as Stuart Dallas fired in a last-gasp winner – the final score 2-1. County also lost last time round – their first in ten – though two straight defeats still leaves County fifth on 26 points.
AFC Bournemouth are enjoying a fine run in form of late. Eddie Howe’s team defeated Premier League outfit West Bromwich Albion midweek in the Capital One Cup, Brighton their opponents in Saturday’s evening match. True to form the Cherries went on to record their fifth straight league win against Seagulls – ending 3-2, leaving Sami Hyppiä’s side winless in eleven. Rotherham meanwhile played host to Middlesbrough who started the day in sixth, two points from the summit. Aitor Karanka’s men recorded a comprehensive 3-0 victory leaving the Northern club third, above Wolverhampton with a superior goal difference.
However, the day was to be Watford’s as they found the net three times at home to mid-table Millwall – though the Lions did initially go ahead through Martyn Woolford. The 3-1 victory leaves Slaviša Jokanović’s side top of the league, two points clear of nearest rivals Bournemouth, Middlesbrough and Wolves.
THE CHASING PACK
Nottingham Forest are in a real rut at the moment after an incredible start to their campaign, their last seven outings resulting in five draws and two losses – however they still started the day just four points from top in seventh place. Stuart Pearce’s side travelled to 17th placed Huddersfield Town who have not tasted defeat since a 3-0 loss to Leeds United on September 20. The Terriers continued their charge up the table with a comprehensive 3-0 win leaving Forest tenth – above Cardiff by a single goal.
Charlton Athletic have also recently lost their way though on a much lesser scale, defeated twice in their last three league outings (a victory sandwiched in-between). Addicks’ previously imperious record has come under scrutiny, losing to Fulham 3-0 last time around – this time they played host to Sheffield Wednesday who have not won a league match since mid-September. A 1-1 draw was the final outcome - Charton’s top goal scorer Igor Vetokele coming off the bench to rescue a point for Bob Peeters’ team.
Eighth-placed Blackburn Rovers hosted Reading on Saturday. Rovers, unbeaten in four – winning their last two – whilst Nigel Adkins’ side recorded their first win in seven against Blackpool last week. Rovers fans had a Rudy Gestede brace and Ben Marshall’s superb free-kick to thank for three points as they overcame the struggling Royals to leap to seventh – a point from the top six, the final score 3-1.
The Bluebirds got back to winning ways with Russell Slade overseeing a third consecutive home victory, leaving Cardiff City four points from the play-off positions in 11th.
Bottom-placed Blackpool have tasted victory on only one occasion this campaign, drawing three. Contrastingly, Ipswich Town are sitting pretty in tenth – three points off the top six – although they have not won in five, four of which have been draws. New man Lee Clark couldn’t change the Seasiders’ fortunes in his first game in charge at Bloomfield Road as Mick McCarthy’s men recorded a routine 0-2 win.
Wigan hosted Fulham, both teams hovering just above the trap door in nineteenth and twentieth respectively. Fulham have recently defined resurgent – from being winless in eight to winning four of their last six. Two ex-Cardiff City players in Fulham’s Ross McCormack and Wigan’s Leon Barnett saw red; Barnett’s handing World Cup star Bryan Ruiz the chance to pull his London side level with an 88th minute penalty after a frantic match. Affairs ended with a point apiece, the final result 3-3.