An unpredictable week in the Championship played out with two of the top five falling to defeat against sides in the bottom half. Six points divide the top six as the fight for promotion – and the battle to avoid relegation continues.
Competition is tight as ever with eleven games left to play as Middlesbrough moved into the top spot, following a 3-0 victory over Ian Holloway’s Millwall. Patrick Bamford and Kike struck twice in four minutes after visiting Lions squandered an early opportunity to take the lead. Jelle Vossen then added a third late into the second half to complete a routine victory. Boro top the league by a point; Millwall meanwhile, have their work cut out with the London side now six points from safety.
Previous table-toppers Derby County have now lost two on the bounce following a 2-0 defeat at Brighton & Hove Albion’s Falmer Stadium. Goals from Dale Stephens and Kazenga Lua Lua ensured a third successive home victory for Albion and a nine-point gap to relegation, whilst defeat for Steve McClaren’s Rams meant a drop to second place – a point behind Boro.
Watford caught up with the top two as a 1-0 win over Fulham made it eight wins in ten for the Hornets, three consecutively. Troy Deeney netted in less than ten minutes with Watford’s 70th goal this year(the highest total across the top four divisions) and Slavisa Jokanovic’s side weathered the storm to end the tie with a crucial three points.
Brentford snuck back into play off places with a 4-1 win over visiting Huddersfield Town, Everton loanee Chris Long burying a shot inside five minutes to hand the home side the initiative. Harry Bunn did level for Town but Mark Warburton’s side were unrelenting in finding the net, once again through Long before Alex Pritchard and Jon Toral made it more comfortable for the Bees.
SETTING SIGHTS ON THE PLAY OFF PLACES
Ipswich Town have now lost their last two with Mick McCarthy’s side sliding out of the play off positions following a 2-1 defeat by Leeds United. It was not until the last twenty minutes that Elland Road witnessed a goal as Alex Mowatt’s free-kick handed the Whites the lead. Home stopper Marco Silvestri then fumbled Freddie Sears’ shot into his goal - leveling the tie - but moments later Billy Sharp saved any blushes with a cultured volley that put Leeds back in the driving position. The drama was not over yet as Town were awarded a penalty late on; Silvestri however, palmed Daryl Murphy’s effort from twelve yards on to the post to make amends and guarantee all three points.
Wolverhampton Wanderers lost ground on the playoffs at Molineux as Kenny Jackett’s side were defeated 2-1 by AFC Bournemouth – who recorded their first win in six to stay in contention at the top. Yann Kermorgant netted twice either side of Benik Afobe's equaliser to lift the Cherries back up to fourth; Wolves meanwhile are four points from sixth-placed Brentford.
Elsewhere, Nottingham Forest lost 2-1 to Charlton Athletic - ending a run of six without defeat. Frederic Bulot scored twice for Addicks, who remain in twelfth place.
BEST OF THE REST
Blackburn Rovers defeated Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 at Hillsborough Stadium, leapfrogging their opponents in the process. It is Rovers’ first away win in over four months as Gary Bowyer’s side prepare for their F.A. Cup clash with Liverpool on Sunday; Jordan Rhodes and Adam Henley scoring for the visitors to take all the spoils.
Birmingham City continued to pile the misery on Blackpool with a 1-0 victory at St Andrew’s, the game’s only goal headed in by Andrew Shinnie. ‘Pool are now fifteen points from Rotherham United in 21st. who fell to Cardiff City 3-1 at New York Stadium - thanks to first-half goals from Bruno Ecuele Manga, Federico Macheda and Conor McAleny.
STATS & FACTS
The obvious aerial prowess of Alex Revell, Kenwyne Jones and Sean Morrison is backed up statistically with the trio winning 7.1, 5.9 and 4.9 headed duels respectively on average this campaign. Bettered only by Blackburn Rovers’ Rudy Gestede – who has an incredible 9.6 average – the three Bluebirds can hold their heads high in the Championship this year.