Tag Archives: EFL Championship

The Championship: Probably the Best League in the World

We are living in strange times as elite football passes the halfway point this season. Empty grounds, extortionate pay-per-view streaming, and socially distanced celebrations tearing the soul out of the beautiful game. So, think back, if you will, to simpler times and let us tell you why the Championship is the best league in the world.

What’s the name of the game?

Being on the frontier of modern football, the Premier League is always going to be open to criticism for trying to innovate the game both on and off the pitch. It is this innovation which has many a fan feeling like they, and their idea of what football should be, are being left behind.

Multimillion pound transfers, soulless stadiums, and disinterested club owners have disconnected supporters from their clubs. However, only one league down, the Championship feels much more grounded in reality and is far more connected to the fanbases who make the division so great.

From Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds allowing Aston Villa to score an equaliser after a controversial goal at the other end, to Manuel Almunia’s double penalty save and resulting Troy Deeney 97th minute winner, the second tier of English football is rarely short of drama and mayhem, something all too often lacking from England’s topflight.

READ MORE FOOTBALL OPINION: MICHAEL O’NEILL, STOKE CITY’S GREAT REDEEMER?

The Football Class Divide

No, this isn’t a political piece, I promise. This class divide refers to the gulf in skill between Premier League teams. For example, last season saw Manchester City thrash Watford 8-0 and literally everybody knew an outcome like this was coming far before a ball was kicked.

Performances like Manchester City’s 8-0 win over Watford aren’t a surprise anymore

Yes, Aston Villa did manage a huge upset in their 7-2 demolition of Liverpool, but this result was anomalous and has occurred in the most open season of the Premier League since Leicester’s shock title grab in the 2015/16 season. The Premier League has become far too predictable to be enjoyable in recent years, though this has rarely been an issue just one division down.

Okay, the Prem has been unreal this season; a wide-open competition featuring several teams performing far better, and several far worse, than expected has made for superb viewing. This though is a rare occurrence and does not happen consistently enough to present steady entertainment, especially not when compared to the Championship.

READ MORE: CLINICAL LIVERPOOL DECIMATE CLUELESS CRYSTAL PALACE 7 NIL IN A ONE-SIDED AFFAIR

From QPR upsetting promotion-chasing Cardiff 6-1, to Wigan beating Hull 8-0 in a relegation scrap, the Championship does not extend the formality of predictability and it certainly does not disappoint entertainment-wise.

This roll-of-the-dice style results in meteoric rises and treacherous falls and can certainly make for frustrating viewing, though it is rarely boring. You can lose 25% of your games and still make the playoffs, as Swansea did last season, or finish middle of the pack only to steamroll the league the following year.

READ MORE: BRILLIANT BLADES PUT WOEFUL MANCHESTER UNITED TO THE SWORD

Great examples of unpredictable form can be seen everywhere throughout each season, with Sheffield Wednesday finding themselves chasing promotion by Christmas of 2019, only to capitulate around Boxing Day before falling into the throes of a relegation scrap where they remain today.

Last year’s middle-of-the-pack Reading now fancy themselves reaching the playoffs, as promotion favourites Derby languish in the relegation zone. This league is anyone’s game, and each fixture is ripe for the taking by even the most unlikely of candidates. This makes the entertainment factor of the league greatly surpass the predictability of England’s topflight, and there is a lot to be said about the way in which the game is played too.

Substance Over Style

An argument against lower league football is that the lower you go the worse the quality gets, which, to a certain degree, is true, but the Championship serves as an outlier in this trend.

Rather than playing a traditional 4-4-2 formation as teams in leagues One and Two so often must, the Championship displays tactical innovation and strategic masterclasses not possible in lower league football due to even more finite resources.

Rivalries like Derby County v Nottingham Forest make the second tier special

These practices are crafted and honed in the Championship alongside managers who must truly be experts at their jobs as they cannot rely on the expensive signings or abundance of wealth prominent in the Premier League.

It doesn’t matter how many passes you can string together in an attack; when you’re losing 1-0 at home in a midtable clash you need to score to survive in this league, and it is by any means necessary. The old school pressing football and long balls ever-present in this league are a tried and tested method of scoring goals, so if it isn’t broken, why fix it?

READ MORE: MANCHESTER UNITED HEAP FURTHER MISERY ON LIVERPOOL IN FA CUP

This style of play will always have a place in my heart because it’s what I grew up watching and it’s what made me fall in love with football. The scrappy midtable games on a pitch more akin to a pigsty than a professional football pitch will always be a cherished memory to me, and watching the Championship is like watching nostalgia in real time.

The football seen in the second tier is so far removed from the stat-padding safe-in-possession play seen all too often in the Premier League, with the Championship feeling far more traditional in play than other leagues in England.

READ MORE: DATES FOR EXPANDED AFC WOMEN’S ASIAN CUP INDIA 2022 CONFIRMED

Managers can try their hand at Gegenpressing or that once-coveted “Barҫa style of play”, cheers to Andy Tate for that one, but ultimately disregarding this and resorting to hoofing it forwards to a massive striker with a massive head and hoping for the best is something both common place and refreshing as it serves as a reminder of the no nonsense football we often play ourselves. Can you imagine players like Troy Deeney and Andy Carroll breaking through the youth ranks in today’s game? Neither can I.

If you haven’t seen what I’m hinting at, here it is in plain text; the Championship is better because it retains the highest quality of football while still being more relatable and replicable than any other league in the EFL.

Crowds, Teams & Players

Crowds are usually a lot smaller in the Championship than they are in the Premier League, so when you have a sold-out fixture you really notice the attendance and resulting atmosphere. Full grounds usually signify the start of a season, a big derby, or your team storming the league. Lovely stuff.

I would also strongly argue that the Championship is full of clubs that are the perfect size for communities to form within each team’s fanbase, though my dreams of seeing ultras presenting pyro shows and tifos in the UK are still far-fetched.  

I’m talking about how Stoke fans were able to make the game “unplayable” against West Brom by booing their every touch of the ball through communicating almost exclusively online. How Leeds seemed to have an unlimited number of smoke bombs for every goal they scored in their promotion season. How Crystal Palace somehow managed to sneak a drum into their stadium, and continue to do so, years before their promotion to the topflight.

READ MORE: LIVERPOOL MOURN IN THE BITTER TASTE OF DEFEAT, COURTESY OF A DETERMINED BURNLEY

These communities form through the tribalistic love for the surrogate religion that is football, following their club home and away through thick and thin. Most of the fanbases in the lower leagues don’t support their local team because they’re any good, they support local because of the importance that team has to their identity and to their community. You’ll never hear someone call a Wycombe Wanderers fan a “glory hunter”.

This league favours the unfancied and there isn’t really a “Big 6” like you would have in the Prem, rather 24 teams who don’t really care all too much for each other. A lot of kicking and shouting with very few hugs and handshakes, this league is Roy Keane’s wet dream.

READ MORE: 2021 AFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE DRAW PRESENTS INTRIGUING GROUPS

There is also a point to be made about the teams occupying the Championship, teams like Blackburn, Forest, Wednesday and QPR, all of whom I associate to a classic era of the Premier League which I grew up watching.

A great aspect attributed to most championship teams is the diversity of their stadia. From QPR’s traditional stadium, a big square box surrounded by council houses, to Huddersfield Town’s sleek arched Kirklees Stadium, there is a lot of diversity across the league in grounds.

Some evoke football heritage and history, such as Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough, while others feel like a clad iron shed assembled on a windy carpark, the BET365 Stadium springs to mind.

The Championship is also a hive for unfancied and forgotten players who can perform away from the pressures of £100 million deals and ludicrous paycheques. Playing football for the love of the game is far more connected to real life and that is exactly what you’ll find here, a league where there is an immense satisfaction in signing a total unknown from the fringes of world football and said player becoming a fan favourite.

I doubt anyone has backed Teemu Pukki as top scorer for Norwich after he joined for free from Brondby, but what a player he’s been for the Canaries since his arrival.

And in what other league could the “Hundred Goals Club” be comprised of David Nugent, Ross McCormack, Billy Sharp, and Jordan Rhoades? Not to mention undeniable ballers like Adel Taraabt, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, Matěj Vydra, George Elokobi, Matt Jarvis, Ricardo Vaz Tê, Wes Hoolahan, and Bobby Zamora who frequented the division.

I can think of no stat to better summarise the experience of the second tier of English football than Portsmouth’s Guy Whittingham scoring 42 goals in the 92/93 season in which Portsmouth failed to gain promotion. Like I said, football heritage.

For the Love of the Game Money

Money shouldn’t be the “be-all and end-all” in football, and in the Championship it really isn’t. A good example of this is the record transfer fees for a Championship player going to the PL versus a topflight player going down a division. The players in question are Nathan Aké and his £40 million move to Man City versus Benik Afobe from Wolves to Stoke for ~£12 million.

Transfers like Nathan Ake’s £40m move to Manchester City have become incredible common in the Premier League

Scrimping and saving is the name of the game, so relying on youth to step up when players are in poor form or injured is key, whereas the Premier League approach to fixing an issue is just to throw money at a it and then sack your manager 18 months later, something known as the Chelsea model.

The Premier League is rife with an overabundance of money, allowing top teams to sign £50 million players just for them to sit on the bench, stagnating their careers. This is certainly not the case in the Championship, however, as the only “super subs” you’ll find here are the likes of Peter Crouch, Glenn Murray, or Adebayo Akinfenwa, players who are synonymous with coming on after the 70th minute to nick a scrappy goal and close out the game. All three players also have somewhat of a cult following, though I am unsure if this is just coincidence.

Closing Thoughts

The Premier League is looking to be a classic competition this year, but you shouldn’t let that distract you from the great theatre constantly available just one league below. The Championship makes for excellent viewing and there are always more great games and goals to enjoy than anywhere else, so take a seat, sit back, and relax as you watch all the action from the best league in the world.

Michael O’Neill, Stoke City’s GREAT REDEEMER?

Stoke City spent a decade in the Premier League, and in that time they rarely featured in the picks to be relegated come May. Despite that stint ending just three seasons ago, it feels a distant memory for many Potters fans.

During their time in the EFL Championship, the club have looked more likely to be relegated to the third tier than be promoted back to the top. Recently though, that has changed, especially after this weekend’s 3-0 away victory against league leaders Reading.

How it got to this point is a fascinating story that has culminated in a manager that the supporters of the Midlands club are really getting behind.

Prelude and pre-ramble

Being manager of Stoke City has never been seen as an esteemed role in the world of football. In fact, it is often regarded as something very unsavoury; Stoke fans seemingly have a tendency to despise their new manager well before the appointment is made official.

I remember when Tony Pulis, a man responsible for saving the Potters from relegation, re-joined Stoke there was immediate disdain for the man now often regarded as the greatest Stoke City manager of the Premier League Era.

READ MORE: WHAT IF THE OLD FIRM JOINED THE ENGLISH LEAGUES?

Pulis’ successor, Mark Hughes, didn’t fare much better either, with a now infamous “Hughes Out” van being parked outside of the Britannia Stadium before Hughes had even signed for the club.

Hughes guided Stoke to their highest ever Premier League finish, 9th for three consecutive seasons, before leaving the club in disarray in the January of the 2017/18 relegation season.

The notorious “Hughes Out” van appeared before the 2013/14 season

Despite this, I cannot remember seeing any negativity around the appointment of Michael O’Neill as manager. I assumed the disdain for Nathan Jones was still so great that the Stoke faithful chose to continue to release its anger on the former manager rather than targeting the club’s newest appointment.

An immediate air of positivity seemed to emerge around the club, and no one quite knew how to react, but was Stoke’s trust in MON well placed?

The Appointment

O’Neill joined Stoke City on 8th November 2019 following the dismissal of Nathan Jones one week prior. A quick note on Nathan Jones for some context; Jones was the least successful permanent Stoke City manager since 1923, only managing to win 7 of his 38 games in charge over two seasons at the club with Stoke failing to score in 15 of these games. Perhaps this is why Michael O’Neill received no abuse upon his appointment.

O’Neill came to Stoke following a 9-year stint managing the Northern Ireland National Team, a role MON initially continued alongside his duties at Stoke before resigning on 22nd April 2020.

Upon joining, Stoke were rock bottom of the Championship and struggling for form in recent seasons, having failed to score three goals in any game under any of the club’s three previous managers (Paul Lambert, Gary Rowett and Nathan Jones).

READ MORE: BALI UNITED’S CUGURRA PREPARES FOR TITLE DEFENCE

That duck was immediately smashed in O’Neill’s first game in change. The Potters managed an emphatic 4-2 away victory against Barnsley only one day after his appointment.

Now, you may immediately chalk that down to coincidence or the fortunate timing of his employment, but O’Neill went on to repeat this feat seven times in the same season.

If that hasn’t convinced you of his quality, then perhaps this will; MON has a win rate of 46.88% from 47 games compared to Nathan Jones’ win rate of 15.79% in 38 games.

For more context, Pulis managed a win rate of 35.88% and 36.64% on his return to the club, Mark Hughes earned a 35.5% rate, while Gary Rowett’s 31.03% sees him in fourth place of the five managers selected.

The 2019/20 Season

As previously mentioned, O’Neill found immediate success over Barnsley, but Stoke only took 7 points from the following seven games, finding themselves in the relegation zone on Christmas Day.

Then came a day many Stoke fans see as the turning point of the season. A dramatic 3-2 victory over promotion-chasing Sheffield Wednesday, with two goals in injury time, saw Stoke claw their way out of the relegation zone with 22 games remaining.

A 1-0 loss to eventual play-off winners Fulham was amended two days later, as on New Year’s Day Stoke thrashed Huddersfield Town 5-2 away from home, a performance followed by victories over promotion-hopeful club rivals West Brom and Swansea.

Sadly, Stoke’s 5-1 “mauling” of Hull City on 7th March was followed by the suspension of football in the UK only six days later. as the Coronavirus swept across the world. A break in the season was the last thing Stoke wanted.

The return to football on 20th June was a welcome one but Stoke initially struggled to replicate their earlier form. The remaining 9 games saw Stoke win four and draw two. Stoke ended the season in 15th place. Had the league begun upon O’Neill’s appointment, Stoke would’ve finished in 6th place.

The 2020/21 Season

At the time of writing, Stoke currently sit 8th in the Championship after taking 18 points from 11 games following a rampant 3-0 victory over league leaders Reading, the ideal way for Michael O’Neill to celebrate a year at the club.

Stoke have averaged far less possession, usually less than 35%, and fewer shots than their opponents so far this season. However, the Potters have moved the ball around effectively when in possession.

This often leads to Stoke blockading their own box for 80 minutes of a game only to counter-attack at frightening speed once the ball breaks free.

READ MORE: INDONESIA LIGA 1 POSTPONED UNTIL 2021

O’Neill has also ensured that his squad make the most of set pieces and training ground routines. This shows that Stoke are benefiting from well-orchestrated moves compared to previous tactics more akin to smashing the ball upfield and hoping for the best.

These tactics have perhaps been most noticeable in EFL Cup games, as Stoke have recorded victories over Blackpool, Wolves, Gillingham, and Aston Villa. Stoke will face Spurs on the 23rd December, having qualified for a cup quarterfinal for the first time since the 2015/16 season.

Our upcoming league fixture is Huddersfield Town on 21st November, following the international break.

Transfers

Michael O’Neill bought fellow countryman Jordan Thompson and Spurs prospect Tashan Oakley-Boothe into the midfield to bolster the team’s core. In addition, MON has signed the experienced centre-half James Chester on loan from Aston Villa, a signing he would later make permanent.

At the start of the 2020/21 season, O’Neill found his starting XI injury-ridden and lacking leadership, so the acquisition of experienced players was crucial. Morgan Fox, Steven Fletcher, and, most notably, John Obi Mikel, joined the Potters for free in the first window.

READ MORE: EFL CHAMPIONSHIP 2020/21 ROUND-UP: MATCHDAY 10

Creative winger Jacob Brown joined from Barnsley for an undisclosed fee. The Stoke boss also saw to reducing the wage bill at the club, cancelling the contracts of several loanees while allowing Peter Etebo, Badou Ndiaye and Ryan Woods to leave on loan for the season to reduce the burden.

Closing Thoughts

Perhaps Stoke-on-Trent will never see the enigma that was “Stokealona” again, but a quiet revolution is happening under the patient and nurturing guidance of Michael O’Neill.

This is a managerial appointment which seems to be inspiring faith in his players and restoring hope, a feeling often dismissed at Stoke. Mixing youth and experience with a generous amount of “shithousery” has got everyone paying attention to Stoke again. Here’s to the next year of Michael O’Neill!

READ MORE: THE SORRY STATE OF SOUTH EAST ASIA SOCCER’S RESTART

EFL Championship Round-Up: Matchday 10 – 2020/21 Season

Brentford 1-1 Swansea

With league leaders Reading not playing until Wednesday, second place Swansea City had the chance to close the gap on the league leaders Reading. However, they faced a difficult trip to Brentford in a rematch of last season’s play-off semi-final.

It was the hosts that took the lead at the Brentford Community Stadium, with Ivan Toney scoring his tenth goal of the season in just ten games – the first Brentford player to score ten goal in his first ten games since 1932.

He finished Mattias Jensen’s pullback after good work from Bryan Mbuemo. However, the Welsh side equalised 13 minutes from time as Matt Grimes’ cross was finished by André Ayew.

Ayew thought he had won the game in stoppage time but his header from Connor Roberts’ free kick was ruled just offside as the spoils were shared. Swansea now have 19 points from their opening ten games but are four points adrift of Reading. Brentford, meanwhile, are eighth.

Norwich 0-0 Millwall

Swansea dropping points opened the door for Norwich City to jump into the top two, but they also drew. They hosted Millwall, who had Gary Rowett back in the dugout after his self-isolation period finished.

Norwich created the better chances all match but ex-Ipswich keeper Bartosz Białkowski pulled off some great saves. Przemysław Płacheta struck the post in the first half as Norwich could not score passed the stubborn Millwall defence.

Emi Buendía saw a shot saved by Białkowski on 73 minutes before his rebound was cleared by Shaun Hutchinson. Millwall, who didn’t register a shot on target all game, did nearly win their first game at Carrow Road since 1968 in the last minute.

Mason Bennett broke down the wing and his pull back found experienced midfielder Shaun Williams, whose curling shot hit the crossbar. Nonetheless, Millwall will be happy to take a point and after Wednesday’s fixtures, they are eighth in the league. Norwich are now third, one point behind Swansea.

Cherries lose to relegation-favourites

Bournemouth were another team who could have jumped to second place with a win on Tuesday, but they lost their first game of the season, against bottom of the league Sheffield Wednesday.

The game finished one-nil to The Owls, with the winning goal coming from the penalty spot. Josh Windass has got in behind The Cherries defence and a combination of goalkeeper Asmir Begović and defender Steve Cook bought down the Wednesday striker.

Referee Jeremy Simpson decided Cook was more the guilty party and dismissed the defender. Barry Bannan then sent Asmir Begović the wrong way and Wednesday saw the game out from there as they moved onto -1 points for the season.

They did finish the game with 10 men as well – Kadeem Harris was sent off after a lounge then an off the ball incident with Jefferson Lerma. Sheffield Wednesday’s week got even better on Wednesday as their 12-point deduction was halved to just six points.

They are still bottom of the league due to results around them but now only three points off 21st. Bournemouth are now fifth. Meanwhile, Bristol City were temporarily able to rise back into the play-off places on Tuesday night with a 2-1 away win at Huddersfield Town.

Huddersfield 1-2 Bristol City

They had to come from behind though, after Josh Koroma converted Issac Mbenza’s cross with 43 minutes on the clock. However, Dean Holden’s men turned the game on its head with two late second half goals.

Jay DaSilva equalised with 77 minutes on the clock following a low cross from substitute Antoine Semenyo for his first goal in 55 appearances from Bristol City. Semenyo was sent on as part of a double substitution on 68 minutes with Jamie Patterson and it was Patterson who scored the winner on 83 minutes.

Goal scorer DaSilva turned provider as the ball fell to him on the left wing after a goalmouth scramble. His low cross was turned in at the near post by Patterson, making the 415-mile round trip well worth the journey, as City got their first win in five games.

Huddersfield’s inconsistent run of form continues – they now find themselves 15th.

Boro end Blackburn’s scoring run

One place above Bristol City is Neil Warnock’s Middlesbrough. They extended their unbeaten run to nine games with a 0-0 draw at Blackburn Rovers to keep themselves in the play-off places.

The game was low on clear cut chances, with just four shots on target all game. Ex-Middlesbrough goalkeeper Aynsley Pears was in goal for Rovers following a summer transfer move between the clubs and he made some excellent saves to preserve a point for the hosts.

Despite being the highest goal scorers in the league, Blackburn are now 17th. The last Tuesday night game saw Barnsley manager Valérien Ismaël take his side across the River Severn to the Welsh capital.

They played Neil Harris’ Cardiff City, but it was a tough evening for the visitors, who found themselves a goal down in just four minutes, thanks to Junior Hoilett’s close range finish.

The lead was doubled one minute into added time from the penalty spot after Harry Wilson was fouled by Michał Helik. Joe Ralls, who scored and missed a penalty on the weekend, made no mistake from the spot.

Liverpool loanee Wilson then added a third with 13 minutes left as he collected the ball from Ralls and fired a left footed shot into the corner from 20 yards.

Cardiff are now 13th; Ismaël’s honeymoon period is now over after two wins in his first two games. Barnsley are now 18th.

Royals De-throned

On Wednesday, Reading had the chance to extend their lead at the top of the table to six points, but they faced a difficult home game against Preston North End.

The visitors had recorded all of their 10 points away from home this season and they were presented with a glorious opportunity to take the lead early on in the second half.

Emil Riis Jakobsen’s dashed into the box and was halted illegally by Tom McIntyre and referee John Brooks awarded the spot kick.

Preston captain Daniel Johnson stepped up, but his penalty was weak and it was a comfortable save for Rafael Cabral – it was Johnson’s first penalty miss in his professional career.

However, North End were not hindered by the miss and took the lead on 64 minutes. Joe Rafferty’s tackle went straight to Scott Sinclair and after an excellent piece of control on his chest, the ex-Swansea City winger prodded past Rafael for his fifth goal this season.

Just four minutes later, the lead was doubled courtesy of Riis Jakobsen; he read the spin on Ryan Ledson’s through ball and burst past McIntyre before slotting under Rafael.

The visitors then added some gloss to the score line in added time as a good run from substitute Tom Barkhuizen saw him set the ball up for Brad Potts, who finished emphatically.

Preston are up to 12th after this impressive display, but Reading are now winless in two and have conceded six goal in two games; it was also the first time they had fired a blank all season. Nonetheless, they are still top of the league.

Hornets edge thrilling encounter

Despite Preston’s impressive display, the game of the night was at Vicarage Road where Watford left it late to return to winning ways against Stoke. They had to come from behind though, as the visitors led after just two minutes.

A short corner routine saw the ball worked to Steven Fletcher and he was presented with an easy chance which he was not going to pass up. Watford then levelled on 28 minutes in controversial circumstances.

Tom Cleverley’s curling effort from the edge of the area was tipped onto the crossbar by Stoke keeper Angus Gunn and bounced down onto the line before Gunn gathered it.

Gunn was then bundled into by Watford striker João Pedro, forcing him to carry the ball over the line. Instead of awarding the foul, referee Andy Davies awarded the goal.

Watford then led with 62 minutes on the clock from the penalty spot. Danny Batth completely missed his clearance allowing the ball to run through for Ismaïla Sarr.

Sarr then had his run abruptly halted by Gunn and Mr Davies awarded the penalty. Pedro stepped up and sent Gunn the wrong way and despite this, the young Brazilian was subbed a minute later by under pressure Watford manager Vladimir Ivić.

Stoke then looked like they would take a point back home after Nick Powell’s low strike found the bottom corner with nine minutes left. Instead, The Potters were left heartbroken as in the 93rd minute, Ken Sema hit the by-line and his pass found Sarr.

Even with many defenders and the keeper to beat, Watford’s club record signing was still able to find the bottom corner with a very composed finished. The three points lifted Watford to fourth but Stoke fall to tenth.

Lower table clashes

Stoke have consequently been leapfrogged by Luton Town, who are now eighth and are one point outside play-offs. They won by a goal to nil at Rotherham United thanks to a James Collins volley from Luke Berry’s inviting delivery.

Rotherham stay 19th, one place above Nottingham Forest, who won 2-1 against Coventry City.

Forest hit the front on the half hour mark as shots from Samba Sow and Luke Freeman were both blocked but the ball then fell to Scott McKenna and the summer signing from Aberdeen fired in his first goal in English football.

Coventry did equalise on 57 minutes – Callum O’Hare glanced in an equaliser from a brilliant in-swinging cross from Sam McCallum.

A point would have kept Coventry ahead of Forest but in the 96th minute, Lyle Taylor had his run towards goal clumsily halted by Kyle McFadzean and while the contact was minimal, there was no doubt it was a penalty.

Taylor walked up to the ball and very casually sent Marko Maroši the wrong way with the very last kick of the game. Forest are now 20th and Coventry 21st.

R’s sink Rams

Forest are now three points clear of East Midlands rivals Derby County, who fell to 23rd place after a 1-0 home defeat to QPR.

The goal came on the 88th minute from Macauley Bonne. An excellent cross from defender Rob Dickie was headed in by the summer signing from Charlton for his second goal of the season.

QPR are now 16th but Derby are now only one point clear of Sheffield Wednesday at the bottom of the table. Wycombe Wanderers have now overtaken The Rams and are now one point from safety after they recorded back to back wins and also their first win of the season.

They beat Birmingham City 2-1 at St. Andrew’s Trillion Trophy Stadium. The hosts did take the lead five minutes before half-time as Marc Roberts headed in Jérémie Bela’s in-swinging left-wing corner for the hosts.

Wycombe boss Gareth Ainsworth was absent for a second game in a row after undergoing back surgery on 30th October, but his side fought back and equalised on 75 minutes. There was some good work from winger Fred Onyedinma and his shot was deflected in off the thigh of Scott Kashket.

Wycombe then won the game in the 92nd minute as City keeper Neil Etheridge failed to claim a cross and the ball was returned into the six-yard box. The final touch came off City defender Kristian Pedersen. Wycombe are 22nd and one point from safety, Birmingham are 14th.

EFL Championship Round-Up: Matchday 8 – 2020/21

Matchday 8 was the second midweek round of fixtures in the EFL Championship. It was another successful round for Reading, who went seven points clear at the top of the league on Tuesday evening.

Makes for Good Reading

They travelled to the league’s top scorers Blackburn Rovers and found themselves in the lead after just nine seconds. A long ball from kick off came off the heals off Rovers defender Barry Douglas completely wrong-footing Ainsley Pears in goal.

Lucas João capitalised on the loose ball and squared it for Yakou Méïté, who scored his third goal in two games. Rovers did equalise with three minutes on the clock and it was Adam Armstrong again, who finished Harvey Elliott’s cross on the half-volley.

Rovers would have hoped this goal swung the momentum of the game; instead, they were 3-1 down in 18 minutes. Firstly, Michael Olise collected the ball just inside the Rovers half and ran into the box unchallenged before dispatching the ball past Pears.

Minutes later, summer signing Josh Laurent curled in his first goal from the club from the edge of the area – the ball kissed the post on the way in. The next goal didn’t come until the 66th minute, but it was another one for Armstrong and Rovers.

Joe Rankin-Costello’s cross was flicked in with a quality diving header and Armstrong had his ninth goal of the season. However, the game was put beyond doubt eight minutes from time.

Summer signing Afla Semedo slipped in João and he curled a shot expertly past Pears, who conceded four on debut. Blackburn slipped to 12th but Veljko Paunović’s dream start as Reading manager continued.

Swans Smash Potters

Due to other teams playing on Wednesday, Swansea were able to temporarily jump to second place with a comfortable 2-0 win over Stoke City. Yan Dhanda hit the post early on for the hosts, but the Welsh side opened the scoring on the half hour mark, courtesy of Jay Fulton’s exquisite chip over a helpless Adam Davies.

Davies had to go off injured at half time and was replaced by Angus Gunn, who conceded nine goals in his last game, almost a year ago. Gunn slipped before handling a back pass, resulting in an indirect free kick, which André Ayew saw blocked on the line by one of Stoke’s 11 players.

However, it was clear Gunn was low on confidence as Swansea secured the three points with three minutes left to play. Gunn came to punch but was beaten to ball by Kasey Palmer and the Bristol City loanee scored his first Swansea goal and got a punch for his troubles too from the keeper.

Stoke fall to 10th. Swansea up to second and they leapfrogged Watford, who are now down to fifth place after they drew away at Wycombe.

Hornets held by strugglers

The hosts created the better chances but found themselves behind on 52 minutes – Kiko Femenía cross was inch perfect for Ismaïla Sarr and the Senegalese winger scored his first goal of the season.

However, the hosts finally got their first point of the season at the eight time of asking, as Joe Jacobson’s corner was met with a bullet header by Anthony Stewart.

Ben Foster was in inspired form and on another day, Wycombe would have won this game. They thought they had in injury time as Joe Jacobson’s corner went straight in, but the goal was disallowed for a foul on Foster by Alex Samuel.

Wycombe are still 23rd but they are now joined in the relegation zone by Coventry City, who are now six games without a win. They lost 2-0 away at Neil Warnock’s Middlesbrough.

Sky Blues heading for Rock Bottom

After a non-eventful 80 minutes on Teeside, the hosts finally hit the front as Sam Morsy’s through ball was finished expertly by Britt Assombalonga. The points were secured in the 95th minute for Boro as 20-year-old defender Djed Spence found himself in on goal.

He dinked the ball over Marko Maroši before slotting the ball into the back of the net. Boro are now eight and have not lost since the opening day. Coventry have replaced Barnsley in the relegation zone as the Yorkshire club won 3-0 against QPR in Valérien Ismaël’s first game in charge.

It was also their first league win of the season. They were given an advantage 26 minutes in as Rob Dickie was sent off for pulling back Cauley Woodrow in the penalty area.

Woodrow, who passed a late fitness test, scored from the spot, sending Seny Dieng the wrong way. The lead was doubled eight minutes before half time as he finished off some excellent Barnsley build up play.

The three points were put beyond all doubt mid-way through the second half as Yoann Barnet scored a calamitous own goal, prodding past the helpless Dieng. QPR are now winless in six and have fallen to 19th.

Bees and Canaries tie

The final game on Tuesday took place at The Brentford Community Stadium as Norwich City made the trip from East Anglia to West London. It looked like they would return home pointless after Brentford hit the front on 27 minutes and there was no surprise who the scorer was.

Ivan Toney notched his eight goal in sixth games, finishing Bryan Mbuemo’s cross at the back post. Brentford had chances to double their lead and wrap the game up but, for the fourth game in a row, Norwich left it late to secure a point.

Emi Buendía, who had been Norwich’s brightest spark all game, fed Kenny McLean and his shot took a deflection off Mads Bech Sorensen to completely wrong-foot David Raya and ensure the spoils were shared. Norwich are seventh, Brentford 11th and winless in two.

Cherries with sweet victory

On Wednesday night, Bournemouth cut Reading’s lead at the top of the table to six points as they took down fellow highflyers Bristol City by a single goal to nil. It came nine minutes from time, courtesy of substitute Arnaut Danjuma.

He produced a burst of acceleration to get into the penalty area and dinked the ball over City goalkeeper Daniel Bentley. The Cherries rise to second but Bristol City slump to sixth and are now winless in four.

They have now been overtaken by Millwall, who are now fourth after a superb away win at Preston North End. With the entire first team coaching squad in self-isolation due to more positive Covid-19 tests, The Lions were led by Under 23 manager Kevin Nugent, player-coach Shaun Williams and captain Alex Pearce.

Despite their unorthodox coaching set up, Millwall led after 54 minutes. A slick counterattack was led by Mason Bennett who slipped in Jed Wallace, who’s cross was tapped in by Kenneth Zohore on his full debut.

Preston offered little going forward but their only shot on target forced Bartosz Białkowski into a good save, as he made himself big to deny Tom Barkhuizen.

With six minutes remaining, the game was put beyond doubt. Barkhuizen was judged to have clipped Murray Wallace as the Scottish defender prepared to shoot.

The responsibility fell to the other Wallace, Jed, and he sent Declan Rudd the wrong way. Preston are still yet to score or get a point at home this season and are 13th.

Birmingham tame Terriers

Birmingham City recorded their first win since the opening day on Wednesday, beating Huddersfield 2-1. Birmingham had the lead just before the half hour mark as Jérémie Bela’s free kick was headed into the corner by Gary Gardner for Birmingham’s fourth goal this season.

Josh Koroma hit the bar early on in the second half but it looked like they would head back to Yorkshire with a point as Belgian winger Issac Mbenza scored a free-kick for his second Huddersfield goal – his first came against Manchester United in May 2019.

Instead, Birmingham secured all three points courtesy of Lukas Jutkiewicz’s volley on the 90th minute mark, after Jonathan Leko’s attempt hit the bar. It was also Birmingham’s first goal from open play this season and they leapfrogged their opponents into 15th place, courtesy of goal difference.

Huddersfield are 16th and their Yorkshire rivals, Rotherham, are now one place below them. They beat another Yorkshire team, bottom of the league Sheffield Wednesday.

Millers stun Owls

With just two minutes on the clock, the game was temporarily halted due to a drone flying over The New York Stadium. Wednesday would have wished the game never restarted as Rotherham hit the front three minutes afterwards, thanks to Jamie Lindsay’s header.

The game was killed off before half-time thanks to two goals and a red card in just six minutes. Wednesday defender Tom Lees was sent off with 39 minutes on the clock and the hosts had a penalty.

He pulled back Michael Miller after the Rotherham man had rounded goalkeeper Cameron Dawson. The resulting spot kick was dispatched by Daniel Barlaser and five minutes later, Lindsay scored his second from a rebound.

It meant Rotherham won for the first time since the opening day. Wednesday are now nine points off 21st place Derby County, who drew at home to Cardiff on Wednesday.

Derby 1-1 Cardiff

Derby took the lead in the first half as Martyn Waghorn scored his second spectacular free kick in two games. However, Neil Harris’ men secured a point to take back to Wales, thanks to Kieffer Moore’s composed finish as he latched on Sheyi Ojo through ball. Cardiff are 14th but four points off the play-offs.

Derby are only out of the relegation zone on goal difference. Nonetheless, they are only one point off East Midlands rivals Nottingham Forest, who drew 1-1 away at Luton Town, to maintain Chris Houghton’s unbeaten start.

They had to come from behind though, as Glenn Rea found the bottom corner. Forest then went down to ten men on the stroke of half time as Nicholas Ioannou was dismissed for a lunge on Martin Cranie, but they took a point back up the M1 as Rea cancelled out his earlier strike.

Under pressure from Ryan Yates, Cyrus Christie’s cross hit Rea on the back of the head and beat keeper Simon Sluga. Luton still go up a place to ninth but are only one point outside the play-offs.

Championship Round-Up: Matchday 7 – 2020/21 Season

East Midlands Derby

The Friday night game was the first East Midlands derby between Nottingham Forest and Derby County. Both sides had made a poor start to the season and were in desperate need of three points.

It was The Rams who took the lead, courtesy of Martyn Waghorn’s stunning free-kick on the half hour mark. They were unable to hold on though, as Lyle Taylor pounced on a loose ball in the penalty area and prodded past David Marshall to earn a point for Forest.

This extends the Tricky Trees’ unbeaten run under new boss Chris Houghton to three games. Derby, though, thought they had won the game 13 minutes from time. Kamil Jóźwiak found the bottom corner but the goal was very harshly disallowed for offside against Waghorn, who was deemed to be impeding the view of Forest keeper Brice Samba. The point means Forest rise to 19th while Derby remain in the relegation zone.

Parity at Vicarage Road

The lunchtime kick-off on Saturday was between two of last season’s relegated teams, as Bournemouth travelled to Watford. The visitors were lucky not to go down to ten men as early as the second minute, Lloyd Kelly fortunate to only see yellow for a dangerous challenge on Ismaïla Sarr.

Sarr was pivotal to the opening goal in 13 minutes though. He collected Craig Cathcart’s sublime switch and then he crossed low for Croatian Stipe Perica to score on debut.

It looked like Bournemouth would lose their unbeaten league record but in the 95th minute, Watford failed to clear a corner and Kelly’s volley was flicked in practically on the goal line by fellow defender Chris Mepham for a deserved point for the visitors.

Watford remain third and Bournemouth stay one place behind them. Both sides missed the chance to climb into the top two.

Wells’ Penalty salvages point for Robins

Bristol City failed to win for the second game in a row as yhey hosted Swansea City, who made the short trip along the M4. It looked like it would be a trip worthwhile for The Swans as Jamal Lowe found the top corner six minutes into the second half.

However, with seven minutes left, Swansea defender Connor Roberts was deemed to have fouled Antoine Semenyo by referee Oliver Langford. It looked a soft penalty at best and there was even question marks over whether the foul was inside the penalty area.

Nonetheless, substitute Nakhi Wells stepped up and cheekily dinked the ball down the middle to secure a point. Swansea are sixth and despite staying in the top two with the point, Bristol City lost ground on league leaders Reading.

Royal Ascent

The Royals moved five points clear of Bristol City with a comfortable 3-0 win over Rotherham United. It did take Reading 41 minutes to have their first shot on target, though.

Nonetheless, it resulted in a goal. After good footwork, Ovie Ejaria’s floated cross was controlled by Yakou Méïté and he slotted home, although visiting keeper Jamal Blackman will feel as if he should have done better.

The game was put beyond doubt with just over ten minutes left to play. Michael Olise’s corner was allowed to bounce all the way through to Méïté and after a piece of control on the chest, he acrobatically added his and Reading’s second of the game.

There was still time for top scorer Lucas João to get involved. He bulldozed his way through the Rotherham defence but as he bared down on Blackman’s goal, his progress was halted by Michael Ihiekwe for a penalty kick.

The Portuguese striker dusted himself down and despite Blackman guessing the right way, João scored his fourth of the season.

Millwall collect point despite missing Rowett

Elsewhere, Adam Barrett took interim charge of Millwall, following Gary Rowett testing positive for Covid-19. The Millwall manager had minor symptoms on Friday morning and tested positive later that day, so was watching the game from home.

While it was the first game in temporary charge for Adam Barrett, it was a last game in charge for Adam Murray at Barnsley. They confirmed that Valérien Ismaël would be their new manager and he watched on from the stands at The Den.

The first half was poor but on the 44th minute, the visitors took the lead, courtesy of Alex Mowatt’s spectacular strike which left Bartosz Białkowski helpless.

However, the visitors could not see the lead through until the break. Jake Cooper connected with Connor Mahoney’s corner with a towering header and despite Tykes keeper Jack Walton getting a hand on it, the ball ended up in the back of the net.

The second half was all one-way traffic, with Millwall desperate to win their third game in a row. However, Walton made some inspired saves in the second half, first to deny Mason Bennett and then he thwarted Kenneth Zohore in the last minute of the game to ensure Barnsley took a point back to Yorkshire.

They remain 22nd, while Millwall drop to seventh.

Canaries victorious despite red card

Replacing Millwall in the play-off places are Norwich City. They rose to fifth, as they beat a still pointless Wycombe. Norwich took the lead just three minutes in; Teemu Pukki went through on goal and dinked it over a helpless Ryan Allsop.

However, Wycombe equalised with just their second goal of the season just nine minutes later. The goal came courtesy of Scott Kashket, who also scored their first goal of the season.

He capitalised on a defensive mix-up between Norwich defender Grant Hanley and keeper Tim Krul, as he nipped in between the two of them to prod the ball past Krul.

Wycombe then felt they should have had a penalty as it looked like Fred Onyedinma was pulled down by Ben Gibson, but referee Gavin Ward was unimpressed with the claims.

Nonetheless, it looked like Wycombe would hold out for their first ever Championship point. Instead, they were left heartbroken in the 91st minute. Substitute Mario Vrančić curled in a free kick for the hosts to score a late winner for the second game running.

There was still time for a red card as well – Adam Idah was dismissed for the hosts five minutes into added time after he lashed out at Wycombe defender Joe Jacobson.

Wycombe remain 23rd, still four points clear of bottom placed Sheffield Wednesday who crashed to another home defeat, this time at the hands of Luton Town.

The visitors missed some guilt edge chances in the first-half as Danny Hylton had an effort cleared off the line by Aiden Flint then Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu missed a one on one, slotting his effort wide.

With 20 minutes left to go, Wednesday were reduced to ten men as Joost van Aken was dismissed for an ugly challenge on Mpanzu. The Luton man then went on to rub slat in the wounds of Wednesday as he scored the winner three minutes later.

He controlled the ball on his chest, produced a burst of acceleration to get past Barry Bannan then fired low with his left foot into the bottom corner of Cameron Dawson’s goal.

Luton rise to ninth following the win, after losing their previous two. One place below them are free-scoring Blackburn Rovers, who scored another four this weekend.

Rovers Running Riot

Rovers travelled to Coventry City but nearly found themselves a goal down 12 minutes in, as Matty Godden crashed a shot off Thomas Kaminski’s post. 90 seconds later, the hosts found themselves down to ten men and about to face a penalty kick.

Ben Brereton was in on goal but was pushed in the back by Michael Rose, who found himself dismissed by Darren England, who deemed him to be the last man.

Adam Armstrong dispatched the penalty for his sixth goal of the season. Just after half-time, he scored his seventh of the season to move level with Ivan Toney at the top of the scoring charts.

Brereton slipped through the Newcastle academy graduate and he struck his shot with power. Sky Blues keeper Marko Maroši got something on the ball but it had so much power on, he only managed the push the ball onto the under side of the bar before it found the back of the net.

The match was put beyond all doubt with 62 minutes on the clock. Brereton was involved again – his cross found Liverpool loanee Harvey Elliott and the 17-year-old scored his first ever senior goal.

Rovers added a fourth two minutes from time – Elliott turned provider this time as his pullback was finished off by Sam Gallagher, although Maroši will be disappointed he did not save it.

Coventry crash to 20th and are now winless in five league games. Blackburn are now above Brentford on goal difference after The Bees lost 3-2 away at Stoke City.

Potters edge Bees

The hosts took the lead after just nine minutes. After a surging run forward by James McClean, he fed Tyrese Campbell and his cross was headed in by an un-marked Steven Fletcher at the back post.

With 35 minutes on the clock, The Potters had doubled their lead. Campbell was involved again as he laid the ball off for McClean and his cross took a deflection off Charlie Goode to completely wrong foot David Raya.

Just before the hour mark, it looked like it was game, set and match to the hosts as Campbell turned scorer, curling a low shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the penalty area.

However, ten minutes later, Brentford gave themselves a glimmer of hope as Ivan Toney slipped in Marcus Forss and the Finnish striker scored his second of the season.

He added his third in stoppage time, capitalising on Josh Tymon’s under hit back pass and rounding Adam Davies before finishing from a tight angle but the goal proved to be too little, too late.

North End heading for the pointy end

One place below Brentford are Preston North End, who have now won back-to-back games. They had to come from behind against Huddersfield, after Fraizer Campbell reached Lewis O’Brien’s through ball and slotted past Declan Rudd.

However, a two-minute second half brace from Alan Browne meant Preston left with the points. His first goal was a curling effort which found the far corner, despite Ben Hamer in the Huddersfield goal getting a hand to it.

The second was due to a goalkeeper error, as Hamer came for a cross but dropped the ball and Browne hooked the ball into the net. 12 minutes from time, Huddersfield went down to ten men as Nabby Sarr hauled down Emil Riis Jakobsen. It looked like the Norwegian striker was through on goal and there was only one outcome.

Huddersfield have slipped to 14th, but Preston are now 12th. The team in between these two sides is Middlesbrough, who dropped two places in the league table after a draw at manager Neil Warnock’s old club, Cardiff City.

It looked like Warnock’s current side would make his return to the Welsh capital a happy one, as George Saville flicked in Marcus Tavernier’s corner for his second goal in two games.

Instead, with 20 minutes left, Cardiff responded with a corner of their own; Harry Wilson’s delivery was met at the back post by Kieffer Moore and his header into the goalmouth was diverted in by Liverpool loanee Sheyi Ojo.

Despite the protests from Boro players, the goal stood. Neil Harris’ men now sit 15th on nine points, two points and one place above QPR.

They hosted Birmingham City in what turned out to be a game low on quality and both sides are now winless since the opening day. QPR’s only shot on target nearly resulted in a goal but Harlee Dean cleared Bright Osayi-Samuel’s effort off the line.

Birmingham’s best chance came late on, as an Ivan Šunjić shot from 20 yards out was well saved by Seny Dieng. Birmingham sit one place below The R’s but have only scored three goals so far this season – with none coming from open play.

championship round-up: matchday 6 – 2020/21

Matchday 6 in the Championship was the first round of midweek fixtures, with seven games taking place on Tuesday and five games on Wednesday.

Top v Bottom

Both of the top two played on Tuesday night, but only one of the two are still unbeaten in the league so far. That team is Reading, who just about edged past pointless Wycombe.

This was thanks to Lucas João’s superb second-half strike, which was Reading’s only shot on target all game. He took down Liam Moore’s long ball, out-muscled Anthony Stewart and shot low under Ryan Allsop to ensure the three points stayed in Berkshire.

The closest Wycombe came to equalising was courtesy of Fred Onyedinma, who saw a well struck effort palmed away by Rafael Cabral. Wycombe are still to win a game this season and face Norwich City at the weekend.

Reading, however, moved three points clear of Bristol City who lost at home to Middlesbrough at Ashton Gate by a single goal.

Unbeatable Boro

The goal was the only shot on target and it came with 73 minutes on the clock. Taylor Moore tried to take the ball past George Saville but the ex-Millwall man tackled well and then calmly slotted the ball past Daniel Bentley to push Boro up to 11th place.

Neil Warnock’s men have not lost since the opening day. They have leap-frogged Luton, who have dropped down six places after they suffered a disappointing 2-0 away defeat to Millwall.

In a first half the hosts dominated, they took the lead in added time. Connor Mahoney’s deep corner was met by Matt Smith, but the final touch came from Luton’s Martin Cranie.

Jed Wallace had a great chance to double the lead early on in the second half, but his toe-poked effort did not trouble Simon Sluga in The Hatters goal.

The points were made safe 11 minutes from time. Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu was dispossessed by Ryan Leonard, who then slid Connor Mahoney in on the left wing.

His effort went in off the post to ensure Millwall rose into the play-off places. The Lions are now level on points with Swansea City, who drew 1-1 away at Coventry City.

Mid-table clashes

The hosts took the lead 19 minutes in, courtesy of Jordan Shipley’s beautiful strike from the edge of the box, after Matt Godden had cut the ball back to him. Swansea equalised before the end of the first half, as a quick counterattack was finished by André Ayew.

Hot on Swansea’s and Millwall’s heals are newly relegated Norwich City, who beat Birmingham City at Carrow Road. The Canaries thought they had taken the lead during the second half, but Todd Cantwell had his effort chalked off for offside.

Despite their dominance, the game was still goalless with four minutes left. But then, Adam Clayton was sent off for the visitors for a second bookable offence after he chopped down Cantwell.

It only took Norwich one minute to make the most of their man advantage. The ball was worked to Mario Vrančić, who shot low into the bottom corner past Neil Etheridge in the Birmingham goal.

The visitors slow start to the season continued – they are 18th and winless since the opening day. One place above Birmingham is Rotherham, who drew away at Nottingham Forest, in Chris Houghton’s first home game.

Deforested

The visitors took the lead six minutes into the second half from the penalty spot. Cyrus Christie was judged to have tripped Billy Jones and penalty was dispatched emphatically by ex-Newcastle midfielder Daniel Barlaser, who sent Brice Samba the wrong way.

Ryan Yates nearly equalised but he hit the crossbar, but Houghton remained unbeaten in his two games as Forest manager, as Sammy Ameobi equalised after a neat flick by Joe Lolley and a pullback by Sammy Ameobi.

Forest are 20th, two places above their East Midlands rivals Derby County.

The Rams lost back-to-back games for the second time this season and dropped into the bottom three, after losing to an improving and impressive Huddersfield Town.

A neat Town move was finished by Curaçao international Juninho Bacuna. Huddersfield are 9th and face Preston on Saturday; Derby travel to Forest on what could be a pivotal game for both sides just seven games into the season.

On Wednesday night, Bournemouth made the 238-mile round trip to the capital of Wales, to face Neil Harris’ Cardiff City. The visitors took the lead ten minutes before the interval, as Dominic Solanke scored his second goal of the season.

But this was cancelled out by ex-Bournemouth loanee Harry Wilson, who equalised on his Cardiff debut after signing for The Bluebirds on a temporary basis.

The point meant Cardiff rose to 13th,but Bournemouth dropped one place to 4th. They were replaced by Watford in 3rd place, who won at home against the league’s top scorers, Blackburn Rovers.

Hornets wit the Points

Two goals in four minutes put Watford in a commanding position just 17 minutes in. Firstly, Brazilian João Pedro converted a cross from the right wing to score in back-to-back games.

Then skipper Tom Cleverly headed into an open net after Thomas Kaminski was only able to parry Ismaïla Sarr’s volley into the ex-Manchester United’s midfielder’s path.

Blackburn scored their 12th league goal of the season ten minutes later to give themselves a lifeline as Ben Brereton produced an impressive piece of control and then volleyed into the net from 25 yards.

Watford goalkeeper Ben Forster will be fuming he was unable to keep out the strike after he got a hand to it. But the two-goal cushion was reinstated for Watford four minutes into the second half.

Ken Sema whipped in a dangerous cross into the near post and under pressure from Sarr, Darragh Lenihan diverted the ball into the roof of his own net.

Blackburn had a chance to pull a goal back with just over 20 minutes to go as Lewis Holtby took a tumble after minimal contact from Craig Cathcart, but referee Andy Woolmer awarded a spot kick.

But Forster more than redeemed himself for the goal, as he kept out the penalty from Adam Armstrong. He also made several other good sides on the night as Blackburn fell to 14th.

North End on fire down south

Preston North End, sit one place below their Lancashire rivals after they won away at QPR. Two penalties done the job for The Lillywhites – the first one was dispatched by Daniel Johnson on his first league start of the season after Lee Wallace fouled Scott Sinclair.

Wallace was also guilty of giving away the second penalty, fouling summer signing Emil Riis Jakobsen; this time Sinclair took the spot kick duties and sent Seny Dieng the wrong way.

QPR hit the post in added time courtesy of Albert Adomah but The R’s fall to 16th. Their West London rivals, Brentford, continue to rise up the table, despite the departure of Saïd Benrahma on Deadline Day.

Owls stung by the Bees

Record signing Ivan Toney gave them the lead away at Sheffield Wednesday. He tapped home after Henrik Dalsgaard powerful strike was only pushed back into danger by Wednesday keeper Cameron Dawson.

Wednesday then equalised with 25 minutes on the clock. Two ex-Cardiff City players combined, as Kadeem Harris crossed for Callum Patterson to score his first goal for the club, out-strengthening Pontus Jansson and heading into the corner from about eight yards out.

The winner came just five minutes later for Brentford. Toney, who could end up costing The Bees £10 million, headed in Vitaly Janelt’s corner at the near post. Toney had chances to score a hat-trick, but Brentford saw the game out comfortably to rise to seventh place.

Wednesday remain bottom and still four points off Wycombe in 23rd and seven points off Barnsley, who rose to 21st on Wednesday evening, after an entertaining 2-2 draw with Stoke City.

Lower table matches

Despite being manager less and winless, Barnsley led with 18 minutes gone. Cauley Woodrow ran down the right and cut the ball back for Elliot Simões. The Angolan international scored his first goal of the season and only Barnsley’s fourth in the league.

The Tykes thought they would see the lead through until half-time, but Tyrese Campbell had other ideas – he got on the end of Harry Souttar’s defence-splitting pass and slotted past Jack Walton.

In added time, Barnsley restored their lead. Alex Mowatt clipped in a delightful cross and it was met by the outstretched boot of Dominik Frieser, who scored his first goal in English football.

Barnsley’s lead lasted just three minutes into the second half, thanks in part to a goalkeeper error. Jack Walton was under no pressure but dropped Nathan Thompson’s cross and the ball landed perfectly at the feet of Tommy Smith, who kept his effort low to level the encounter for the second time.

Stoke were reduced to ten men with half an hour left. An off the ball incident left Frieser on the floor and the linesman told the referee what he saw. Nathan Collins was sent off for allegedly raising his arm, but the decision was later rescinded.

John Obi Mikel was arguably lucky not to receive any action after he pushed the referee’s arm, but he was let off the hook by Michael Salisbury. The point means Stoke rise to 10th, and they are unbeaten in four.

Championship review: matchday 5 – 2020/21 season

Hornets sink Rams

After the first international break of the season, the Championship returned on Friday night as Watford made the trip to the East Midlands to face Derby County.

Manager Phillip Cocu was under pressure, with some rumours suggesting that if the Dutchman could not turn around Derby’s poor early season form, he would be axed.

If that were to happen, current captain and coach Wayne Rooney could be thrust into the Pride Park hotseat. The game itself was a scrappy encounter, decided by a moment of real quality by João Pedro.

The young Brazilian collected the ball on the edge of the box, created half a yard of space and curled his shot past David Marshall. Watford have only conceded once in five league games and currently sit in fifth place, while Derby’s poor start continued – they are in 21st.

Unreliant Robins

On Saturday, Bristol City took their 100% record to Barnsley, who had Adam Murray in interim charge. This is following Gehard Struber’s departure to the New York Red Bulls.

It was the perfect start for Murray though, as summer signing Michal Helik scored his first goal in English football just two minutes into the match.

UNRELIANT ROBINS: Bristol City’s perfect run was ended on Saturday

Barnsley saw the lead through until half-time. The second half was a different story, though, as Bristol City turned the game on its head within six minutes of the restart.

Firstly, Jack Hunt scored his first goal in 18 months to level the game, courtesy of a deflection. Then, Tyreeq Bakinson took aim four minutes later and saw his shot take a wicked deflection to completely wrong foot Tykes goalkeeper Jack Walton.

City tried to see out the game but in added time, Callum O’Dowda took out Michael Sollbauer for a penalty. The Austrian defender received lengthy treatment on the pitch and was eventually stretchered off.

With 102 minutes on the clock, Cauley Woodrow stepped up to take the spot kick and celebrated signing a new contract in the week in style. He sent Max O’Leary the wrong way and ended Bristol City’s 100% record this season.

Barnsley are in the bottom three and still winless after three games, but Bristol City are top due to goals scored.

Royals’ costly draw

Hot on The Robins heals are Reading, however, they also saw their 100% record end, after a draw away at Middlesbrough.

BORE DRAW: Neither side had much to write home about after leaving Teeside

The home side came the closest to scoring in what was a poor game, with Liam Moore clearing Johnny Howson’s fierce effort off the line. Howson also had a goal chalked off for offside.

The closest Reading came was through Ovie Ejaria’s long range effort which sailed just wide of the post. Reading stay second, while Boro drop to 15th and have only won once at home since Boxing Day.

Cherries fail to pick the R’s’ pockets

Third-placed Bournemouth missed the chance to close the gap to the top two as they drew 0-0 with QPR. The R’s were the better side throughout the game, with Asmir Begović making good saves to deny Bright Osayi-Samuel and Macauley Bonne.

Bournemouth did not register a shot on target all game but stay in third place. QPR are in 14th.

13th placed Huddersfield caused the shock of the weekend, as they inflicted a first league defeat of the season on Swansea. Despite selling last season’s top goal scorer Karlan Ahearne-Grant on Deadline Day, The Terriers took the lead.

On 23 minutes, Harry Toffolo deflected in Juninho Bacuna’s shot from a short corner. Swansea deservedly equalised 10 minutes later from the penalty spot.

Korey Smith beat Huddersfield goalkeeper Ben Hamer to the ball and despite sending his attempt way over the bar, referee Tony Harrington awarded a penalty.

It was dispatched by André Ayew, who sent Hamer the wrong way. But Carlos Corberán’s men headed back across the border with all three points.

Josh Koroma, who’s last goal came for Leyton Orient in the National League, shot low from the edge of the box, and beat Freddie Woodman in the Swansea goal.

City Slickers

Elsewhere, it was an unhappy reunion for Nathan Jones as his old side, Stoke City, beat his current side, Luton Town. After a non-eventful first half, Steven Fletcher headed in Tyrese Campbell’s cross at the back post just one minute into the second half.

Campbell also claimed the assist for the second goal ten minutes later; his back heal resulted in the Luton defence failing to clear the ball and Nick Powell volleyed home through a crowd of players to lift Stoke to 8th place. Despite a second defeat of the season, Luton stay 6th.

Lions’ Roaring Comeback

The team in between these two sides is now Millwall, who climbed the table after a 2-1 win away at Wycombe. The Lions did go behind though, as Wycombe scored their first ever Championship goal.

Bartosz Białkowski dawdled on the ball and he was punished by Scott Kashket. Matt Smith hit the bar for Millwall in the first half, but he was central to Millwall’s equaliser early on in the second half.

It looked like he would head in Mahlon Romeo’s cross, but he was bundled over by Jack Grimmer for a penalty kick. Jed Wallace dispatched, and The Lions were level.

Wycombe had a goal disallowed after Joe Jacobson’s corner floated straight in, but it was disallowed after Kashket’s slight pull on Białkowski. Millwall then went on to punish The Chairboys as Ryan Leonard volleyed home a loose ball on the edge of the box to give Millwall the three points.

Wycombe are still pointless and now they are only four points clear of Sheffield Wednesday, who won away at manager Gary Monk’s old club, Birmingham City.

Wednesday hit the bar in the first half from Josh Windass’ free-kick. The winning goal came from the penalty spot. Callum Patterson beat Adam Clayton to the ball, and it looked like minimal contact was made but a penalty was awarded by referee Graham Scott.

It was dispatched by skipper Barry Bannan, despite City keeper Neil Etheridge guessing the right way. Birmingham are now 16th, one place above Rotherham, who suffered a last-minute defeat to Norwich.

Millers Come Crashing Down

Despite manager Paul Warne in self-isolation following a family member testing positive for Covid-19, it began so well for The Millers. The home side took the lead after just three minutes against Norwich, courtesy of Freddie Ladapo.

The same man had a chance to give Rotherham a two-goal lead on 21 minutes after Clark Robertson was tripped by Adam Idah, but Tim Krul guessed correctly and pushed away the penalty.

It took Norwich 68 minutes to equalise. Max Aarons ran down the right wing and crossed in the box. Michael Ihiekwe attempted to hook the ball away but under pressure from Jordan Hugill, he only succeeded in putting the ball into his own net.

Things went from bad to worse three minutes later as Angus MacDonald was dismissed for an ugly two-footed lounge on Oliver Skipp. Rotherham’s misery was compiled when in the 94th minute when Rotherham debutant Florian Jozefzoon tripped Emi Buendía.

The responsibility was given to Jordan Hugill and he rolled the ball home from 12 yards, sending Jamal Blackman the wrong way, to leave Norwich 11th. One place above The Canaries is Brentford, who comfortably beat Coventry City 2-0.

The Bees are Buzzing up the table

Ivan Toney scored a brace for The Bees in the second half. The former Peterborough striker put the Bees ahead in the first minute of the second half, diverting Bryan Mbeumo’s cross-come-shot past Marko Maroši from just inside the six-yard box.

Toney then doubled the lead nine minutes later when he headed in Emiliano Marcondes’ cross from the left at the back post. Coventry are now 19th, one place above Nottingham Forest, who recorded their first win of the season in Chris Houghton’s first game in charge.

They beat Blackburn Rovers 1-0 at Ewood Park, courtesy of Joe Lolley’s injury time strike, which took a deflection en route off Bradley Johnson.

The final game of the weekend took place on Sunday, at Deepdale, as Neil Harris took his Cardiff side to face Alex Neil’s Preston North End. It was decided by just a single goal.

Liverpool loanee Sheyi Ojo was fed the ball by Kieffer Moore and he rifled a shot beyond Declan Rudd at his near post. Cardiff are now sitting comfortably in 12th place, while Preston slump down to 18th, as the league table begins to take shape.