In order to celebrate one of the most competitive and unpredictable domestic leagues in world football, Soccity has decided to begin a weekly round-up of the EFL Championship.
Whether it’s a humiliating defeat away at Hull (we’re looking at you Birmingham City), last minute heartbreak, or a satisfying home win and clean sheet, we’ll have it covered.
Another weekend of Championship fixtures has come and gone, complete with its share of surprises and thrills. There’s certainly plenty to talk about, so, without further ado, here are the winners, the losers, and five things we’ve learned from this round of Championship matches.
The winners and losers
Aston Villa continued their promotion push with an impressive 2-1 victory against a dangerous Fulham side on Saturday. Veteran skipper John Terry scored his first goal for the club, while Albert Adomah’s 49th minute strike was enough to give the Birmingham side all three points against the West-Londoners, who had equalised through Stefan Johansen on the stroke of half-time.
At the top, Wolves beat Preston 3-2. Sheffield United continued their impressive run with a home win over Reading, and Cardiff bounced back from last week’s defeat at Birmingham to beat Middlesbrough 1-0 at The Riverside.
Derby County continued to pile on the misery for Carlos Carvalho and Sheffield Wednesday by comfortably beating them 2-0 at Pride Park, in a match that saw Glen Loovens sent off in the 4th minute.
Elsewhere, there were wins for Hull City at Barnsley, Nottingham Forest in their Midlands derby against Burton Albion, and Leeds away at Bristol City.
Bolton followed up their first win of the season with a draw against Queens Park Rangers, in a match that they will have been disappointed not to win. Meanwhile, Brentford and Sunderland acted out a thrilling 3-3 draw at Griffin Park.
Saturday’s late kick-off saw an ostensibly rejuvenated Birmingham City side travel to Millwall, only to lose 2-0 at The New Den. In a match of little quality, Millwall ran out deserved winners, bursting the balloon of optimism that had surrounded St Andrew’s for the past week.
The East Anglian derby had not been won by Ipswich since April 2009, and this dire run continued for Mick McCarthy’s side against Norwich City, who ran out 1-0 winners at Portman Road on Sunday. James Maddison continued his recent string of impressive performances with the only goal of the match in the second half. Victory means that Norwich have won four away games in a row for the first time since March 2015.
Five things we’ve learned
What, then, do these results mean in the wider context of the Championship season?
Brentford can’t stop drawing
To say that Brentford’s season so far has been frustrating would be an understatement. The Bees have drawn seven of their thirteen Championship games, and while unbeaten in their last five matches, sit precariously in 18th place.
Getting goals certainly hasn’t been a problem — they’ve scored seventeen, as many as Preston in 8th — but manager Dean Smith will be markedly unimpressed with the eighteen they’ve conceded.
After the 3-3 home draw with Sunderland, Smith stated ‘I was angry at the break and I am still angry now because we gave them three goals. I can’t remember them creating any chances apart from the ones we gave them’.
Brentford managed to come back from 3-1 down at half-time to deny Sunderland their second win of the season, but this will be seen less as a point gained than yet another two points dropped for a side that can’t seem to muster a win.
The unstoppable force beats the immovable object
Wolves and Preston met at Molineux on Saturday knowing that the result was to be anyone’s guess. Wolves, who had scored the most goals in the league before kick-off, would have to breach the defences of a side who were not only on a nine-game unbeaten run, but had conceded the least goals in the Championship thus far.
This all seemed trivial, though, when Leo Bonatini netted in the 63rd minute to make it 3-0 to the home side. Preston did fight back with goals from Conor Coady and the prolific Jordan Hugill, but couldn’t quite save themselves before the final whistle. Unfortunately, Alan Browne’s red card in the 91st minute eventually soured what had been a resilient performance by the Lancashire side.
Wolves have now not lost at home for six successive games.
A 21 year record doesn’t save your poor away form
Birmingham travelled to The New Den on Saturday taking some solace in the knowledge that they had not been beaten by Millwall for twenty-one years, though the fixture has not been a regular event during that time.
This optimism was swiftly dispelled though, by a well-organised Millwall side who could already boast several home scalps this season. A second-half own goal from Maxime Colin was further added to by ex-Manchester United midfielder Ryan Tunnicliffe, proving that even long-standing records don’t stand for a forgone conclusion.
The away defeat was a real kick in the teeth for Steve Cotterill and Birmingham, who had appeared to have turned a corner with their victory against then league leaders Cardiff City last weekend.
Alarmingly for Birmingham fans, the Blues have the worst away record in the league, managing only a point from their seven games on the road so far.
Bristol City can be beaten
The Robins were riding the wave of a twelve match unbeaten streak as they welcomed Leeds United to Ashton Gate.
Thomas Christiansen’s side, on the other hand, had lost three games on the bounce prior to their fixture against City, and were hoping to get back to winning ways in order to maintain their push for promotion.
As it turned out, Leeds were comfortable 3-0 winners. A first half brace saw Samuel Saiz return to form, while Pierre-Michel Lasogga added to his season’s tally with a goal in the second half.
Victory saw Leeds United climb above Bristol City to 4th in the table.
Cardiff still have a winning mentality
Some may have believed that defeat away at Birmingham City last weekend heralded the first signs of a collapse for Cardiff City, but yet again the Bluebirds defied expectations by bouncing back with a 1-0 victory of their own against newly-relegated Middlesbrough.
Joe Ralls’s 84th minute penalty gifted Cardiff the only goal of the game in a tight game at The Riverside stadium.
Manager Neil Warnock, like many Cardiff fans in the away end, was unable to look as Ralls stepped up to take the spot kick. ‘I never look … I just looked at their fans because if they jumped up cheering I know he will have missed it. I just can’t stand looking at penalties’.
What Warnock will be able to stand looking at, however, is the Championship table. Cardiff are sitting pretty in 2nd, just two points behind leaders Wolves.
Next week, we’ll have reaction to all thirteen Championship fixtures, including three derbies happening over the course of the weekend. Sheffield United travel to Elland Road to face Leeds United on Friday night. Saturday sees struggling Sheffield Wednesday play host to Barnsley, followed by this season’s first fiery incarnation of the Second-City Derby between Birmingham City and Aston Villa.