This, our latest EFL Championship round-robin review, begins with an apology from its writer.
Like many up and down the country, I’ve been battling the flu for the past couple of weeks, which has left my writing somewhat in the lurch—though the football schedule is never hampered by such trivialities.
Perhaps my affliction, borne with typically British languidness, is auspicious—Storm Emma and the ‘Beast from the East’ are upon us while, in the EFL Championship, the time of trepidation comes for many clubs.
Wolves will be hearing the war drums of the coming onslaught most audibly, having seen their lead whittled away to a mere six points of late.
Judgment, too, comes for those at the bottom, with Sunderland and Birmingham the latest contenders for the club least-likely to be able to handle the pressure.
However, before we get into the nitty-gritty, I will expose a change that will be happening to these round-ups in the future. Usually, the Five things we’ve learned is weekly, but this no longer seems maintainable as the lessons from one game week aren’t large enough in scope to seem important to the season as a whole.
As such, beginning in March, I will consider this quintet of lessons at the end of each month, instead. This will present a greater nexus of information and analysis—more than week-by-week scrutiny can hope to attain.
The scores will be written up and commented upon weekly, as ever.
The winners and losers:
On Friday, February 9, Millwall and Cardiff City played out a 1-1 draw that helped to solidify Millwall’s mid-table aspirations; fans of the Bluebirds, however, will look back with dismay at a game that ended with two points dropped, rather than a point gained.
Saturday, February 10, saw tight battles up and down the table take place, as the EFL Championship’s bloody war of attrition raged ever onwards.
In the two Yorkshire derbies that occurred that day, Barnsley and Sheffield Wednesday drew 1-1, while Sheffield United beat sorry Leeds 2-1.
Elsewhere, there were wins for Middlesbrough against Reading, Hull City away at Nottingham Forest, and Wolves at home to QPR.
Saturday’s remaining fixtures were draws galore: Bolton held Fulham 1-1 at the Reebok, while Brentford and Preston also drew 1-1; Bristol City and Sunderland played out a thrilling 3-3 tie at Ashton Gate, while Derby and Norwich drew 1-1, and Ipswich and Burton enacted a bore 0-0.
The following Sunday brought with it one of the league’s glamour ties. I should stress, though, that such a label has been garnered more by the fixture’s history and geography, than its tendency to produce matches of superior quality.
Birmingham traveled to Villa Park only to be comfortably dispatched 2-0 by the home side. Conor Hourihane’s delightful 25-yard finish followed up Albert Adomah’s well-taken opener to furnish Villa with the spoils in the Second City Derby.
The subsequent Tuesday saw two EFL Championship games take place, both ending 2-0 to their respective home sides. Cardiff beat Bolton Wanderers without too much doubt, while Sheffield Wednesday impressively scalped Derby County.
On Saturday, February 17, yet more misery was to be piled on Birmingham City, as they were beaten 1-0 by visitors Millwall on their return to St Andrews.
The only saving grace for the Blues was that sides in a similar predicament failed to capitalize on their poor performance—Burton could only draw at home against Nottingham Forest, while Bolton and Sunderland both lost to QPR and Brentford, respectively.
Cardiff City kept up their recent run with a win over Middlesbrough, while Fulham defeated a buoyant Villa side 2–0 in a match that might well be repeated in the playoffs later in the year.
In the only other game of the day, Preston silenced Wolves’ hungry goal-getters, drawing 1-1 with them at Deepdale.
The next day saw another Sunday derby. Norwich and Ipswich, fierce East Anglian rivals, both ended the game a point better off than they had been before the whistle, having drawn 1-1. Leeds United then hosted Bristol City, managing to quell their losing spirit to tie the match 2-2.
A packed schedule followed on Tuesday and Wednesday of the subsequent week.
Birmingham, looking to become as blue as possible, were routed at Brentford—the Bees smashed Cotterill’s side 5-0.
Bolton dug deep to achieve victory in their six-pointer against Sunderland, while Burton traveled to Barnsley for their own match of great import, winning 2-1 in the process.
Villa drew 1-1 against Preston, while there were wins for Middlesbrough, Millwall, and Sheffield United.
Nottingham Forest and Reading drew the remaining game 1-1. (Perhaps it’s just me, but thus far, February seems like the month of one-alls!)
The next day, Bristol City and Fulham met at Ashton Gate for what promised to be a close-run affair. The result was, you guessed it, 1-1.
Leeds United were again privy to a 2-2 tie, this time against Derby County at Pride Park, while Norwich managed to hold Wolves to the same score at Molineux. Cardiff City, in Wednesday’s remaining game, beat Ipswich Town 1-0.
The rest of February’s fixtures resulted thusly…
On Friday, February 23, Hull beat Sheffield United 1-0 at the KCOM Stadium to furnish themselves with some degree of comfort by widening the gap between themselves and the relegation zone.
The following day saw wins for Barnsley, Millwall, Leeds, Ipswich, Nottingham Forest, Villa, and Fulham.
Reading and Derby County, and Sunderland and Middlesbrough took part in enticing 3-3 draws, while the game between Norwich and Bolton demonstrated that the universe is indeed a balanced entity, finishing 0-0 at Carrow Road.
Cardiff earned themselves yet another 1-0 win, this time against Bristol City on Sunday.
February’s final matches took place on Tuesday, February 27. Hull and Barnsley drew 1–1 (how many is that now?), while Sheffield United put Friday’s defeat well and truly behind them by beating Reading 3-1 at the Madejski.
With the flu dispelled, Soccity’s EFL Championship round-up will return to its usual, weekly appearance in March—just in time to chase the storm that is heading our way in the remaining weeks of the EFL Championship. Middlesbrough and Leeds kick off the month at the Riverside on Friday, so batten down the hatches!