Soccity brings you all the action from a weekend of mouth-watering EFL Championship fixtures, including three scintillating local derbies.
So, like a moody Sam Allardyce in a post-match interview, let’s get straight to the point.
Here are the winners, the losers, and five things we’ve learned this weekend.
The winners and losers
Friday night saw the first of two Yorkshire derbies as Leeds United faced high-flying Sheffield United at Elland Road. A typically dogged performance by Chris Wilder’s Blades was rewarded with an 81st minute winner courtesy of impressive youngster David Brooks, meaning that United returned to the City of Steel as 2-1 victors.
On Saturday lunchtime, Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley played out the second white rose derby at Hillsborough. Both sides were desperately in need of a win to kick-start their seasons, but 1-1 was the final result. Adam Reach gave Wednesday a 1-0 lead at half-time, before Harvey Barnes equalised in the 67th minute.
Brentford shed their run of draws with a 3-2 victory at Deepdale against a Preston side who had been unbeaten in twelve games before defeat to Wolves last weekend. The Bees managed to score 3 goals for a second successive game, which was enough to take the spoils this time around.
Nottingham Forest were also on the winning side of a 3-2 scoreline, away at Hull City. Elsewhere, there were victories for Ipswich Town at Burton Albion, Derby County at Norwich City, Middlesbrough at Reading, and Bristol City at Sunderland. QPR were the only home side in Saturday’s 3 o’clock kick-offs to win, beating title favourites Wolves 2-1.
Cardiff City were unable to capitalise on Wolves’s slip-up at Loftus Road, instead drawing against Millwall 0-0 in Wales. Bolton, meanwhile, extended their unbeaten run to three matches with a draw away at Fulham.
High noon on Sunday heralded the kick-off of the second city derby between Birmingham City and Aston Villa. As predicted, both sides were determined to keep it tight and give nothing away, resulting in a 0-0 draw. Both managers may have felt that their sides could have won the game — Jota was clean through for Birmingham in the second half, but skied his shot over keeper Sam Johnstone’s crossbar, while Aston Villa hit the bar twice in the space of ten minutes.
Five things we’ve learned
Sheffield United have found a diamond in their ranks
David Brooks continues to impress in front of the Bramall Lane faithful.
The 20-year-old welshman scored his first senior goal for United against Leeds on Friday night, and has been rewarded with a new four-year contract. He is also expected to be called up for Wales, where he will join Ben Woodburn, another young player who has impressed in recent weeks.
Boss Chris Wilder had this to say about Brooks: ‘David was due a goal. He’s an outstanding player technically and he caused them (Leeds) different problems with running from deeper. He raised our performance levels on the pitch’.
Grayson is in trouble
It’s nothing short of a surprise that Sunderland manager Simon Grayson has been able to keep his job for this long.
With recent high-profile sackings dotting the daily papers, many football fans, especially those used to sporting red and white on a Saturday, are shocked that Grayson still holds the reins on Tyneside.
Without a win since August (their only win of the season), Grayson’s time at The Stadium of Light might well be coming to an end. At least he’ll be in good company if he does find himself unemployed soon.
Wolves are beatable
They’re human after all.
Despite now losing two of their last five games, Wolves were really looking like they’d found the formula to dominate the league this season. Moreover, in their Carabao Cup meeting midweek, they’d managed to become the only team to stop Manchester City scoring in 90 minutes.
It was all looking up until they were beaten 2-1 at Loftus Road. QPR were winless in seven games until the Wolves came to their door, but the form book went right out of the window as Ian Holloway’s side limited the second highest scorers in the league to just a single goal. Matt Smith clinched victory late on with a typically well-executed headed finish.
Millwall are finding their feet
Last year’s League One Play-Off winners Millwall have flown somewhat under the radar so far this season.
Neil Harris’ side were tipped to struggle, and much of their success in this campaign hinged on whether Steve Morison and Lee Gregory could rekindle their formidable partnership which has seen them score a wealth of goals over the past couple of years.
However, a couple of home scalps — Leeds United 1-0 and Norwich City 4-0 — have shown that Millwall won’t be bullied this season. The four points they’ve gathered from the last two games are impressive ones against difficult opposition in Birmingham and Cardiff City.
Like many teams in this Championship season, it’s not worth writing them off as relegation fodder just yet.
Who knows, with some form, a play-off charge might even be on the cards.
It really is anyone’s guess
And speaking of play-off charges, it’s impossible to tell who’s going to end up there come the end of the season.
Yes, it’s a cliché to say that the Championship is completely unpredictable, but this is certainly true of this year more than most.
Last year, Newcastle were clear favourites for automatic promotion because of the resources at their disposal — no one really ever questioned this, and now they’re in the Premier League.
This year there’s no Newcastle, no obvious team tipped for the top. Middlesbrough were expected to have the firepower to succeed, but they’re currently languishing in 12th place. Last year’s play-off semi-finalists Fulham were expected to kick on, but their inconsistency has dropped them to 13th.
Wolves now look the obvious frontrunners given their spending in the summer, but if this weekend proved anything, it’s that they can be beaten by lower opposition. Sheffield United are playing extremely well, but it would take a lot of confidence to say that this run will continue. The same goes for Cardiff.
A mere thirteen points separates Aston Villa in 6th and Burton Albion in 22nd. This means that with the right form at the right time, anyone could mount a play-off charge.
What an exciting rest-of-the-season we have in store.
Next week we’ll have a round-up of all midweek and weekend fixtures in the Championship, including Wolves’ enticing test away at Fulham, and Saturday lunchtime’s top of the table clash between Bristol City and Cardiff City.
See you then.