In the first of a regular segment here on Blue View, our EFL expert, Isaac Johnson, provides an insight into the weekly goings on in England’s second, third and fourth tiers.
Isaac has been attending games at all levels of the EFL for years, and is currently a season ticket holder at his local Championship side Nottingham Forest, as well as an Audio Description commentator at League Two club Mansfield Town.
We start as the football season makes its way into month two, and that famous phrase ‘six-pointer’ is already being brandished about…
As we entered gameweek six of the new EFL season, all eyes were on Elland Road as two of the SkyBet Championship’s most experienced and respected managers set out to do battle.
Marcelo Bielsa vs Tony Pulis, West Yorkshire vs North Yorkshire, the league’s best attack vs the best defence, first vs second.
This one had all the makings of a mouth-watering clash between two of the pre-season favourites for promotion, whose bids for a successful campaign had only been helped by their respective starts, with both recording an impressive four wins and one draw from their opening five games.
But despite all the anticipation that had been fuelled during the week’s build up, this one failed to live up to the hype; Bielsa’s side were far from their free-flowing, eye-catching best, largely thanks to a disciplined and dogged defensive display from Pulis’ troops – in truth, it was a typical Tony Pulis performance, although far from the worst goalless affair you’ll see.
The result ensured the Yorkshire pair would remain in the top two heading into the first international break of the season, and with the action that followed on this SkyBet Championship weekend, also saw them left as the only two unbeaten sides.
Joining them on that impressive statistic of zero defeats heading into the weekend were Aston Villa, Nottingham Forest and Blackburn, but it was a far from happy time for these three former Premier League sides.
Villa were left with egg on their face after Steve Bruce’s side were left four goals down away at Sheffield United less than five minutes into the second half, before Anwar El Ghazi scored the first goal of his loan spell from French club Lille to see the game end 4-1.
The result sees Chris Wilder’s Blades sit third having won their last four, which equals their 12-point haul from their opening six last season.
Aitor Karanka’s Forest went down 2-1 at Brentford courtesy of Ollie Watkins’ 85thminute winner – a result which sees the Bees move up into the playoffs, and they’re joined by Bristol City who swept Blackburn aside 4-1 on Sunday afternoon to record their third straight victory.
Derby complete the top six thanks to Florian Jozefzoon’s last-gasp winner at Hull, which also made it three league wins in a row for new manager Frank Lampard, and sees them heap misery on the Tigers for the second time this week, having dumped Nigel Adkins’ men out of the Carabao Cup on Tuesday to set up a third round Old Trafford date with Manchester United.
Swansea miss out on the top six on goal difference, despite completing a turnaround at Millwall thanks to goals from Kyle Naughton and Oli McBurnie, despite playing with ten men for all of 85 minutes.
Elsewhere, Sheffield Wednesday continued their revival with a 2-1 win at struggling Reading, who as a result remain winless alongside Ipswich – who could only draw 1-1 against Norwich in Sunday’s East Anglian Derby – and Birmingham, who fired a blank in a 0-0 draw with Queens Park Rangers at St Andrew’s.
Gary Rowett’s Stoke beat Premier League Huddersfield in midweek but were brought back down to Earth as they lost 2-1 to West Bromwich Albion, Preston let a two-goal lead slip at home to draw 2-2 in a Lancashire derby with Bolton, and Wigan complete the roundup with a 1-0 win at the DW against Rotherham, who are yet to pick up a point on their travels in 2018-19.
Peterborough dropped points for the first time this season after manager Steve Evans was sent to the stands during his side’s 1-1 home draw with Doncaster in a game which saw former manager Grant McCann return to London Road with the away team.
Posh remain top of League One, but now on goal difference, and Rovers sit just outside of the top six despite this marking their fourth game without a win.
Portsmouth drew level on points at the summit with a comprehensive 3-0 win over basement club Plymouth in the Dockyard Derby, and the three sides directly below Pompey in Barnsley, Sunderland and Walsall all remain unbeaten with a 2-1 win over Gillingham, a battling 1-1 draw against Oxford and a goalless stalemate versus Blackpool respectively.
Fleetwood are the only team in the top six to have tasted defeat, but it was a successful weekend for new manager Joey Barton who saw his side win at Highbury for the first time with a 2-1 victory over Bradford, despite Wes Burns’ first-half dismissal.
At the bottom, Shrewsbury remain the only club alongside Plymouth yet to win after they could only muster a 1-1 home draw against ten-man Bristol Rovers, who join them in the bottom four with Oxford.
Accrington continue to adjust to life back in the third tier well, having made it five games unbeaten with a draw at home to Scunthorpe that finished one-apiece, whilst Burton also received a boost to their League One return as a 3-0 home win against AFC Wimbledon lifted them out of the bottom four.
Elsewhere, Charlton propelled themselves into the top half with a 2-1 victory at Southend in a game that saw three red cards, Rochdale put a stop to their four game winless streak by winning 1-0 at Coventry, and there was a share of the spoils in the battle of the newly promoted sides as Wycombe played host to Luton in a 1-1 draw.
Lincoln extended their lead at the top of League Two with a very impressive 3-0 win at Exeter, which saw their opponents drop six places to ninth.
The Imps nearest challengers heading into the weekend were MK Dons, but Paul Tisdale’s unbeaten new side slipped a place to third after a 94thminute equaliser for Swindon saw them draw 1-1 at the County Ground.
Leapfrogging the Dons into second are one of the early season surprise packages, Newport, who made it three wins in a row whilst also inflicting a third straight defeat on Port Vale with a 2-1 success away from home.
Mansfield and Forest Green continue their unbeaten starts and ended a run of four consecutive draws with a 1-0 win at home to Carlisle and 3-1 win at Notts County respectively, as Harry Kewell’s new team remain firmly rooted to the bottom of the Football League after a fifth straight loss.
The Australian’s former club Crawley endured a tough start to life without him after going down 2-1 at Oldham courtesy of an 89thminute winner that lifts the Latics into the playoffs, where they’re joined by Forest Green as well as Colchester – who won 3-1 at Cheltenham – and Yeovil, who snatched a 1-0 win away to Grimsby.
At the other end of the table, Macclesfield stay in the bottom two after losing 3-0 in the Cheshire Derby at Crewe, who score their first league goals since a 6-0 opening day rout over Morecambe. The Shrimps also continue to struggle with a 3-2 loss at Bury.
And finally, completing this week’s EFL roundup are Cambridge – who eased any early season nerves with a 1-0 win away to Stevenage – and Tranmere, who continued their steady start back in the Football League with a 1-1 draw at Northampton.