After an enthralling midweek schedule of Carabao Cup action, it was back to league action as the EFL closed out September with a bang.
The big winners in Round 3 of England’s 58-year-old domestic cup were Derby County, who stunned the country by beating giants Manchester United on penalties at Old Trafford to heap more misery on Frank Lampard’s former mentor, Jose Mourinho.
It’s been quite a ten days or so for the ex-England midfielder, who celebrated the birth of his daughter with an impressive home win over Brentford that was followed by that famous trip to the North West, but could they back it up at the University of Bolton Stadium?
The focus is on the Rams as we take a look at the latest round of EFL fixtures.
It was an emotional afternoon in the SkyBet Championship as Derby were brought back down to Earth by a resolute Bolton Wanderers side in a tight game.
In attendance at the University of Bolton Stadium was former right-back Stephen Darby, who announced his retirement from football less than two weeks ago after being diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease.
Saturday’s match-up against the East Midlands outfit marked the club’s first home game since their defender’s devastating news was made public, and the 29-year-old was paid tribute to as the Bolton XI took to the pitch pre-match in shirts bearing their former teammate’s name and number.
And the start which followed shortly after was only fitting.
In the tenth minute, winger Will Buckley twisted Fikayo Tomori inside and out before floating a left-foot cross towards the back post.
Arriving late was Craig Noone, who connected with the ball on the corner of the six-yard box and headed it back to whence it came – across the helpless pair of Scott Carson and Jayden Bogle – and into the net.
The former Cardiff man sprinted towards Darby, sat in the stands, and the pair celebrated with a warm embrace in a picture that painted a thousand words – a moment and memory that will last a lifetime.
And after that, Bolton as a unit were emotionally-charged and fully determined to put an end to their five-game winless streak.
Phil Parkinson’s side put in arguably their best defensive display of the campaign, restricting their visitors – who had over 73% of the possession – to just one shot on target all game; an on-the-stretch volley from Mason Mount in the closing stages, well saved by goalkeeper Remi Matthews.
The result sees Bolton sit 14th, a point behind their opposition, and a healthy nine clear of the drop zone after a positive start to their second season back in the Championship.
There’s food for thought for the Rams however, as Lampard’s side drop out of the play-offs after yet another loss away to one of the pre-season relegation candidates – the other defeats coming at Millwall in August and Rotherham two weeks ago.
Norwich were the main benefactors as the Canaries claimed their fourth successive win. Mario Vrancic scored the only goal of the game with a late penalty at home to Wigan, lifting his side six places into fifth.
There was also a welcome return to the playoffs for Brentford, who move into sixth place on goal difference after a topsy-turvy game against Reading at Griffin Park.
The league’s top scorer, Neal Maupay, put the Bees ahead with his ninth goal of the campaign, before Reading responded, first through Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and then John Swift, who put the Royals ahead in the second half.
Brentford’s cause worsened late on as Said Benrahma was sent off for two yellows, but rising highest in the second minute of stoppage time was Yoann Barbet, who headed in a floated Chris Mepham cross.
Swansea join Dean Smith’s team on 16 points and sit seventh after a comprehensive 3-0 home win over Queens Park Rangers, whilst Wigan and Derby are also level on points after their away losses.
At the top, Leeds failed to capitalise on a dominant second half display in the Yorkshire derby at Hillsborough on Friday night as they drew 1-1 with Sheffield Wednesday.
It was a tale of two world-class strikes; Adam Reach tremendously volleyed the hosts ahead late in the first half with an outrageous effort, but that was cancelled out by Mateusz Klich’s inch-perfect curler less than ten minutes into the second.
That result meant Middlesbrough could go top on Saturday afternoon, but Tony Pulis’ men missed the chance after letting the lead slip at Hull in a 1-1 draw.
Taking full advantage were West Bromwich Albion however, as Darren Moore’s side beat basement club Preston in a game which saw all five goals scored in the second half at Deepdale.
The Baggies now lead by a solitary point at the top, with Leeds, Middlesbrough and Sheffield United all behind them on 19, after the Blades made it back-to-back wins at The Den.
Billy Sharp saw a late first-half penalty saved before he headed his team in front minutes later, but two quick-fire goals after the interval saw Millwall ahead.
Chris Wilder’s side were given a second chance from the spot with just over ten minutes to play, and David McGoldrick took the responsibility from Sharp to fire United level before scoring again two minutes from the end to secure all three points.
It’s now three defeats in a row for 23rd place Millwall, and joining them in the relegation zone with Preston are Ipswich, who threw a two-goal lead away at Birmingham to draw and remain the only winless side in the division.
Elsewhere, Rotherham also blew a two-goal advantage to draw at home to Stoke, Blackburn made it 25 league matches unbeaten at Ewood Park after an eventful 2-2 draw with Nottingham Forest, and Bristol City shared the spoils with Aston Villa at Ashton Gate on Friday in a match that finished one apiece.
The lead at the top of League One changed hands yet again after another high-scoring afternoon in England’s third tier.
Peterborough went into the weekend ahead of the chasing pack, but Steve Evans’ side twice let a lead slip against Blackpool to draw 2-2 at London Road.
It was a good day for the Tangerines, who were also handed a glamour tie away to Arsenal in Saturday night’s Carabao Cup fourth round draw, just hours after making it eight league games unbeaten with their point on the road.
And capitalising on Blackpool’s perseverance were Portsmouth, who returned to the summit with a come-from-behind victory in the North West against Rochdale.
38-year-old striker Aaron Wilbraham had put Dale ahead with a stunning volley inside four minutes, but it was a lead they couldn’t sustain as Pompey drew level through Jamal Lowe midway through the first half.
Kenny Jackett’s side then took control in the second period and won the contest through Brett Pitman and Matt Clarke goals, meaning they remain unbeaten in the league after ten games.
Closing the gap on the automatic promotion places are Doncaster, who continued their upwards surge with a fourth straight win at Plymouth.
Striker John Marquis scored a brace on his 100th league appearance to become 2018/19’s top scorer in League One with eight goals, and in the process helped his side to a 3-2 victory which condemns Plymouth to a third straight loss, leaving the Green Army winless and rooted to the bottom.
Rovers move above Sunderland who drew 1-1 in the early kick-off at Coventry, and joining them in the playoffs are Barnsley – who won 3-1 at Fleetwood – and Charlton, who took until the 95th minute to snatch a 2-2 draw from Luton courtesy of Chris Solly’s first goal in over six years.
The bottom four is as you were, with Oxford, Bradford and Gillingham accompanying Plymouth in the relegation zone after all three failed to register wins in big six-pointers.
Karl Robinson’s Yellows lost 2-1 at AFC Wimbledon, the Bantams put an end to their five-game losing streak by drawing a blank at home to Bristol Rovers, and a late goal apiece saw Shrewsbury and Gillingham earn a point each in a well-contested game.
Meanwhile, Southend survived a late comeback to win 3-2 at Wycombe, Accrington extended their unbeaten run to nine matches with a 1-0 win at fellow top six challengers Walsall, and Burton – now the lowest ranked side left in the Carabao Cup – drew with Scunthorpe in a goalless stalemate at the Pirelli Stadium.
Yeovil moved back into the playoffs in midweek with a late draw at home to MK Dons, but lost ground on their rivals after losing 3-1 away to Crawley on Saturday.
Carl Dickinson equalised minutes before half-time for the Glovers after Crawley scored halfway through the first period, but strikes from Ashley Nathaniel-George and Filipe Morais after the interval made it three wins from four for the hosts.
It’s now three games without a win for Yeovil since they hit Newport for six, and their Welsh opposition that day have certainly responded well in the two weeks since that infamous game.
County won at Tranmere last weekend before thumping Chelsea’s youth side in the Checkatrade Trophy on Tuesday, and they made it three successive wins in all competitions at home to Cambridge on Saturday.
Mike Flynn had found his side two goals down with just a quarter of the game gone at Rodney Parade, but a Mickey Demetriou penalty on the stroke of half-time spurred them into life as Padraig Amond and a Jamille Matt brace rounded off an impressive 4-2 win for the early season’s surprise package.
It wasn’t enough to close the gap on leaders Lincoln however, as the Imps secured a routine 2-0 win at Cheltenham to make it a third victory on the spin.
Exeter complete the top three, but they lose ground as substitute Idris Kanu scored a dramatic equaliser seven minutes into stoppage time for Port Vale in a 1-1 draw.
But despite that disappointment, there was good news below the Grecians as all four sides sitting in the playoffs prior to the weekend failed to pick up wins.
As well as Yeovil’s loss in West Sussex, Colchester lost 2-1 at home to Bury, Oldham drew 0-0 at Swindon and Carlisle lost at home to Stevenage, with Ben Kennedy scoring the only goal to lift his side into fourth.
Forest Green moved back into the top seven and maintained their unbeaten start to the season with a 1-1 draw at Macclesfield, whilst the Silkmen remain winless and bottom of the EFL despite a big improvement on their 8-0 loss at West Ham on Wednesday.
Joining them in the relegation places are Grimsby, whose dire run continues with a 2-1 home loss against Morecambe, marking their sixth-straight league defeat in a result that lifts their visitors away from the drop zone.
And there was finally some good news for Notts County, as Harry Kewell’s side earned their first three points of the season to move out of the bottom two with a 2-1 home success against Crewe.
After leapfrogging Grimsby, Northampton will be next in the Magpies’ sights after the Cobblers were thrashed 4-0 at Mansfield, largely thanks to a stellar showing from star striker Danny Rose who had failed to force a summer move through to League One side Peterborough.
And finally, rounding off this weekend’s EFL action are both MK Dons and Tranmere who played out a 1-1 draw to stay mid-table, but only one and two points off the playoffs respectively.