EFL Weekly – Gameweek Roundup 6-7 October

With the latest international break looming on the horizon, teams across the SkyBet Championship were eager to put on a show to send fans home happy and give themselves momentum heading to the imminent two-week break from action.

As ever, there were plenty of goals, drama and surprises to keep you on your toes, and today, we at Steele Sport take a detailed look into the weekend’s activity and who the big winners were across the second, third and fourth tiers.

Championship

SWAIPS
Trevoh Chalobah’s goal sealed a first league win of the season for Ipswich in the Championship

Rewind to May 7th 2016.

A Cristhian Stuani goal – now a regular sight for fans of Girona FC in La Liga – was enough for Middlesbrough on the final day at home to challengers Brighton & Hove Albion to earn the point necessary for the Boro to return to the pinnacle of English football after a seven year absence.

But the mastermind behind it all? One Aitor Karanka.

Fast forward almost two and a half years, and the Spanish manager was returning to the Riverside with new club Nottingham Forest for only the second time since his sacking the following season.

A lot has changed at Boro since promotion and relegation to and from the Premier League, but as back in 2015-16, the North Yorkshire outfit head into this campaign on the back of playoff disappointment and as one of the heavy favourites to earn promotion back to the top flight under the guidance of the vastly experienced Tony Pulis.

And it’s no secret that Middlesbrough have started well – particularly at home – where they went into Saturday’s meeting with their still much loved former manager’s club having played five, won four, drawn one and conceded no goals at the Riverside in 2018-19.

Forest on the other hand could have been forgiven for being a little pessimistic heading into the fixture, having thrown away a two-goal lead at home to Millwall on Wednesday night and a record of just one win in their last thirteen trips to the Riverside – which ironically, came during Karanka’s tenure in Yorkshire.

The Reds lost the corresponding match-up last season 2-0 when Karanka made his debut return, and it wouldn’t have been a great shock to see the same scoreline again this time around.

For fans who had made the 260-mile round trip from Nottingham, that’s exactly what they did see – but maybe not in favour of the team they had possibly expected.

After a tight first half which saw Boro hit the bar despite an impressive Forest display, it was the visitors who exploded into life less than five minutes into the second courtesy of in-form talisman, Joe Lolley.

The January signing from Huddersfield picked the ball up about midway in the opposition half and drove forward before unleashing a venomous strike from outside the box into the far corner, giving Darren Randolph no chance in the hosts’ goal.

Forest were deservedly ahead, but Lolley wasn’t finished there.

The winger could have had a second with a volley that was smartly saved by the goalkeeper, but after former Reds striker Britt Assombalonga came off the bench to be foiled by Costel Pantilimon, Lolley turned provider.

After his corner was initially cleared, the 26-year-old received the ball straight back after an incisive pass from Ben Watson, and drilled a dangerous cross into the six yard box which was stabbed home – in true poacher’s fashion – by Lewis Grabban, who notched up his fifth goal since joining from Bournemouth in the summer.

Forest had seen a two goal lead slip just three days prior at home to relegation-threatened Millwall, but there was no danger of the same happening today, despite full-back Jack Robinson’s dismissal ten minutes from time for picking up two yellows.

Karanka’s new side professionally saw out the win – their first on the road this season – to lift them into fifth heading into the international break, whereas for his former charges, it was a big chance missed after an interesting result in the early kick-off.

Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds had to settle for a point at home to Brentford, but it could have been much worse for the Whites who had found themselves trailing to a second half penalty from the Championship’s top scorer, Neal Maupay.

The strike was Maupay’s tenth in the league this season, but it was cancelled out by Pontus Jansson’s 88th minute equalising header – earning ten man Leeds a point after Luke Ayling was sent off deep into stoppage time.

That result at Elland Road – combined with Boro’s home defeat – opened the door for in-form Sheffield United, and the Blades took full advantage with victory – albeit unconvincing – at home to struggling Hull.

Chris Wilder’s Blades won a tight Yorkshire derby courtesy of David McGoldrick’s spot-kick twenty minutes from time, in an outcome that secured the Bramall Lane side’s fourth straight win and saw them go top of the table for the first time this season, whilst Hull become the division’s new basement club.

Hot on the Blades’ heels are West Bromwich Albion, who came from behind to eventually comfortably dispatch of Reading 4-1 at the Hawthorns – helped in part by two more Dwight Gayle goals.

Joining Forest in the playoffs after an impressive away victory are Sheffield Wednesday, who recovered from losing striker Stephen Fletcher to a first half injury to win 2-1 at Bristol City on Sunday and go sixth, just six points adrift of their Steel City rivals.

Missing out on the top six however are Norwich – whose impressive unbeaten run was halted at home to Stoke – and Derby, who drew 1-1 away to former manager Steve McClaren’s QPR side.

At the bottom, there was finally some light at the end of the tunnel for Ipswich fans, as Paul Hurst earned his first win as manager in a topsy-turvy game at newly-relegated Swansea.

Despite trailing to an early own goal from Janoi Donacien, the Tractor Boys found themselves 2-1 up at half-time after two quick-fire goals – one of which also being an own goal from Swansea’s Mike van der Hoorn.

Manchester City academy graduate Bersant Celina levelled things up late on, but it didn’t last, as Ipswich won an engrossing Liberty Stadium contest through Chelsea loanee Trevoh Chalobah to lift them above Hull.

There were also welcome wins at the bottom for Preston, who thumped Wigan 4-0 at Deepdale, and Millwall, who lift themselves away from danger with a come-from-behind victory at home to managerless Aston Villa.

Elsewhere, Lukas Jutkiewicz scored a hat-trick to make it eight unbeaten for Birmingham as they beat Rotherham 3-1 at St Andrews, and Bradley Dack was on the scoresheet again as Blackburn won the televised Lancashire derby at Bolton 1-0.

League One

DONFLE
Fleetwood put four past Doncaster to end a run of five league matches without a victory

It certainly wasn’t the only result that raised a few eyebrows on Saturday, but there was a major upset at Fratton Park as table-topping Portsmouth’s unbeaten record was left in tatters after a superb display from strugglers Gillingham.

The Gills went into the meeting on the back of a ten-game winless streak in all competitions – which even included a 4-0 hammering at Pompey in the Checkatrade Trophy a month ago – but Steve Lovell’s side threw the form book out of the window as Tom Eaves fired them ahead in the first half.

Alex Lacey made it two in stoppage time before the break, but despite it almost seeming inevitable their hosts would respond following the interval, it never came, and Gillingham held out for a morale-boosting victory that lifts them out of the relegation zone.

But despite their defeat, Kenny Jackett’s men remain top, after an even worse afternoon for Peterborough at London Road.

After successive draws, Posh were looking to respond at home to one of their automatic promotion challengers, but were embarrassed by a Barnsley team that ran riot against Steve Evans’ troops.

George Moncur opened the scoring before a Brad Potts double and Jacob Brown stoppage time goal rounded off a perfect afternoon for the visiting Tykes, who won 4-0 to go two points behind their opponents with a game in hand.

Sunderland also closed in on the top two with victory in an ill-tempered game away to Bradford which saw both sides reduced to ten men.

Jack Baldwin was the eventual match winner, scoring just two minutes after Anthony O’Connor had cancelled out Josh Maja’s opener, but the action was far from over as first Max Power was dismissed for the visitors before the Bantams also lost a man in stoppage time after Sean Scannell was sent off.

Bradford remain in the bottom four, but joining Sunderland and Barnsley in the top six are Walsall – who were 1-0 winners away to another relegation-battling side in Bristol Rovers – and Doncaster, who retain their place despite a crushing 4-0 home defeat to Fleetwood, as Accrington’s impressive unbeaten run was brought to an end 1-0 at Shrewsbury.

At the bottom, Wycombe lift themselves out of the drop zone and ahead of opponents Burton with a 2-1 win at Adams Park, Plymouth enjoyed their first victory of the season thanks to Freddie Ladapo’s goal at home to AFC Wimbledon and Oxford now sit bottom as a result after drawing a blank at Southend.

Meanwhile, Luton went to within two points of the playoffs with a 3-2 win at home to Scunthorpe, Amadou Bakayoko scored a late double to help Coventry come from behind to beat Charlton, and Blackpool made it nine league games unbeaten by drawing 2-2 with Rochdale at Bloomfield Road.

League Two

MKDCHE
Robbie Simpson scored a penalty deep into stoppage time to round off a 3-0 win for MK Dons against Cheltenham

Lincoln City returned to winning ways and doubled their lead at the top of SkyBet League Two with a gritty 1-0 home victory over Crewe.

In a largely uninspiring game, it was a substitution from manager Danny Cowley that made the difference as Tom Pett fired an effort in less than sixty seconds after entering the action at Sincil Bank.

The Imps did have a chance to make the points safe late on through a penalty, but Ben Garratt saved from Lee Frecklington to prevent the scoreline from getting worse for the visitors.

It was far from a pretty win, but one that takes Lincoln four points clear as both Exeter and Newport failed to keep the pace.

The Grecians could only draw 2-2 away to Yeovil despite a brace from leading scorer Jayden Stockley, whilst County also picked up a point on their travels in a 1-1 draw at unbeaten Forest Green.

Portsmouth’s defeat in League One on Saturday means Rovers are now the only side yet to lose in the EFL this season, although that may not have been the case had Mickey Demetriou converted his second half penalty for the Exiles.

The Gloucestershire-based side retain their playoff place, as do both MK Dons and Stevenage, who recorded 3-0 and 3-1 home wins against Cheltenham and Colchester – the latter dropping out of the top seven as a result.

Taking the place of the Us are last season’s National League playoff winners Tranmere, who won a bonkers game at the Globe Arena against Morecambe.

After going behind inside a quarter of an hour, Micky Mellon’s men found themselves ahead at the break through Ollie Banks and Harvey Gilmour goals.

It was then 3-1 early in the second half as Jonny Smith got in on the act, but the home side fought back to equalise with ten minutes remaining.

Gilmour had the last laugh however, as the Sheffield United loanee curled in brilliantly to win it with the game in its dying embers.

Tranmere sit seventh, but their opponents Morecambe continue to struggle – sitting just two points clear of the drop zone.

The bottom two remains as you were, as Macclesfield lost 1-0 at home to Notts County – marking a third straight win for Harry Kewell’s Magpies – and Cambridge were beaten 2-0 at Crawley.

Northampton remain winless under new boss Keith Curle, although picked up a respectable point at Swindon in a 1-1 draw, whilst a first minute goal from Wes Thomas helped Grimsby to back-to-back victories with a 2-0 success at home to Port Vale, which lifts them away from the threat of relegation.

And rounding off this edition of EFL Weekly are Carlisle – who won 3-1 away to manager John Sheridan’s former side Oldham – and Mansfield, who are still yet to register a win on their travels after a 95th minute equaliser from Nicky Maynard earned Bury a 2-2 draw at Gigg Lane.

EFL Weekly – Gameweek Roundup 2-3 October

It was a quick turnaround for teams in the EFL as gameweek 11 was quickly upon us after Friday and Saturday’s action.

In true EFL fashion, you could never be quite sure of what was going to happen – with struggling sides trumping teams at the top, late drama aplenty and even a managerial sacking to boot, this is EFL Weekly.

Championship

BREBIR
Brentford celebrate Josh McEachran’s equaliser against Birmingham City

Cabbages, dramatic comebacks and managerial casualties; it’s been quite the week for Aston Villa.

Heading into Tuesday night’s Villa Park meeting with struggling Preston, Steve Bruce’s team had suffered an indifferent start to the season, having recorded just one win from their last nine matches in all competitions.

That came at home to a Rotherham side still yet to pick up a point on their travels, but as referee Peter Bankes blew his whistle to signal the end of the first half against North End two weeks on, it appeared that the Villans luck may well be changing.

Bruce had enjoyed a 45-minute period which saw his side comfortably two goals up thanks to strikers Jonathan Kodjia and Tammy Abraham, but little did the 57-year-old know that was – almost typically – all about to change.

Centre half James Chester was sent off less than ten minutes into the second half, and Daniel Johnson scored from the spot to give the visitors a lifeline, and all of a sudden, doubt was creeping in at Villa Park once again.

Set piece specialist Paul Gallagher then curled a free-kick in to level things up, before turning provider for Louis Moult, who headed the veteran’s corner in four minutes from time to complete a remarkable comeback.

That sparked a huge display of discontent from the Villa faithful, with one fan even bizarrely throwing a cabbage at the home side’s under-fire manager; an incident that is now being investigated by police.

On the other hand, Alex Neil’s men seemed set to be on course for a vital three points that could have lifted them out of the drop zone, but little did the Lilywhites know that disaster would strike – not once, but twice – in stoppage time.

First, Everton loanee Yannick Bolasie levelled the match again after firing home a 91st minute equaliser, and then, right at the death, Johnson fouled Birkir Bjarnason in the box, giving Villa the chance to take the points after all.

The responsibility was left on the experienced shoulders of midfield general Glenn Whelan, but the Irishman’s low effort was brilliantly kept out by North End shot-stopper Chris Maxwell, diving away to his left, to make himself the hero of the night and earn his side a precious point.

But the disappointment didn’t stop there for Bruce, who was later sacked on Wednesday after overseeing a difficult start to the 2018-19 campaign. The search is on for bosses at Villa Park to find his replacement, but for now, the Midlands club find themselves in 13th and two points off the top six.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, Leeds and Middlesbrough both leapfrogged leaders West Bromwich Albion with 1-0 and 2-0 away wins at Hull and Ipswich, whilst Brentford failed to capitalise on a Maikel Kieftenbeld red card by drawing 1-1 at home to Birmingham – extending the Bees winless run to four matches, whilst the Blues are now unbeaten in seven, despite lingering down in 18th.

Stoke went to within two points of opponents Bolton by winning 2-0 at the bet365 Stadium, Queens Park Rangers pulled further clear of the bottom three with a 1-0 win at Reading, and Wigan played out a goalless draw with Swansea, as both sides missed out on the chance to claim a top six place.

Moving on to Wednesday, and there was more late drama involving a club from the West Midlands, as West Brom fought from two goals down to steal a point from South Yorkshire.

Albion could have returned to top spot in the Championship with a Hillsborough victory against Sheffield Wednesday, but found themselves two behind at the break after Fernando Forestieri’s strike was preceded by Adam Reach, who added to his collection of screamers.

The game seemed to be petering out, but two goals in a spectacular sixty seconds saw the Baggies level in the final five minutes, as first Joey Pelupessy put into his own net, and then youngster Harvey Barnes equalised with a stunning solo effort.

As a result, Darren Moore’s side drop below Leeds, Boro and Wednesday’s cross-city rivals Sheffield United, who continued their good form with a 2-0 win at Blackburn to go level on points with the top two.

Meanwhile, Norwich consolidated their playoff position despite seeing their five-match win streak in all competitions come to an end in a 1-1 draw at Derby, Nottingham Forest threw away a 2-0 lead to draw with Millwall in a game that was interrupted by floodlight failure at the City Ground, and the deadlock remained unbroken at the New York Stadium as Rotherham and Bristol City played out a goalless draw.

League One

SUNPET
Ten-man Sunderland hit the front late on against Peterborough thanks to Jerome Sinclair’s goal

Accrington continued their fairy tale return to the third tier after almost sixty years by moving into the playoffs with a 1-0 home win over Doncaster.

It’s now three wins in a row for Stanley, who ended Rovers’ run of four straight victories, and John Coleman’s men remain unbeaten since an opening day defeat to Gillingham.

Offrande Zanzala was the hero in the 87th minute after the Congolese striker latched onto a Billy Kee through ball to slot in the winner and send the home side into the top six for the first time this season.

Doncaster remain third – a point above Stanley – and joining the pair in the playoffs are Barnsley – who could only draw at home to basement club Plymouth – and Sunderland, who played their part in an enthralling clash at the Stadium of Light.

Peterborough were the visitors and looking to regain top spot from Portsmouth, but had to settle for a point after a frantic, action-packed game.

19-year-old Josh Maja fired his team ahead in the first half with an eighth goal of the campaign, but as the Black Cats looked comfortable, disaster struck with a quarter of the contest to go.

Bryan Oviedo lashed out at Marcus Maddison and was consequently sent off, with Posh then taking full advantage six minutes later through substitute Joe Ward’s equaliser.

The visitors may have fancied their chances of finding a winner, but it was their hosts who retook the lead with just over ten minutes to go thanks to Jerome Sinclair’s first goal for the club.

But the drama didn’t stop there, and it was former Newcastle striker Ivan Toney who had the last laugh, scoring six minutes from the end to steal a point for a Peterborough side who were second best throughout.

Two points dropped for the travelling side mean Portsmouth extend their lead at the summit, as Ronan Curtis’ goal in first-half stoppage time secured a 1-0 win for Pompey at Coventry to maintain their unbeaten start.

At the bottom, there was a huge three points for Bradford as the Bantams claimed a narrow first win for new boss David Hopkin at AFC Wimbledon, which lifted them out of the drop zone.

Replacing City in the bottom four are Wycombe, who fought back to earn a point at Fleetwood in a 1-1 draw, whilst ten-man Oxford faced devastation as a 98th minute goal from Dan Potts condemned them to a 2-1 home defeat against Luton.

Elsewhere, there were goalless draws for Rochdale and Walsall at home to Bristol Rovers and Shrewsbury respectively, Southend came from behind to win 2-1 at Burton, and Scunthorpe made it three wins from four as the Iron beat Charlton 5-3 in the game of the night to boost their pursuit of the playoffs.

League Two

CAMFGR
Matt Worthington sealed victory at Cambridge late on for unbeaten Forest Green Rovers

Lincoln’s lead at the top of the fourth tier was lessened as the Imps faced a shock 1-0 defeat at Tranmere.

The league’s leading scorer James Norwood bagged the game’s only goal on the hour with his eighth of the campaign, but went from hero to zero in stoppage time as he received a second yellow and was subsequently sent off.

It didn’t count for much as the hosts held out for a mightily impressive three points to jump five places into tenth, but there will be concern for manager Micky Mellon with his talismanic striker missing Saturday’s trip to Morecambe.

Newport, who started the night second, missed a glorious chance to go level on points at the top, but ultimately were more than happy with a point after a crazy game at Rodney Parade.

The Exiles hosted winless Macclesfield, but it was the Silkmen who astonishingly found themselves two goals to the good after just eleven minutes.

Fiacre Kelleher’s header was followed up by a David Fitzpatrick penalty, but County fought back through first Dan Butler and then Mickey Demetriou.

Macclesfield were awarded a second penalty with less than ten minutes remaining which captain Fitzpatrick again converted, but Newport snatched a draw at the death as Jamille Matt’s goal in the seventh minute of added time rounded off a pulsating finish.

It was a result neither side had hoped for, with the visitors remaining bottom of the EFL, and Mike Flynn’s team dropping into third as Exeter took full advantage with a 1-0 win at home to Stevenage, who went into the game sitting fourth.

Colchester and Forest Green, who also had playoff places to retain, did so in style with 3-1 wins against Yeovil and Cambridge, with the latter dropping into the relegation zone as visiting Rovers preserved their unbeaten record in 2018/19.

Oldham dropped out of the top seven after holding out to a goalless draw away to dominant Mansfield, whilst MK Dons leapfrogged the Latics with a comfortable 2-0 win at Port Vale.

At the bottom, Grimsby ended their run of six straight defeats with a vital 1-0 win at Carlisle that lifts the Mariners out of the bottom two – but only on goal difference – with Northampton making it three teams on eight points after goalless draw at home to play-off pushing Bury.

Just above them, Harry Kewell continued the revival at Notts County by making it four unbeaten and two wins in a row with a 3-1 home success over his former employers Crawley, who remain midtable.

And completing the round up are Cheltenham and Morecambe – who fought out an entertaining 2-2 draw at the Jonny-Rocks Stadium – and Crewe, as the Alex bounced back from Saturday’s defeat in Nottingham to beat Swindon 1-0 at Gresty Road.

EFL Weekly – Gameweek Roundup 30 September

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.

Championship

MILSHU
David McGoldrick scored two late goals to earn three points for Sheffield United.

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.

League One

COVSUN
Jonson Clarke-Harris celebrates his equaliser for Coventry at the Ricoh Arena.

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.

League Two

CHLLIN
Danny Cowley’s Lincoln have now won eight of their opening ten games in League Two this season.

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.

Opinion: Leeds must show they have bouncebackability after first defeat

For Football League World, Lewis Steele looks at how Leeds United need to recover from their first league defeat. 

Leeds suffered their first league defeat of the season last weekend as ex-manager Garry Monk led his Birmingham side to a 2-1 victory at Elland Road.

It was far from disastrous, with Leeds playing satisfactory on the day, but it was a loss nevertheless and the question now is how Bielsa’s men respond to this setback.

Often, football is a game of clichés. A lot of the words and phrases commentators, pundits and fans use when talking about football would not make sense in a non-sport setting. One of the most common clichés is ‘bouncebackability’. It may not be in the Oxford Dictionary and would certainly lose you marks if you used that word in a formal piece of writing such as an exam, but it is a word generally accepted in the footballing world to mean: can said team recover from a big loss?

This is often where titles or trophies are won and lost. The mark of all good sides in any league in the world is the attribute to mentally put setbacks aside and move on. Think of Manchester City last season: you could argue that they play better after a loss or draw, going on big runs.

If Leeds are serious about promotion, this is a crucial thing they must do. Having the talent on the pitch is one thing, but it doesn’t win you titles or promotions. Team spirit, mental grit, bouncebackability – the mental aspect is just as vital as the talented pool of players at Bielsa’s disposal.

Next up for Leeds is a tough trip to Sheffield on Friday night where they will face Jos Luhukay’s Sheffield Wednesday side who will be well up for the Yorkshire derby on the back of a win at Villa Park last time out. Should Leeds win, it will send a serious message to the rest of the division that they are true candidates for promotion. On the other hand, a loss would send out signals that they can be broken and do have weaknesses.

Opinion: Jack Grealish must prove his worth following new deal

For Football League World, Lewis Steele calls for Jack Grealish to step up to the next level whereby he starts ‘winning games on his own’. 

Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish penned a new big-money deal on Monday, keeping him in contract at Villa Park until 2023.

The intricacies of the contract were not disclosed however, many strong reports have suggested Grealish’s wage has doubled to around £50k per week.

Money talks: the fact Villa were willing to fork out such a substantial fee on Jack Grealish speaks volumes about his reputation at the club. The hierarchy obviously see him as irreplaceable and of the utmost importance to any promotion bid Steve Bruce’s side may launch.

However, is Grealish really worth this amount of money? Villa think so, but realistically only time will tell.

For the player, he needs to show the Villa faithful exactly why he is worth so much. By a significant distance, Grealish is Aston Villa’s best footballer. There is little doubt about that. However, does he have it in him to start winning more matches on his own and subsequently push Villa to the higher ends of the table.

The reported wage should be reflective of this ability. If Grealish does do the aforementioned and start influencing games to his true potential, it will be worth every single penny.

If Villa do earn promotion, there is no doubt Grealish will be a huge factor and also no doubt that this new deal will be cited. Fans of other clubs have criticised Villa in the past days, but should Grealish launch them to the Premier League, this new deal is worth it tenfold and more.

Grealish did indeed deserve the transfer saga linking him to big Premier League outfits, but with this new deal, he needs to up his game further and start influencing games on a higher level, catapulting Villa back to the top flight.

EFL Weekly – Gameweek Roundup 23 September

The EFL returned to its full complement of fixtures following a Championship-focused midweek in style with goals and coupon-busters aplenty across all three divisions.

The EFL returned to its full complement of fixtures following a Championship-focused midweek in style with goals and coupon-busters aplenty across all three divisions.

Things are hotting up in the second tier with a mere five points separating the top half, the lead changed hands once again in League One, and one of the early season surprise packages became the only unbeaten team left in League Two.

This is EFL Weekly.

Championship

DERBRE
Mason Mount celebrates scoring Derby’s third against Brentford

There was a huge shock at the top of the SkyBet Championship on Saturday as Garry Monk got one over his former side Leeds at Elland Road, giving struggling Birmingham their first win – and Leeds’ first defeat – in the league this season.

Former Sheffield United man Che Adams was the hero, as the striker struck twice to have the Blues 2-0 up at the break.

Marcelo Bielsa’s outfit uncharacteristically struggled to produce anything of note, but managed to find a late goal through Ezgjan Alioski.

It wasn’t enough for a point however, as the Blues held out for a huge three points, meaning they are now five league games unbeaten; astonishingly, the longest unbeaten run currently intact.

Leeds meanwhile remain top – but only just – thanks to Middlesbrough failing to capitalise on the Whites’ slip-up.

Despite having more than three times the shots on goal their opposition did, Boro failed to find a breakthrough against a resolute Swansea team and could only draw a blank at the Riverside, seeing Tony Pulis’ men go level on points at the top of the table.

As a result, the big winners of the weekend were West Bromwich Albion, who beat Millwall 2-0 at the Hawthorns to claim their fifth home win in a row and move into third – a point off the summit.

Darren Moore’s team had suffered an indifferent start to life back in the Championship, but they moved into the top six for the first time with victory over Bristol City on Tuesday night and continued their upward surge against a Millwall side who drop into the relegation zone.

One of the clubs leapfrogged by the Baggies were Brentford, who started the day third but finished it seventh after letting a lead slip to lose 3-1 at Derby, who themselves go above the Bees and return to the top six.

Also sitting pretty in the playoffs after claiming yet another home win are Wigan – who beat Bristol City in the Friday night fixture courtesy of Nick Powell’s second half header – and they’re joined by Sheffield United who complete the top quarter of the table.

The Blades appeared to be cruising to victory against an out-of-sorts Preston side, but Daniel Johnson and Callum Robinson’s two goals in as many minutes hauled Alex Neil’s team level.

It wasn’t to be for long however, as David McGoldrick struck three minutes from time to ensure the points would stay in Sheffield after all.

The result means Preston now sit bottom of the table after a third straight loss, and moving ahead of them are Ipswich, despite Paul Hurst’s Tractor Boys now being the sole winless team in the division after Birmingham’s success – the Portman Road outfit could only manage a goalless draw at home to the ten-men of Bolton.

Reading moved out of the bottom three after a first home win since April saw them defeat former manager Nigel Adkins’ Hull 3-0 – despite having John O’Shea sent off late on. The Tigers move below the Royals and sit a point clear of the drop zone.

One of the games of the day came at the bet365 Stadium as Stoke were inches away from completing a comeback against Blackburn having been three goals down.  Saido Berahino and Tom Ince scored two goals in sixty seconds to bring the Potters back to 3-2 with ten minutes to play, but the former then saw a penalty crash against the crossbar in stoppage time which would have stolen an unlikely point.

Elsewhere, John McGinn’s early contender for goal of the season wasn’t enough for Aston Villa as they lost 2-1 at home to Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest made it back-to-back victories at the City Ground by beating Rotherham through a late Lewis Grabban penalty, and Norwich made it two away wins in a week with a 1-0 win at QPR, having previously not recorded three points on the road since January.

League One

CHAPLY
Karlan Ahearne-Grant scored his second late on to see off Plymouth at the Valley

Portsmouth’s brief stay at the top of League One came to an end as Kenny Jackett’s side let a late lead slip at home to Wycombe.

Pompey trailed at the break to Bryn Morris’ curling effort, but fought back through second half goals from Gareth Evans and Brett Pitman.

The striker’s header came in the 86th minute and appeared to have given the hosts a hard-fought win, but Wycombe struck back moments later as Christian Burgess clumsily conceded a penalty which was converted by Joe Jacobson.

A point for Wanderers keeps them just clear of the relegation zone, but it was a result that was equally as important for Peterborough, who regained top spot in the third tier by coming from behind to claim an impressive win at Gillingham.

The Gills scored two quick-fire second half goals to lead 2-1 at the Priestfield Stadium, but Posh responded with a double of their own, before Callum Cooke landed the fatal blow minutes from time.

As a result of what was a fourth straight loss, Gillingham fall into the drop zone – but their poor run of form isn’t the worst in the division.

One spot below Steve Lovell’s side are Bradford, who went down 2-1 in a Yorkshire derby against Doncaster to mark their fifth consecutive defeat, extending the Bantams’ disastrous record to just five wins from their last 29 league matches.

Rovers on the other hand move one place up into fourth, and two teams joining them in the top six are Charlton and Walsall, who both enjoyed wins against relegation-threatened sides Plymouth and Oxford respectively.

Third place Sunderland meanwhile bounced back from their first defeat at this level since 1988 in style, as a brace apiece from youth academy graduates Josh Maja and Lynden Gooch helped the Black Cats to an impressive 4-1 home win over Rochdale.

In pursuit of the playoffs, Accrington made it eight games unbeaten by securing their first home win of the season – a 2-1 victory over AFC Wimbledon – whilst Blackpool could only draw 0-0 with Luton, and ten-man Fleetwood lost 1-0 at Southend.

Meanwhile, Bristol Rovers moved out of the relegation zone with a 3-1 home win over Coventry, Shrewsbury avoided dropping into the bottom four despite a 1-0 loss at Scunthorpe, and Barnsley – who had gone into the weekend just outside the top two – fell out of the playoffs after their match with Burton at Oakwell was postponed due to a medical emergency shortly before the scheduled kick-off.

League Two

LINMKD
Jason Shackell’s 95th minute winner for Lincoln sent Sincil Bank into raptures

Lincoln opened up a six-point gap over the automatic promotion chasing pack after Jason Shackell’s dramatic stoppage-time header inflicted a first defeat of the season on MK Dons.

The defender’s winner completed a second half turnaround after the Dons had hit the front with just over a quarter of the game remaining.

Danny Cowley’s side have now won seven of their opening nine fixtures, and also maintain their three point lead over nearest challengers, Exeter City.

The Grecians made it three wins in a row as they too came from behind at home, beating Cheltenham 3-1 thanks to two goals in the last ten minutes from Jayden Stockley and summer signing Jonathan Forte.

Occupying the third and final automatic promotion spot are Newport, who bounced back from their horrific showing against Yeovil last week to win at Tranmere thanks to Fraser Franks’ fifth minute goal.

It’s now three straight victories on the road for the Exiles who, unlike last weekend, showed great defensive resilience to keep a clean sheet against a team that included the league’s top scorer, James Norwood.

In the chasing pack, Colchester remain fourth but fail to keep pace with the top three after blowing a 3-1 lead at Oldham with just five minutes remaining, a result that sees the home side cling on to their own playoff berth.

Despite having Jerry Yates sent off late on, Carlisle won 1-0 at Bury to go level on points with Colchester and move up six places, and completing the top seven are Forest Green, who are now the only unbeaten side left in League Two after Reuben Reid’s deflected effort gave them their first home win of the season against Crawley.

At the bottom, Notts County’s wait for a league win in 2018-19 continues after a goalless stalemate at Northampton – who stay 20th – but the Magpies are off the bottom as ten-man Macclesfield lost 2-1 at Morecambe in a relegation six-pointer.

Andy Fleming struck the winner just five minutes after Danny Whittaker had scored an equaliser for the battling Silkmen, but ultimately the three points put an end to Morecambe’s four-game losing streak and lifts them above Grimsby, who themselves have lost five on the spin after a 1-0 defeat at Stevenage.

And finally, rounding off this weekend’s EFL roundup – Cambridge struck late to steal a point from visitors Mansfield, Swindon comprehensively won 3-0 at last weekend’s big-hitters Yeovil, and Port Vale picked up a first away win in 17 attempts at the best place possible – the home of their bitter rivals, Crewe.

The victory is Vale’s second in a row, makes them three unbeaten, and means they have now lost only one of their last six trips along the A500.