EFL Weekly: Gameweek Roundup 20 September

As the EFL Championship plays catch-up following the first international break of the season, its League One and Two counterparts took a step back during this midweek round of fixtures, as the focus was firmly set on England’s second tier.

With the games now split relatively evenly over two days to maximise Sky Sports’ new coverage rights, we at Steele Sport take an in-depth look into the action as it unfolded on both Tuesday and Wednesday night.

Tuesday

Aston Villa v Rotherham United - Sky Bet Championship
Tammy Abraham celebrates scoring his first Aston Villa goal in the home win against Rotherham.

Marcelo Bielsa’s eye-catching Leeds gained revenge on Preston for their second round Carabao Cup defeat by inflicting a fifth loss of the season on North End whilst preserving their own unbeaten league record.

The Deepdale outfit dumped Leeds out of the cup three weeks ago – despite playing over an hour on that night with ten men – but it was Bielsa’s side who took control on Tuesday, which proved to be a memorable night for youngster Tyler Roberts.

The teenager, who signed in January from then-Premier League club West Bromwich Albion, was left frustrated last season having injured himself upon making the move to Elland Road.

But he’s certainly making up for lost time now, making his Leeds league debut on Saturday, and then making his mark with two goals to seal the points against lowly Preston on Tuesday.

It was captain Liam Cooper who headed the Whites into a deserved first half lead, but it was Roberts’ night as his two second half goals – including a delicate chip over goalkeeper Declan Rudd – crowned another impressive win.

Leeds’ nearest challengers heading into the night were Brentford, but Dean Smith’s high-flying Bees were stung by Ipswich summer signing Kayden Jackson, who equalised in the second half to cancel out Neal Maupay’s eighth goal of the campaign.

The 1-1 draw at Portman Road meant the Yorkshire league leaders extended the gap at the top to three points on the night, whilst Ipswich remained winless and rooted to the bottom; just below Preston.

At the Hawthorns, West Bromwich Albion moved into the playoffs for the first time this season with a convincing display at home to Bristol City, who they leapfrog.

As per usual, it was the trio of Jay Rodriguez, Dwight Gayle and Harvey Barnes doing the damage, with the former scoring a brace in a 4-2 win, but the visiting Robins remain in the top six despite the loss.

Goals from loan pair Tammy Abraham and Yannick Bolasie saw Aston Villa also move into a playoff position, albeit for 24 hours, with a routine 2-0 win at home to a Rotherham side who remain without a point on their travels.

Elsewhere on Tuesday night, Joe Allen scored the only goal against former club Swansea to haul Stoke away from the bottom three, Wigan continued their impressive start with a 2-1 win over Hull, and Derby drew a blank at home to Blackburn as Chelsea loan star Mason Mount, watched by England manager Gareth Southgate, went closest with a curling free-kick that struck the crossbar.

Wednesday

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Club-record signing Joao Carvalho opened his Nottingham Forest goalscoring account.

Middlesbrough capitalised on Brentford’s slip-up with a comfortable home victory against Bolton, which saw the Riverside outfit get back to winning ways after defeat at the weekend to Norwich.

George Saville and then Britt Assombalonga deep into second-half stoppage time scored the goals to condemn the Trotters to a third defeat in four games, after what had been a promising start to the season.

Boro had dropped to fourth after West Brom’s win the previous night, but jumped back into the top two with a victory that keeps them just a point behind Leeds, whilst Bolton now sit 15th.

One of the team’s moving above Phil Parkinson’s men are Norwich, who battled to a 2-1 win at Reading that made it back-to-back wins for the first time in 2018-19.

Teemu Pukki had fired the Canaries into an early lead before they were pegged back in the 72nd minute by Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, but the Royals were only level for a matter of seconds, as Mario Vrancic restored the visitors’ lead moments after the restart.

Reading’s loss means the bottom three is as you were heading into the gameweek – Paul Clement’s troops sitting just above Preston and Ipswich.

Millwall are the latest team to hover just above the drop zone as they went down 2-0 at Queens Park Rangers, with the Hoops’ mini revival under Steve McClaren extending to three wins from four.

Moving above last season’s surprise package Millwall are Birmingham who remain winless after a goalless stalemate at Bramall Lane, whilst Sheffield United reclaim their top six berth from Villa with the point.

And rounding off the midweek Championship action are Nottingham Forest, who laid old demons to rest at home to United’s cross-city rivals, Sheffield Wednesday.

Heading into the latest meeting between these two former giants of the English game, Forest were on a seven game losing streak against the Owls.

Times are changing on Trentside however, and that was evident through the Reds’ goals, as summer signings Lewis Grabban and Joao Carvalho scored their first goals for the club.

First, £6million man Grabban glanced a header in from a Ben Osborn free-kick, and the latter was involved again for the second as he neatly backheeled to Carvalho in the box before Forest’s Portuguese record signing curled in a beauty.

Substitute Stephen Fletcher pulled one back via a deflected effort late on, but Aitor Karanka’s men held out for only their second win of the season which ends their personal hoodoo against Wednesday, as well as the Hillsborough side’s four game unbeaten run.

EFL Weekly: Gameweek Roundup 16 September

As the first international break of the season draws to a close, the EFL marked its return to a full complement of fixtures in a predictably unpredictable fashion.

As the first international break of the season draws to a close, the EFL marked its return to a full complement of fixtures in a predictably unpredictable fashion.

Yet more unbeaten records bit the dust in shocking and dramatic circumstances, whilst there were also goals, surprises and talking points aplenty across England’s second, third and fourth tiers.

But who were the big winners and losers of this mid-September weekend?

Championship

2018 EFL Championship Football Birmingham City v WBA Sep 14th

The majority of talk surrounding the Championship over the international break had been about possible point deductions for both Birmingham City and Bolton Wanderers, for differing reasons.

News surfaced in the last week that the Trotters were set to enter administration, and with it, be handed a 12-point penalty in the league as a result, whilst fellow relegation candidates Birmingham were set to receive the same punishment for breaching the EFL’s profitability and sustainability rules.

Bolton managed to see their sanction scuppered due to a late deal being reached over the payment of a debt to the club’s main creditor, BluMarble Capital, but for the Blues, dark clouds and uncertainty continue to linger over St Andrew’s, despite an impressive showing in the Friday night fixture – a local derby against West Bromwich Albion.

It was the first time Birmingham had met their West Midlands rivals in a league encounter for over seven years, and Garry Monk’s side went into it without a victory against their cross-region opponents since 2006.

They did manage to get off to the best possible start however, despite their winless start to the season.

After dominating early proceedings, Jota got on the end of a Lukas Jutkiewicz knock-down to squeeze an effort in from a tight-angle at the back post, and just moments later, the Spaniard had a golden chance to make it two.

Kyle Bartley bizarrely handled a cross in the area which gifted Jota and the Blues an opportunity from the spot, but former Aston Villa man Sam Johnstone was equal to it, and Monk’s men were later made to pay – and not for the first time in 2018-19.

With little over five minutes remaining of the first half, full-back Kristian Pedersen – whose £2-million summer capture could also leave Birmingham in hot water for breaching the terms of their transfer embargo – sloppily lost possession after initially gaining it back from Matt Phillips, and the powerful winger finished calmly under goalkeeper Lee Camp.

Birmingham may have looked impressive, but it was Albion who went closest to nicking the points in the second half, as Harvey Barnes cannoned one off the crossbar.

Ultimately it ended a goal apiece and another story of what might have been for the Blues, but it was still a point that keeps them out of the bottom three – for now.

As for Bolton, there may have been good news earlier in the week for the Whites, but none so on Saturday as they went down 2-1 at home to Steve McClaren’s QPR, who are enjoying a mini-revival with two wins from their last three.

In the upper echelons of the division, Leeds cling onto top spot and keep their unbeaten run alive thanks to a last-gasp equaliser from Manchester City loanee Jack Harrison at Millwall.

The 1-1 draw at the Den means Marcelo Bielsa’s side remain the only team yet to taste defeat in the Championship this campaign, as an uninspiring Middlesbrough lost 1-0 at Norwich.

Leapfrogging Boro are Brentford and Bristol City, who both enjoyed home wins and clean sheets against Wigan and Sheffield United respectively. The impressive Bees sit second, whilst Lee Johnson’s Robins have won four in a row after failing to win any of their first three.

Derby drop out of the playoffs as new manager Frank Lampard saw Tom Lawrence sent off during their defeat to Rotherham, and they’re replaced in the top six by Swansea who drew a blank against the Rams’ local rivals, Nottingham Forest.

At the other end of the table, Reading leapfrogged opponents Preston after a 3-2 win at Deepdale earned them their maiden win of the campaign, whilst Ipswich remain rooted to the bottom after a 2-0 loss at Hull which sees the Tigers pull away from the bottom three.

In the remaining match-ups, Sheffield Wednesday came from two goals down to draw against Stoke at Hillsborough, and it’s now six-games without a win in all competitions for Aston Villa, who could only snatch a point in stoppage time at newly-promoted Blackburn.

League One

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All eyes were on London Road on Saturday, as the two early pacesetters in League One set out to do battle.

Both Peterborough and Portsmouth went into the afternoon’s eagerly anticipated match with unbeaten records on the line, with the former leading their opposition by two points having drawn one less game.

But despite home advantage, Posh crumbled, and it was Pompey who made the happy journey back down to the South Coast with three points in the bag.

After a goalless first half, Kenny Jackett’s side sprung into life in what proved to be a fatal 15-minute spell in the second period for Peterborough. First, Oli Hawkins got the opener just after the 60-minute mark, and Jamal Lowe made the points all-but-safe with a quarter of an hour remaining – both strikes assisted by the impressive youngster, Ronan Curtis.

Matt Godden got Posh on the scoresheet in the dying embers, but it was too-little too-late for the home side, who fall to defeat for the first time this season, and with it, down into second place behind their visitors.

And they weren’t the only team to lose for the first time this campaign, as the chasing pack in the playoffs all failed to register victories.

Barnsley succumbed to defeat at Coventry courtesy of Jordan Willis’ late goal, which gave the Sky Blues back-to-back wins, whilst Sunderland went down 2-1 at Burton and Walsall let a lead slip to lose 4-1 at home to Doncaster – a result that sees Rovers leapfrog the Saddlers and move into fifth.

Joey Barton’s Fleetwood occupied the final playoff spot heading into the weekend but they now drop out after a 1-1 home draw with Accrington – a result which sees Stanley extend their unbeaten run to seven league games.

Meanwhile, Shrewsbury were the big winners down at the bottom as two first-half goals gave John Askey’s men their first league win of the season at home to Southend, who they move a place above into 17th.

Plymouth seem to be mirroring their poor start of last year, as yet another defeat sees them remain bottom. The Pilgrims lost 1-0 at home to a Blackpool side who received two red cards in stoppage time, but held out to make it nine games unbeaten in all competitions.

Just above the Green Army are Oxford who drew 0-0 at Wycombe, Bristol Rovers’ poor form continues with a 1-0 loss at Luton, and Bradford now join them in the bottom four as a 2-0 home loss to Charlton makes it four consecutive defeats.

Gillingham are hovering dangerously above the drop zone as Ian Henderson’s hat-trick condemned them to a 3-0 defeat at Rochdale, and Scunthorpe complete the League One round-up with a first win for new boss Stuart McCall, as the Iron won 3-2 at AFC Wimbledon to climb the table.

League Two

yeovil newport

Six was the magic number for Yeovil, who won the ‘battle of the early season surprise packages’ in style at Newport to move into the playoffs.

The Welsh outfit went into the weekend on the back of an impressive run which had seen them soar into second place and level on points with leaders Lincoln, but an abysmal afternoon – which also saw half-time substitute Robbie Willmott dismissed late on – was certainly one to forget for manager Michael Flynn.

Darren Way and Yeovil’s 6-0 win also makes it six games unbeaten for the Glovers and lifts them into fifth – just two points behind their hosts – who drop to third.

That result made it advantage Lincoln in the race at the top, and Danny Cowley’s side capitalised in what was a battle between opposing ends of the league at Moss Rose.

The Imps dominated for large spells against struggling Macclesfield and led through Tom Pett, but were pegged back late on by Jamie Grimes’ scrappy goal.

With their equaliser coming seven minutes from time, the hosts seemed destined for a point which would have lifted them out of the relegation zone, but the hopes of the home faithful were dashed soon after by Jason Shackell’s winner.

Exeter are now the Imps’ closest competition, as the Grecians backed up last week’s thrashing of Notts County with an equally impressive win against another Nottinghamshire-based side in Mansfield.

Matt Taylor’s men ended the Stags’ unbeaten start to the season with a 2-1 win at the One Call Stadium, which makes it ten games unbeaten for City at Mansfield – a run that stretches back to 1996.

The loss for David Flitcroft’s Yellows means Forest Green and MK Dons are the only two unbeaten sides left, as the two teams shared the spoils in a competitive game that ended 1-1.

That point wasn’t enough to keep the Dons in the top seven however, as Bury and Oldham both move above them with impressive 2-1 and 3-0 away victories at Swindon and Grimsby respectively.

Colchester retained their playoff berth with a convincing 3-0 win at home to Cambridge, but Carlisle drop out after losing 2-0 at home to Tranmere.

At the bottom, Notts County ended their losing streak with a high-scoring 3-3 draw at home to Stevenage, but will be left thinking what might have been after leading three times at Meadow Lane. The result keeps them at the foot of the table on goal difference.

Morecambe remain just above the Magpies and Macclesfield despite having a fourth straight loss inflicted on them by Crawley, and it’s back-to-back defeats for Northampton, whose ten men went down 2-0 at Port Vale.

The only other game of the weekend and rounding us off was a goalless draw between Cheltenham and Crewe, which sees the two clubs side-by-side in 18th and 17th respectively. The less said about that one the better.

Two points dropped for Monk’s men: Birmingham v West Brom report

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Birmingham City were held to a draw in the Friday night clash at St Andrews against newly relegated West Brom.

The Blues went into this game winless and that poor record continued, but not for the want of trying. A familiar story of missed chances and poor luck at the other end added up to mean that Birmingham end the game with just a point, in a game that they will feel they could and should have won.

Jota opened the scoring before missing a penalty, which summed up the story of the night for Birmingham: not clinical enough. Matty Phillips scored the equaliser just before half time which give Darren Moore’s side the time to regroup and fight for an away point.

Garry Monk’s side started the brightest in the all Midlands clash at St Andrew’s, with the pre-match favourites West Brom struggling to get into the game at all. Birmingham’s early advantage was evident but when the Baggies did attack, they looked dangerous.

The Blues’ territorial advantage was put to good work just before the half hour mark, as Birmingham opened the scoring through Jota.

The Spanish winger pounced first on a loose ball in the box to fire his side into the lead. Gary Gardner lofted a ball into the West Brom box which was poorly defended, allowing Jota to pop up and tap the loose ball into the vacated net.

Questions were asked of young left-back Conor Townsend, who made his first league start for West Brom tonight, ahead of Kieran Gibbs who missed the game through illness. The zippy full-back signed from Scunthorpe United switched off and let Jota ghost into a position of danger, ultimately costing his side.

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St Andrews’ was rocking with this goal, but the atmosphere was to go up a further notch a matter of seconds later.

Birmingham instantly won the ball back from West Brom, who were proverbially on the ropes at this point, and drove forward into the box through Jacques Maghoma.

The Congolese put a teasing cross into the box which Kyle Bartley tried to defend. Bartley, who spent last season at now league leaders Leeds, lofted his arm into an unnatural position and handled the ball in dramatic fashion.

The referee Andy Madley, who had an excellent night, pointed to the spot after eyeing the handball.

Just two minutes after his opener, Jota stepped up and saw his penalty SAVED by Sam Johnstone, much to the delirium of the travelling West Brom fans behind that goal.

The head of Jota evidently dropped, as Garry Monk knew this was a big chance spurned. His side entered this tie winless, desperately needing a win to match the pleasing performances.

Garry Monk was right. The missed penalty would go down as a rued opportunity, as West Brom equalised through Matty Phillips.

The Scottish international weaved through two defenders, including Kristian Pedersen who got beaten far too easily, before poking the ball past Lee Camp.

Phillips had been playing a wing back role for West Brom prior to the international break, but Darren Moore altered his system to a four-at-the-back shape, ahead of this clash.

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If you hadn’t watched Birmingham at all this season, you would never guess they were winless, as they were by far the better team against promotion tipped West Brom.

Chance after chance fell the way of Monk’s side, but to no avail. The best chance was for Che Adams, who skied a chance from 7 yards.

The young striker snatched at his chance that a more experienced player may have took a second and caressed the ball into the goal, rather than aiming for power over accuracy.

In fact, despite Birmingham’s dominance, West Brom looked the more likely to nick something at the end. Harvey Barnes extremely close, as he rattled the crossbar with ten minutes to play. Baggies players failed to get on the end of the rebound and Birmingham survived, as the St Andrews’ faithful took a collective sigh of relief.

Matt Phillips had another chance late on, but his shot had no real traction and was not going to beat the plethora of Birmingham defenders shielding Lee Camp’s goal.

Ultimately, it finished honours even at St Andrews.

The verdict: this game will be remembered as two points dropped for Birmingham and a point gained for West Brom. Winless in seven, Garry Monk’s side were extremely unlucky as they missed chance after chance. It is very early days of course, but the lack of a clinical edge in front of goal is seriously worrying for the Blues, who must look to address this immediately. As for Moore’s men, West Brom will look back on this as a point gained in a tricky away fixture, although some may go home thinking they could have gained maximum points as Dwight Gayle and the impressive Harvey Barnes came close. 

 

EFL Weekly: Gameweek Roundup 09 September

With the Championship taking its early season international break, you’d be forgiven for thinking this weekend’s EFL action could be a quiet one; but you couldn’t be any further from the truth.

League One took centre stage and provided all the thrills and spills we’re used to seeing with goals galore and late drama, as the early pacesetters showed their resilience in maintaining unbeaten starts with gritty performances.

League One

Blackpool v Bradford City - Sky Bet League One

All eyes in the third tier were once again on league leaders Peterborough, who restored their two point advantage over second place Portsmouth with a battling and frantic win at Southend.

Steve Evans’ men appeared to be cruising to another routine win at 2-0 up just short of the hour, but two goals from the hosts in twelve minutes pegged the Posh back.

Despite the disappointment of letting their lead slip however, it was the late show for Peterborough as they responded through summer signing Ivan Toney’s 87th minute winner.

The victory sees Posh continue their best ever start to a league season, whilst condemning Chris Powell’s side to their fourth league defeat of the campaign – and third at their Roots Hall home.

Just behind the Posh are Portsmouth who lose ground at the top, and needed a late goal of their own to avoid defeat for the first time in 2018-19.

Pompey went into the afternoon heavy favourites with the bookies to dispatch of their struggling opposition, winless Shrewsbury, but found themselves a goal down with just over a quarter of an hour remaining following a frustrating afternoon on the South Coast.

It was a poor display from Kenny Jackett’s men, but they salvaged a point with minutes to play as substitute Brett Pitman fired home from the penalty spot.

The four other teams making up the top six were playing each other, and all remarkably maintained their unbeaten starts with draws.

A late Walsall equaliser at Oakwell snatched a draw from Barnsley, whilst Sunderland could only pick up a point from a game that finished 1-1 against Joey Barton’s Fleetwood at the Stadium of Light.

Just outside of the top six, Doncaster, Charlton and Blackpool all closed the gap to the playoffs with a 2-1 win at home to Luton, and 3-2 wins against Wycombe and Bradford respectively.

The Bantams’ loss at Blackpool – which incredibly saw them throw away a two goal lead with less than ten minutes to play – was their third in succession, and not the ideal start for new boss David Hopkin. The West Yorkshire outfit remain just above the drop zone after a disappointing weekend for the four sides currently occupying those spots.

Like Shrewsbury, basement side Plymouth could only pick up a point on their travels as they drew a blank at Bristol Rovers who sit 21st, and Oxford’s chance to impress in front of the Sky cameras went begging as they lost 2-1 at home to Coventry in Sunday’s televised game.

Elsewhere, Accrington made it six games unbeaten as Billy Kee’s late penalty secured a draw with Burton, AFC Wimbledon ended their three-game losing streak thanks to Joe Pigott’s winner at Gillingham, and it was a goalfest at Glanford Park as Scunthorpe drew 3-3 with Rochdale.

League Two

EXENOT

It’s hotting up at the top of League Two as leaders Lincoln tasted defeat for the first time this season with a surprise 1-0 loss at home to mid-table side Crawley.

The Imps found themselves behind on the stroke of half-time due to Michael Bostwick’s own goal, and things got worse ten minutes after the interval when they lost skipper Lee Frecklington to a red card.

Danny Cowley’s men huffed and puffed, but couldn’t break down a resolute Crawley team who make the journey back down to West Sussex with their second win in three games.

Welsh side Newport were the main benefactors, as they continued their momentum with a 1-0 victory at Oldham that made it four wins in a row to draw level at the summit of the fourth tier.

Forest Green are the only side to have played seven games and not lost one due to Mansfield and MK Dons’ trips to Crewe and Yeovil being postponed because of international call-ups, but Mark Cooper’s team drop out of the playoffs after their ten men could only draw 1-1 at home to Port Vale, who pick up their first away point of the season and put an end to a three-game losing streak.

Carlisle and Swindon are two of the clubs who move into the top seven thanks to wins at Cambridge and Morecambe, whilst Colchester retain their playoff place with a 1-1 draw at Tranmere.

Exeter were the big winners of the weekend; jumping six places into an automatic promotion spot thanks to a 5-1 home mauling of Notts County, who continue to struggle at the bottom despite their change in manager.

It’s now six losses in a row for the Magpies who also saw Harry Kewell sent to the stands, and Macclesfield continue to accompany them in the bottom two after a narrow defeat to Stevenage.

Meanwhile, Bury hit two goals in each half to batter Grimsby 4-0 at Gigg Lane, and Cheltenham scored twice in the final fifteen minutes to win 3-1 away at Northampton and ease any early relegation fears.

EFL Weekly: Gameweek Roundup 02 September

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…

Championship

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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.

League One

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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.

League Two

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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.

Talking Tactics: Marcelo Bielsa’s Philosophies

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Marcelo Bielsa is quickly winning praise in England for his fast start with Leeds, but who exactly is ‘El Loco’ and why are his philosophies so lavished in the footballing world?

To the shock and delirium of many English football fans, Leeds United appointed ‘El Loco’ Marcelo Bielsa ahead of the new season. Literally translating as ‘the crazy one’, Bielsa adopts an innovative, fast moving style of football that has won him global plaudits from some of the best coaches in the game, including Pep Guardiola, Diego Simeone and Mauricio Pochettino.

Surprisingly, many neutral watchers in England knew nothing of the Argentinian coach, and some still don’t. A couple of months into his spell at Leeds, we have learnt that Bielsa is indeed a very interesting character: he sits on a cooler during matches, is not afraid to make first half substitutions if things aren’t going right and employs a translator to help him with his interviews in a very odd yet admirable style.

Bielsa’s first job in management was with Argentinian club Newell’s Old Boys, who play their football at the stadium now called ‘Estadio Marcelo Bielsa’ in Rosario, Santa Fe.

Taking the job in his mid thirties, Marcelo Bielsa’s meticulous style became evident months into his two-year stint at Newell’s. The dedicated coach racked up circa 25,000 miles in his Fiat 167 as he fled around the country trying to persuade players to join the club. Often, it was his eye for talent that made him stand out from the crowd, as he brought the likes of Gabriel Batistuta and Mauricio Pochettino to the club, both of whom went on to have playing careers at the highest level.

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Just like all revolutionary coaches in sport, Bielsa has a desire for detail. When the Argentine took over at Leeds, this was clear. He installed sleeping quarters at the training ground and went against the norm of English football training patterns, by insisting that Leeds do double sessions with the players allowed to rest in the sleeping areas in between.

In essence, he has transformed Leeds’ training from a couple of hours in the morning to a nine-to-five job, with the players having demanding physical schedules as well as intense lectures in front of a tactics board learning about their next opponent.

Before his arrival, Bielsa watched all 51 Leeds games from last season, so he knew his players inside out. He completely immersed himself in the club and its surroundings, and thus far it is paying dividends, with Leeds flying in the league.

Top coaches such as Simeone, Guardiola and Pochettino swear by Bielsa as one of their biggest inspirations in management. Pep Guardiola visited Bielsa in Argentina before he took the job as a coach at Barcelona B, his first job. In fact, the two spent 11 hours at a barbecue at Bielsa’s Rosario home talking football and tactics.

Why? Bielsa has won a couple of Argentinian league titles as well as guiding Argentina to Olympic glory, but why is he so coveted in the wider footballing community?

“I only believe in Plan A. Plan B is to get Plan A to work”

Perhaps taking inspiration from Bielsa, a vast majority of top coaches in world football tend to stick to their core beliefs and not stray away from them. For example, Guardiola would never ‘park the bus’ based on the opposition in the same way Simeone refuses to depart from his defensive counter attacking game.

Bielsa sees the notion of changing tactics mid game as failure or a sign of weakness. If he doesn’t believe in his own way, why should the players invest so much attention and effort to believe in Bielsa?

That doesn’t mean El Loco is afraid of change – far from it, in fact. In the game against Swansea at the Liberty Stadium a fortnight ago, Bielsa hauled off his key midfielder Kalvin Phillips with not even half an hour on the clock, for tactical reasons. When Leeds needed a goal, it was always going to be one striker for another, rather than throwing Bamford on for a defender and changing the game plan to throwing balls into the box.

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It doesn’t always work. In his early days at Lille, Bielsa made three changes before half time and ended up having to play an outfield player as a goalkeeper, before changing his mind and swapping the outfield player. Lille lost that game 3-0, to Strasbourg. His style is rash and sometimes backfires, but often it works.

As Kanye West would say – “Name one genius that ain’t crazy”.

The famous 3-3-1-3 and more conservative 4-2-3-1 styles

Leeds’ star coach has been hailed in world football for his tactical innovations, namely his eye catching 3-3-1-3 formation, which gained popularity in Bielsa’s Chile, Marseille and Bilbao sides.

The system demands highly demanding pressing, elaborate attacking and fluid transitions that combine for a very exciting style of play.

The eccentric formation consists of: three defenders ample on the ball; a defensive shield in the middle of two inverted wing backs; an enganche; a front three of a target man and two wide men.

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Perhaps most eye catching of the formation is the playmaker just behind the front three: most notable in this role was Dimitri Payet during Bielsa’s stint at Marseille.

This player is given the most freedom and is relieved of pressing duties, thus is the biggest creative outlet in the system. Enganche is the traditional playmaker that is the prompt for attacking moves.

The wide men stay as wide as possible, creating overloads in the wide areas, allowing the playmaker to excel.

The un enganche y tres punta belief galvanized the French league at the time and Marseille fought for the title right until the end, where they were beaten by multimillionaire giants Paris St-Germain.

As is similar with most of the pioneer coaches of attacking football, many forget about the defensive side. Bielsa’s sides are more than equipped off the ball.

Chile adopted a high intensity style around this famous 3-3-1-3 formation and although not littered with talent, the South American nation have over performed in tournaments in the past decade, especially on the continent.

Whilst at Barcelona, Pep Guardiola stated that Barcelona’s draw at the San Mames, home of Bielsa’s Bilbao, was their toughest game of the season. He said that Bielsa’s men played like lions as the Catalan giants struggled to cope with their high pressing.

In that very season, the Basque club earned their way to surprising finishes in the Europa League and the Copa del Rey, achieving the final in both competitions.

It isn’t just the eccentric 3-3-1-3 formation that Loco has up his sleeve, as he often turns to a 4-2-3-1 system with high full backs, which he is adopting thus far in Yorkshire.

Bielsa’s aim is to have one more central defender than the opposition have strikers, which facilitates his high line and pressing style of play, as only one spare defender means there are more players to push forwards.

“Concentracion, permanente movilidad, rotacion y repentization” – concentration, focus, rotation and improvisation.

Even though the shape may look slightly different, the idea and emphasis is the same. The key components are speed, verticality and fluidity: each player is expected to improvise within the system and fill in for one another.

Bielsa swears: “if football was played by robots, I would win everything”. He has a belief in his system that if players carry out his orders of where to be on the pitch, they will succeed.

The robotic comment seems strange, as Bielsa relies heavily on improvisation in situations for effectiveness.

He believes that totally mechanized teams are “useless, because they get lost when they lose their script”. The role of the enganche, in both systems, thus, is crucial.

Whether it be Dimi Payet at that high flying Marseille side in a 3-3-1-3 or now at Leeds, Samuel Saiz, the creativity and improvisation aspect is crucial. The playing style is about movement – you may watch Leeds and not know what position certain players are playing, because they have to be multifunctional similar to Pep’s City, where Kyle Walker pops up all over the pitch in wing back, midfield and centre back roles depending on the situation.

His interesting character and demeanour  

Bielsa has an affinity with fans and tries to drill into his players that they must fight for the supporters who work hard to afford to come and watch their team. He said: “[players] are an extension of fans, [players] are those people.”

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During pre season, Loco wanted to make the players know what it takes to earn a ticket, so made his squad go around litter picking for the time that it takes for the average earner to make enough to afford a Leeds United home ticket.

He believes that he is the boss, but he is separate from the players. The captain, Liam Cooper, was voted for by the players – Bielsa believes the captain is the voice of the players, so he should not have a say in who wears the armband.

What you do on the training pitch win you matches, but the finer details are what win you titles. The small changes Bielsa has made at Leeds will go a long way to making this side better equipped to fight for promotion.

This has always been the case: when at Chile, he changed everything from the dimension of the pitch to the font on the signage around the training complex, because he saw a font he liked at Santiago Zoo.

He speaks adequate English, but does not want his message to come across wrong, so relies heavily on his translator.

These finer details helped setup Chile’s golden generation which won back-to-back Copa America titles – they will be crucial for Leeds in a division which is so often decided on tight margins.

Leeds have started brilliantly, but they have done before. This feels different. Bielsa has a blueprint that he will stick by and the players can only improve, unlike previous years when it was potentially a new manager effect driving improved performances for a short period of time.

The buzz around the city is different and better than it has been for over a decade, with 20000 watching Tuesday night cup ties at Elland Road to see Bielsa’s Leeds in the flesh.

Bielsa has never had vast amounts of money to spend, so his ideas are crucial. He has a system that he believes in – if he can transfer this belief to the players, Leeds will go far.