A review of Saturday's action in the Sky Bet Championship, where Leeds maintained their promotion push with a 3-1 victory over Blackburn.
Blackburn 1-3 Leeds
Leeds outclassed Blackburn to take another step towards their long-awaited Premier League return as a 3-1 victory at Ewood Park put them four points clear at the top of the Championship.
First-half goals from Patrick Bamford and Kalvin Phillips put Leeds in control of an exciting contest, which saw both sides hit the post in a frantic opening 45 minutes.
And though Adam Armstrong’s free-kick briefly got Rovers back in it early in the second half, Mateusz Klich needed only five minutes to restore Leeds’ two-goal advantage as they cruised to victory.
West Brom can cut the gap at the top when they host Hull on Sunday, but with Leeds six points clear of third-placed Brentford with five games left to play, they are on course to make it back to the top flight for the first time since 2004.
But it was a third defeat in a row for Blackburn, whose play-off hopes are fading rapidly as they sit six points off sixth place.
Brentford 3-0 Wigan
Said Benrahma grabbed a hat-trick as Brentford kept up their bid for automatic promotion with a 3-0 victory over crisis club Wigan.
Benrahma’s sparkling treble ensured the Bees are still breathing down the necks of the top two, having moved to within two points of second-placed West Brom.
That they were made to work relatively hard for almost an hour before securing a fifth straight win was a testament to Wigan, whose players and manager Paul Cook were reeling from their shock slide into administration on Wednesday.
The alarming development came little more than a month after the Latics, a Premier League side and FA Cup winners just seven years ago, were taken over by the Hong Kong-based Next Leader Fund.
It meant Wigan arrived in west London having gone from the the Championship’s in-form side to effectively bottom of the table, the 12-point deduction they will receive undoing all the good work of a remarkable run of six wins out of seven.
Luton 0-5 Reading
Yakou Meite scored four goals, including a first-half hat-trick, as Reading heaped further pressure on struggling Luton with a thumping 5-0 win at Kenilworth Road.
The striker had his treble after just 35 minutes as the Royals ran riot to record their first victory since the restart, with Town, the league’s bottom side, collapsing in the face of the onslaught.
George Puscas was also on target for the ruthless visitors.
Reading might have gone ahead early on, Meite seeing his close-range attempt brilliantly cleared off the line by Dan Potts after goalkeeper Simon Sluga could only parry a cross-shot.
James Collins then hit the bar for Luton, unable to keep his header from Harry Cornick’s cross down, while Matty Pearson had appeals for a penalty rejected as the visitors soon assumed complete control.
They went in front after 17 minutes when Meite was put in the clear by Puscas and kept his nerve to slide his shot underneath Sluga.
Reading doubled their advantage just 60 seconds later.
Luton’s defence, which had been so watertight as they held leaders Leeds in midweek, crumbled as Sluga fumbled Gabriel Osho’s cross, Pearson could not clear Puscas’s follow-up and Meite was able to blast home his second.
Tom McIntyre almost had a third, his shot deflecting straight into Sluga’s grasp, but Meite then completed his hat-trick, arrowing a shot into the corner after Ovie Ejaria’s clever pass had put him clean through once more.
Stoke 4-0 Barnsley
Stoke climbed out of the Sky Bet Championship relegation zone after a thumping 4-0 win over fellow strugglers Barnsley.
Strikers Sam Vokes and Tyrese Campbell made the most of poor defending from the visitors to fire the Potters into a two-goal lead inside the first 10 minutes.
Campbell then gave City a commanding cushion in the 38th minute after his marker switched off at a corner.
Substitute Tom Ince completed the scoring three minutes from time, curling a beauty into the top corner while the visiting defence stood watching.
Toothless Barnsley were lucky the defeat was not heavier, with Sam Clucas, Vokes and Nick Powell all going close to adding further goals.
It leaves Stoke with a five-point cushion over Barnsley, who are second from bottom and four points adrift of Hull in 21st.
Fulham 1-0 Birmingham
Josh Onomah struck deep into added time to keep Fulham’s automatic promotion hopes alive with a 1-0 win over Birmingham.
Scott Parker’s side appeared set for frustration as they struggled to break down a Birmingham side now without a win in nine Sky Bet Championship matches.
But Onomah – on as a 60th-minute substitute – swept home from 12 yards to deliver the victory that moves them to within four points of second-placed West Brom.
Prior to that moment, the Cottagers had struggled to break Birmingham down with in-demand Blues teenager Jude Bellingham coming closest to breaking the deadlock.
The 17-year-old is a target for Manchester United but is believed to be close to sealing a move to Borussia Dortmund with the Bundesliga side reported to have offered a deal worth up to £30million.
Bristol City 0-1 Cardiff
Danny Ward was Cardiff’s late goal hero as they boosted their Sky Bet Championship play-off hopes with a 1-0 win over Bristol City at Ashton Gate.
The substitute ran on to a through ball from fellow replacement Lee Tomlin to slot a left-footed shot past Dan Bentley after poor control from City sub Benik Afobe had surrendered possession.
For the Robins, it meant nine games without a win – and four straight defeats since the season’s resumption last month – and the result almost certainly ended already flickering play-off hopes.
And it certainly did end the tenure of manager Lee Johnson, who was sacked after the match.
Derby 1-1 Nottingham Forest
Chris Martin grabbed a dramatic stoppage-time goal to earn Derby a precious point in a 1-1 draw with rivals Nottingham Forest.
Joe Lolley’s 10th goal of the season looked to have won it, but – after Martyn Waghorn was sent off moments earlier – Forest failed to deal with a free-kick and Martin pounced.
It was a pulsating end to a game which had barely simmered throughout and dents Forest’s hopes of automatic promotion, while Derby are very much in the play-off race.
Derby had the first real opening in the fourth minute, when Forest gave the ball away allowing Duane Holmes to burst forward, but his cross sailed over everyone.
Forest opened the scoring in the 12th minute, when Lolley came inside and bent a low shot from 20 yards in off Ben Hamer’s right-hand post.
Waghorn was shown a red card in stoppage time for a dangerous challenge on Ryan Yates, but there was still time for a dramatic equaliser in the seventh additional minute, when Martin bundled the ball in after Samba fumbled a free-kick.
Huddersfield 0-0 Preston
Huddersfield and Preston played out a goalless draw that did little to enhance their positions at either end of the table.
After a game of very few chances, both sides had to settle for a point that left Huddersfield two points above the relegation zone and Preston six adrift of the play-off places.
Preston substitute Scott Sinclair spurned the best chance of the match in stoppage time when he dragged his shot wide following fellow substitute Sean Maguire’s flick-on.
Huddersfield had climbed out of the bottom three on Wednesday after their 3-0 win at Birmingham had halted a run of three straight defeats, but they never went close to following up with another vital three points.
Preston’s winless streak was extended to seven matches and they appear to have run out of ideas in their bid to rekindle their play-off challenge.
Sky Bet Championship Opta facts
- Brentford have won five consecutive games in England’s top four tiers without conceding a goal for the first time in their history.
- Since Wayne Rooney’s debut on January 2nd, Derby have earned more points than any other Championship side (31 – W9 D4 L3).
- Patrick Bamford scored his first away league goal of 2020, with his previous such strike coming at Fulham in December. He had gone seven away games without netting.
- Reading’s Yakou Meite became the first Championship player to score four goals in an away game since Ross McCormack for Leeds against Charlton in November 2013. His first and second goals were separated by only 86 seconds.
- Stoke completed their first league double over Barnsley since the 1957-58 campaign.
- Cardiff City have won three consecutive away league games within a single season for the first time since March 2015.
- Fulham have now kept 13 clean sheets in the league this season – in the last nine seasons, they’ve only managed a better record once; in 2017-18, when they won promotion to the Premier League (17 clean sheets).
- Preston are winless in seven league games (D2 L5), their worst run since going 10 games without a win as of October 2018 (D3 L7).
- Chris Martin’s goal against Nottingham Forest was the latest the team has scored in the Championship this season (96:29) – more than three and a half minutes later than their second latest (Waghorn v Wigan, 92:56).
- Only Sergio Agüero (four) has scored more hat-tricks in England’s top four tiers than Saïd Benrahma since the start of last season (three).
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