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Sky Bet Championship: The race for the top goalscorer accolade

The contenders to finish at the top goalscorer in the Sky Bet Championship
The contenders to finish at the top goalscorer in the Sky Bet Championship

It's set to be one of the closest races for promotion from the Sky Bet Championship, and that also applies to the battle for the top goalscorer spot.

Teemu Pukki currently holds first place after his brace against Bolton, while the Norwich forward and Sheffield United's Billy Sharp have already surpassed last season's top tally of 21 by Matej Vydra.

There are still 13 games to play this season too, meaning that it is incredibly likely that over 30 goals will be needed to land the award.

Even with Villa's woes this season, Tammy Abraham remains in the running with his 20 goals so far. The same can be applied to Neal Maupay, who has been involved in a Brentford side who have slipped down the standings.

Birmingham sit on the verge of the top-six, thanks in part to the efforts of Che Adams, while West Brom duo Jay Rodriguez and Dwight Gayle are engaged in some friendly competition at the Hawthorns.

Tom Carnduff looks at the front runners, with odds from Sky Bet, and analyses the stats behind each player's success so far.


Teemu Pukki

Norwich City's Teemu Pukki celebrates
Norwich City's Teemu Pukki celebrates

Club: Norwich City

Goals: 23

Sky Bet odds: 6/4

The current favourite and the forward who leads the way for goals scored this season. Teemu Pukki has proven to be one of the best bargain signings in recent years after joining Norwich from Danish side Brondby for free in the summer.

He has led the line superbly for the Canaries and his goals have put them in a strong position for the title this season. He has failed to score in just 12 of the 30 Sky Bet Championship games he has been involved in, with four games seeing more than one goal.

Pukki has contributed 35% of the league goals scored by Norwich. It also puts them on a healthy +23 goal difference too, that being six better off than third-placed Leeds and could well be the difference in finishing in automatic promotion or the play-offs in May.

The 28-year-old has demonstrated his instinct for goal and his movement is what separates him from other forwards in the division. He has the ability to work openings that create chances to score, alongside drawing others into play. That's why he has seven assists alongside those 23 goals this season.

Pukki sits second for shots taken in the Championship this season, only Brentford's Neal Maupay boasts more.


Billy Sharp

Billy Sharp celebrates his third goal against Aston Villa
Billy Sharp celebrates his hat-trick goal against Aston Villa

Club: Sheffield United

Goals: 22

Sky Bet odds: 9/4

Despite being 33 years of age, Billy Sharp is showing no signs of stopping with another prolific season in England's second tier.

The striker has netted 22 goals so far as he looks to fire Sheffield United into the Premier League, that's more than last season's top goalscorer Matej Vydra with 13 games left of the campaign.

Sharp has proven to be the division's most clinical striker when it comes to the shots-to-goals ratio. He has had 63 total shots, and with 22 goals, his shot conversion rate stands at 35%.

His hat-trick against Aston Villa was his second three-goal haul of the season, the first coming in a 4-2 home victory over Wigan at the end of October. Those games are among the five where he has posted multiple goals.

The New Year's Day victory over Wigan also saw Sharp score his 220th goal and became the leading goalscorer in English league football during the 21st Century, overtaking the previous record set by Rickie Lambert.

His second goal against Villa was also his 100th goal in all competitions for Sheffield United, coming across three spells at the Blades.


Tammy Abraham

Tammy Abraham scored four goals in an incredible game at Villa Park
Tammy Abraham scored four goals against Nottingham Forest

Club: Aston Villa

Goals: 20

Sky Bet odds: 7/2

It's been another prolific loan spell for the 21-year-old as he has netted 20 goals in just 27 Championship games for Aston Villa this season.

Abraham has benefited from the highest amount of 'big chances' created by his teammates with a total of 29, although he has only managed to convert around half of those.

The highlight of the forward's career came in an extraordinary ten-goal thriller against Nottingham Forest at the end of November. It's rare that a striker can say they scored four goals in one game, let alone not winning that game, but that's what happened to Abraham as it finished 5-5.

He suits the attacking philosophy of Dean Smith as he can create chances for himself, alongside being in the right position to get on the end of through balls and crosses.

If Villa are to make the play-offs, Abraham will have to continue finding the net and he is another strong contender to hit 30+ goals by the time May comes.


Neal Maupay

Neal Maupay celebrates after scoring against Wigan
Neal Maupay celebrates after scoring against Wigan

Club: Brentford

Goals: 18

Sky Bet odds: 7/1

Maupay seemed to slow down after a great start, a bit similar to his team's fortunes, but the striker has hit three goals in his last four games.

The Frenchman is a good all-round forward with the physical presence to go alongside an eye for goal. That has seen him score from a range of situations this season which has helped Brentford to push back up the table.

He sits top of the Championship for shots taken, although that means he hasn't been the most clinical by comparison. His shot conversion stands at just 18% which is the lowest among the division leaders.

Maupay was linked with a Premier League move in January but he stayed in West London. He's on course for 25 goals this season and a switch to a new club in the summer seems likely.


Che Adams

Birmingham forward Che Adams
Birmingham forward Che Adams

Club: Birmingham

Goals: 19

Sky Bet odds: 8/1

One of the surprise packages of the Sky Bet Championship season has been Che Adams and his terrific form for Birmingham.

The striker has hit 19 goals already this season and his impact has proven to be crucial for the Blues as they sit three spots below the play-offs.

The 22-year-old is a pacey forward and links up well with the physical presence that Lukas Jutkiewicz brings to the Birmingham attack. Adams started the season slowly, but he has since scored eight in his last seven league appearances.

He also has two hat-tricks to his name, those coming against Hull and QPR, while his four assists highlight how Adams can contribute when the opportunity arises.

A heavily-linked move to Southampton or Burnley was rejected by his club at the end of the January window, but he'll be a player that clubs will be enquiring about before the start of the 2019/20 campaign.


The debate

Strikers were a hot topic of debate on the latest Sky Bet Championship podcast with Gareth Jones, Dom Newton-Collinge, Tom Carnduff and ex-Leeds and Middlesbrough forward Noel Whelan.

Explaining what makes a good striker, Whelan said: "It's somebody that has obviously got the movement, got the know-how and got the knack. I think it's a natural ability that you have. You talk about great strikers, Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry, Ian Wright - they were in the right place at the right time.

"Sometimes it's not about being too clever. They would just drift into areas where they anticipated the ball is going to go. I don't think that sometimes you can teach that, you just can't, it's just a natural ability that they have.

"All these strikers - it's not about scoring the unbelievable goal either from outside the box, like Sergio Aguero against Chelsea, Aguero has it from inside the box as well, he just has that knack of being there."

Whelan then went onto discuss Blades forward Sharp, praising his impact at the club and how vital his goals could be this season.

"That is exactly what Billy Sharp is," Whelan stated, "He just loves scoring goals, when you have someone with that appetite and that excitement about hitting the back of the net you've got a really dangerous player on your hands.

"He doesn't get bored of scoring goals as you can see with the 101 with Sheffield United, which is a fantastic achievement by him. He deserves it.

"He is always alive in the box. He's never flat-footed, he's always moving and he's always thinking ahead, where that ball is going to go, and he seems to have the knack of the right place at the right time.

A young Noel Whelan during his days at Coventry
A young Noel Whelan during his days at Coventry

"Don't get me wrong, some of the goals - think of the one against Leeds last season - the overhead kick, are instinctive finishes and he's got that."

There was praise for Pukki too, Sporting Life's Dom saying: "watching his goals (from this season), they are all very similar. It's all down to the movement - he's found the club that suits him.

"He likes the way Norwich play, they get the ball into the box a lot which suits him because again he's like that Billy Sharp character who just appears out of nowhere.

"A lot of the goals were like pea rollers, I don't know how they went in, on more than one occasion he's just rolled one past the goalkeeper somehow but it's confidence.

Whelan then added: "I call that a cultured finish. There's no foot all the way through it, you know where you want to put the ball and sometimes it's a matter of just caressing it through into the goal.

"Good players, confident players do that. Strikers just thrive of confidence. If you've got a striker without confidence, that doesn't trust himself, even if he knows he's a fantastic finisher, you fluff your lines.

"Something where everything is going right for you this season, a lot of the goals you can't remember as they just happen naturally. Without thinking, it's just calmly sweeping into an area where you know it's going to go into the back of the net."

Jarrod Bowen scores for Hull against QPR
Jarrod Bowen scores for Hull against QPR

There was also a mention for Jarrod Bowen, with the Hull winger scoring 16 goals and contributing three assists.

The 22-year-old has been central to the Tigers' revival, transforming them from relegation candidates to potential top-half finish.

On the Hull man, Whelan said: "It's even more impressive that he's a winger. You class them as a front three these days, but you've got to give him great credit. That also shows the turnaround that Hull have had because they were struggling.

"All these goals coming from the wide areas, and from Bowen, has helped massively."

Bowen is 25/1 with Sky Bet to finish as the top goalscorer in the division this season, despite being a huge outsider back in August.


Odds correct as of 1345 GMT on 18/02/19

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Most Read Football

Get all the latest football gossip from the day's back pages1

Paper Talk: Wilfried wanted

The likes of PSG are interested in signing Wilfried Zaha from Crystal Palace this summer while Nabil Fekir's dream move to Liverpool could be back on.

Sporting Life's Premier League preview for Everton v Man Utd2

Toffees to hold up United

Manchester United's top four run could be held up by Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday. Paul Higham has the best bets for the big game.

Sporting Life's Premier League preview of Cardiff v Liverpool3

Reds to survive Cardiff test

Cardiff gave themselves hope of avoiding the drop during the week, but they won't get anything out of title-chasing Liverpool. Check out our best bets for the game.

Sporting Life's Premier League preview of Arsenal v Crystal Palace4

Home comforts for Gunners

Arsenal return to fortress Emirates with a favourable fixture to boost their top four hopes - and Paul Higham expects them to do just that.

Left to right: Raheem Sterling, Virgil van Dijk and Eden Hazard - stars of the 2018/19 Premier League5

PFA Player of the Year nominations

Title rivals Liverpool and Man City dominate the shortlist for PFA Player of the Year, with Virgil Van Dijk and Raheem Sterling the front-runners.

Football Tips

Sporting Life's Premier League preview for Everton v Man Utd

Toffees to hold up United

Manchester United's top four run could be held up by Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday. Paul Higham has the best bets for the big game.

Sporting Life's Premier League preview of Cardiff v Liverpool

Reds to survive Cardiff test

Cardiff gave themselves hope of avoiding the drop during the week, but they won't get anything out of title-chasing Liverpool. Check out our best bets for the game.

Sporting Life's Premier League preview of Arsenal v Crystal Palace

Home comforts for Gunners

Arsenal return to fortress Emirates with a favourable fixture to boost their top four hopes - and Paul Higham expects them to do just that.