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Mario Vrancic scores his free-kick against Leeds
Mario Vrancic scores his free-kick against Leeds

It's been another exciting weekend in the Sky Bet Championship with a number of results catching the eye.

There was a change at the top as Norwich beat Leeds, both sides separated by just two goals with 57 points their current tallies.

The promotion race continues to excite with victories for Middlesbrough, Birmingham, Bristol City, Sheffield United and Hull - while there were also points gained for Reading, Millwall and Rotherham at the other end of the table.

Here are four key events from the latest round of games.


Norwich win top of the table clash

It was the highlight of the Sky Bet EFL weekend, and Norwich moved top of the table with victory away at fellow title hopefuls Leeds.

The Canaries silenced the packed Elland Road crowd when Mario Vrancic's free-kick beat Kiko Casilla, before woeful Leeds defending allowed Teemu Pukki to score before half-time.

Both sides struck late on, but it was the visitors who secured all three points in a 3-1 win.

Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds were odds-on favourites going into the game, but Norwich demonstrated exactly why they are worthy of top spot with a solid performance throughout the 90 minutes.

It left plenty of questions about this Leeds team. Despite being 2-0 down in front of their own fans, they did little to inspire in the second-half and their attitude didn't seem there for a game of such importance.

As Norwich boss Daniel Farke said after the game, this game doesn't change a huge amount and they are taking it game-by-game, but the psychological boost for Norwich is massive at this point in the season.

Both sides face tricky tests next. Norwich host an Ipswich side who, despite being bottom of the table, have seen performances improve and Leeds travel to top-six Middlesbrough, who will be wanting to boost their own chances of reaching the Premier League.


Boro battle back to beat the Baggies

Middlesbrough head into that game against Leeds on the back of a great victory away at West Brom.

George Saville gave the visitors the lead before Jay Rodriguez and Dwight Gayle put the Baggies ahead. With 15 minutes remaining, substitute Britt Assombalonga netted a brace to secure the points.

Tony Pulis' side have a fantastic away record this season with just two of their 15 league games on the road ending in defeat. Only current league leaders Norwich can boast better.

It's contributed significantly to their current position in the table and it's helped them to pick up points against the likes of West Brom, Leeds, Derby and Bristol City already.

Boro are seven points behind the automatic promotion places and their home form has been a disappointment. They sit 15th in the home charts, only Bristol City have seen worse from any of the sides in the top ten.


Five-star Brentford hammer Blackburn

It took some time, but the Thomas Frank era at Brentford looks like it's really getting going.

It didn't seem that way on Saturday though. Bradley Dack and Danny Graham fired Blackburn into a 2-0 lead after just seven minutes at Griffin Park, far from the ideal start for the home side.

However, four goals in the second-half, which included a brace from forward Ollie Watkins, helped the Bees overturn their early deficit as they hit five past Tony Mowbray's Rovers.

It means that Brentford have now won their last three in the league, moving them well clear of any relegation trouble at this point. They may well have been up amongst the top-six at the start of the season, but that is still a positive based on their form at the back-end of 2018.

They are now ten points off the play-off positions and Sky Bet have them at 18/1 to finish in the top-six. They may seem a mile away now, but we have seen teams fly up the table in the second-half of the season in the past.

They look like a side that we were used to seeing back in August and September. A team moving the ball about the pitch and creating space for others, a pleasure to watch at times.


Who will reach the play-offs?

On the topic of the play-offs, there's a real wide open feel to the top-six this season with just five points separating Bristol City in sixth and Nottingham Forest in 12th.

The fantastic form of Hull in recent weeks has seen them transformed from relegation candidates to promotion outsiders. Birmingham continue to go from strength-to-strength under Garry Monk, that's despite transfer restrictions that has severely limited their ability to add to their numbers.

Derby are still in the mix but have suffered from Bristol City's winning run, while Aston Villa continue to be in the running as do Blackburn who will be dreaming of back-to-back promotions.

Of course, the teams in the top-six are still there to be shot at, with Middlesbrough and West Brom just three points clear of the chasing pack.

There are sides who are hitting form at the right time of the season, which should make the run-in incredibly exciting. I tipped Hull to finish in the top-half on our Christmas 'special' of the Sporting Life Sky Bet Championship podcast back at the beginning of December, although my eye is on the 8/1 for the Tigers to potentially sneak into the top-six.


Odds correct at 1455 GMT on 04/02/19

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