Swansea boss leads Championship winners and losers
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Coming from behind to beat West Brom after a south Wales derby win means Swansea have a new managerial hero. Ex-Swansea manager Steve Cooper is also thriving…
Nottingham Forest needed his predecessor to turn their season around, but Russell Martin is proving more than capable of transforming Swansea City’s own slow start into a promising campaign. Saturday’s 3-0 win over arch rivals Cardiff was great for morale, but given the dreadful run of form their rivals are on, anything less than a home win would have made for desolation in the Jack Army fanbase.
Less than a minute into their midweek contest with West Brom, that was the overriding feeling as Karlan Grant very quickly put the Baggies one up. Whereas Swansea would have likely seen out a defeat in the opening two months of the season, we are now beginning to see the makings of a side with , as well as being easy on the eye.
West Brom, as we come to expect, were anything but. Just as this was a clash of contrasting styles, it was contrasting halves which turned the half-time deficit into an impressive comeback victory. A goal and an assist for Joel Piroe – – and a winner from the magic man Jamie Paterson once more took the Swans into the relative comfort of mid-table, and unbelievably, just another couple of wins from a spot in the top six.
It is staggering that while League One’s champions and runners-up from last season – Hull City and Peterborough United – have struggled, play-off winners Blackpool have thrived after a slow start to the campaign.
That rang true on Wednesday night, as a slow start saw the Seasiders 2-0 down in Reading with less than a quarter of the game played. But just as is so often the case with Neil Critchley’s side, it’s not where they start but where they finish that counts. Still two goals down with a quarter of the game remaining, Owen Dale halved the deficit but Jerry Yates was the star of the show. His late double made it four goals in his last three outings in his first season as a starter at this level.
Shayne Lavery is Blackpool’s top scorer this season, but Yates has filled his goalscoring boots wonderfully during his spell on the sidelines. With two regular scorers on their books, another stellar season could be in line for Critchley’s merry men.
It had seemed touch and go for some time that Warnock would remain at Middlesbrough in the long term, with their campaign looking set for mid-table mediocrity. They still leave a lot to be desired, but their first consistent run of form of 2021/22 has Boro within touching distance of the play-offs. For as long as that remains the case, Warnock and Middlesbrough will remain a marriage of convenience.
I’m not entirely sure if it’s possible to have a relegation six-pointer in mid-October, but this clash between Hull City and Peterborough United could have wide-reaching ramifications come May. For Peterborough, avoiding defeat to a potential competitor for a bottom three spot away from home was the primary objective.
Winning the contest in the East Riding of Yorkshire could be a springboard to greater things, while a winner from Siriki Dembele, his first goal since August, gave an indication that the Posh might just have enough about them to stay up.
To say that Lyle Taylor’s 16 months with Nottingham Forest had been a damp squib prior to Tuesday night would be the understatement of the pandemic, but two injury-time goals in as many minutes ensured the former Charlton striker made a memory which will be etched into the minds of Forest fans for years to come.
After yet another win at the weekend for Steve Cooper, we while warning that they would return to the mean sooner or later. For much of Tuesday night, that return to Earth looked like coming; I think we all know Forest’s fortune well enough by now to know their fans believe only their club could grant Bristol City a first home win in front of fans for the first time in nearly two years.
As if to emphasise how different this Cooper era could become for the two-time European Cup winners, Taylor instilled that winning spirit by despatching a penalty with ease to grant Forest what looked like a well-earned point before finding himself where he so often hasn’t for Forest – in the right place at the right time – to send the visiting supporters into raptures, while the home support would have been begging the Ashton Gate turf to swallow them whole.
But the night belonged to Forest, and more specifically to Taylor, who more than made up for almost a year and a half of frustration and unfulfilled promise in the Midlands to carry Forest marching on up the Championship table, providing a night to remember for every travelling supporter and thousands more watching on from home. That’s what football is all about.
Another goal. Another winner for the former England striker who is in the most consistent and rewarding form of his life right now. Given the former Chelsea and Liverpool forward is over halfway to his career-best tally of 15 goals from last season, we can assume that his consistent record over the past three months is the new normal.
Eight goals in 13 starts means no Englishman has scored more goals than the 24-year-old in this Championship season, and few strikers in the country can lay claim to having as much impact as Solanke; his last four goals have all been match winners – including Tuesday’s 1-0 victory at Stoke City – while he scored both goals in a 2-2 draw with Blackpool in the early stages of the season. His sole assist this term came in a 2-1 victory over Nottingham Forest, proving that Solanke is the man for the crucial moments. That knack will prove invaluable as the season progresses.
Since shining on loan at Stevenage in 2018/19, it has been clear that QPR talisman Ilias Chair will be sitting pretty at the top table of football before too long. The amalgamation of a highlights reel player devoid of tap-ins and yet quite the all-rounder in the middle of the park, this Moroccan is revolutionising QPR.
An inconsistent run of late after a barnstorming start to the season culminated with the 4-1 defeat to Fulham. In a tight contest with fellow dark horses Blackburn, Chair’s fourth goal in as many games separated the sides. In the last quartet of matches, QPR would have six fewer points sans Chair’s goals. With them, they are very much back in top six contention.
Saturday’s home defeat to Luton Town had some Millwall fans understandably yet perhaps prematurely reaching for the #RowettOut campaigns. Much of the last year has seen Millwall tread about the second tier inconsistently, going from winning one week to losing or drawing the next and back. It’s not desolate, and there are clubs that would kill for that safety net of regular points being picked up.
But combine Rowett’s less-than-pleasing-on-the-eye football with a sense that somebody else could get more out of this side has led to understandable frustrations amongst the Lions’ fanbase.
So while Tuesday’s last-minute victory at Bramall Lane may prove to be another high before a subsequent low, the very nature of Jake Cooper’s winner injected a memorable moment into a season which has had far too few to date. An away day in Yorkshire under the lights on a rainy Tuesday evening only gets better with three points achieved in such a style which make it almost impossible to speak and gloat the morning afterwards.
For Gary Rowett, it offers respite, and a chance for reflection. At the end of play on Tuesday, Millwall were in the top half and three points off a play-off place. In such an open division at the top end, they have as much chance as at least half a dozen sides of making a dark horse play for sixth spot. Some consistency would almost seal it.
Bristol City home misery
There is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and then there is what Bristol City did at home to Nottingham Forest on Tuesday night. Without a home win since January and a further 11 months since winning in front of a full Ashton Gate, the ridiculously high flying Robins – all things considered – looked to have finally ended their duck when the fourth official held up the stoppage time board with the Robins deservedly in the lead.
But they didn’t reckon for Lyle Taylor, and in truth, the equaliser was more gut-wrenching than the winner which followed less than a minute later. Bristol City are not desperate for points, owing to their stellar away record this term, but they are craving that home winning feeling which must feel like it’s now never coming.
Manager Nigel Pearson, over half a year into this particular gig, is shouldering the responsibility for having been yet to manage a home league victory; and so he should. He must still hope that the away form does not cede before that elusive three-point haul at home finally arrives.
Sheffield United goalkeepers
Robin Olsen is the fourth goalkeeper to play for Sheffield United this season, following in the gloves of Aaron Ramsdale, Michael Verrips and Wes Foderingham. Whereas the former is now shining at Arsenal, the trio that have followed have all had their extreme faults. The performances of Verrips and Ramsdale in their brief chances led to the necessity of the Swede Olsen coming in on loan from Roma, but he too has been less than stellar, and proved so once again as Jed Wallace’s attempted cross sailed through him and into the back of the net.
From hero to zero, Josh Magennis’ night was as dramatic as it was tragic. Having levelled from the penalty spot late in the first half, Magennis was hoping for a serious case of déjà vu when Hull were awarded a second spot-kick of the night midway through the second period to take the lead.
Magennis could not repeat the trick though, skying the ball into the stands and then wishing the Humberside ground would swallow him up when the Posh took the lead themselves just five minutes later. Had Magennis hit the double, Hull would have edged away from the bottom three. Instead, Peterborough took that fate while the Tigers have collected only more points than Barnsley.
The chasing pack
Bournemouth continued their unbeaten run on Tuesday night to temporarily extend their lead at the top of the Championship table, but come Wednesday’s end, that dominance looked a little more permanent. Stoke, West Brom, Coventry and Reading all succumbed to defeats, while Huddersfield mustered a 0-0 draw at home to Birmingham City. Only Fulham put pressure on their former manager Scott Parker’s Cherries.
The league leaders are five points clear of second, six points clear of third, and 10 points ahead of seventh. They don’t look like making many errors at this stage, but they have plenty of wiggle room for them.
McCarthy, Schopp, and the finite English language
We have said it all before, and there are only so many words in the English language. Yet more defeats without scoring for Cardiff and Barnsley, and the only desolation worse than that of the respective fanbases is mine as trying to write something new and witty about the fate of each man in charge.
Thirty minutes and much writer’s block later, I have succumbed to that challenge.
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