CHAMPIONSHIP REVIEW: THE BEST FIVE FIXTURES ENGLAND'S SECOND TIER HAD TO OFFER THIS WEEKEND
The Championship returned from the international break in fine form with a top of the table clash that saw leadership of the division change hands and a seven-goal thriller at the Bet365 Stadium.
It was a tale of two penalties at the Riverside, Preston picked up their first home win of the season to spoil Tony Pulis’ debut in the Sheffield Wednesday dugout and Barnsley continued their fine form under Valerien Ismael.
Here is the best of the action:
AFC Bournemouth 4-2 Reading
An astounding second-half comeback from Bournemouth saw Jason Tindall’s side come from two goals down to leapfrog Reading in the table and hop into the automatic promotion places.
The game’s defining moment came with less than quarter of an hour remaining, as Lewis Cook crashed home a long-range strike to give the Cherries the lead for the first time on the day and turn the game on its head.
Reading had begun strongly on the South Coast and took the lead through a Lucas Joao penalty after a determined run from Alfa Semedo was brought to an illegal halt by Asmir Begovic in the Bournemouth goal.
The home side controlled proceedings for the rest of the half only to fall further behind as the interval approached.
Some great work from Ovie Ejaria set up Sone Aluko to sweep home his first goal in 18 months and put Reading well on the way to ending their recent poor run of form.
The Royals two goal advantage lasted until only 11 minutes into the second half though, as a brilliant cross from Lloyd Kelly was turned home by Dominic Solanke.
Bournemouth were level only three minutes later when a delightful pass from David Brooks was seized upon by Arnaut Danjuma and the Dutch winger beat Rafael at his near post.
The crucial moment came with Bournemouth probing for a deserved winner, as Brooks laid the ball into the path of England Youth International Cook and he took one touch before firing an unstoppable shot into the far corner of Rafael’s net to record his first goal in Bournemouth colours.
Begovic then scrambled clear a Joao header with the help of the post as Reading pushed forward in search of an equaliser.
Whilst Rafael had no chance with Cook’s strike, he was undeniably at fault for the game’s final goal as he dallied on the ball before losing it to Solanke and the forward fired into the empty goal.
The Brazilian goalkeeper’s form has fallen off a cliff in recent weeks along with that of his side, Reading’s fourth defeat in a row has seen them drop from first to sixth.
Bournemouth’s wonderful attackers showed their Premier League pedigree in the second half, and their good recent form has helped the Cherries to second in the table.
Stoke City 4-3 Huddersfield Town
Another impressive display from Stoke forward Tyrese Campbell inspired the Potters to victory over Huddersfield in a topsy-turvy affair.
Campbell scored twice in the first-half and also forced an own-goal from Huddersfield’s Richard Stearman, to ensure the excitement around the son of former Arsenal and Everton striker Kevin Campbell would be ramped up another level.
It was in fact the Terriers who took the lead at the Bet365 Stadium, with Harry Toffolo cutting back for Carol Eiting to score – a goal that is becoming a trademark of Huddersfield’s play under Carlos Corberan.
The lead was never likely to last long with Campbell around though, and he equalised by sweeping home a loose ball in the box following a free-kick.
Campbell got his second only two minutes later with a composed finish after being played in by Steven Fletcher as Stoke capitalised on some sloppy play in midfield from the visitors.
More good work from Eiting dragged Corberan’s side level when the man on loan from Ajax drove through midfield and played a pinpoint pass to Isaac Mbenza and he finished nicely past debutant goalkeeper Josef Bursik.
Huddersfield were masters of their own downfall once more on the stroke of half-time though, as a poor pass from ‘keeper Joel Pereira was seized upon by Campbell and his cross was deflected into his own net by the unfortunate Stearman.
The second half was slightly less chaotic, and a nice run and finish from Stoke captain Sam Clucas looked to have taken the game away from Huddersfield in the 57th minute.
The Terriers would not lie down though, a header from Naby Sarr only minutes later reduced the deficit and gave his side a route back into the match.
The goals did dry up after that as Huddersfield struggled to turn their 70% of possession into further goal-scoring opportunities and the Potters clung on for a third home win in a row.
The victory sees them move up to seventh in the table, only a point outside the play-offs.
Huddersfield had looked to have ironed out their defensive mishaps during their good run of form in October, but with errors creeping back in they are now winless in three and have dropped to 16th in the Championship.
Barnsley 2-0 Nottingham Forest
Two late Barnsley goals continued the Tykes’ positive start to life under manager Valerien Ismael, ending Chris Hughton’s best run of form during his short spell at Forest in the process.
Barnsley made it four wins from five under their new Austrian boss thanks to a thumping strike from Callum Styles and a poacher’s finish from Cauley Woodrow in the final five minutes of an open affair at Oakwell.
The fact the game was goalless until the 85th minute belied the number of threatening attacks both teams had, as Barnsley hit the woodwork on three separate occasions and Forest worked home ‘keeper Jack Walton several times.
Ismael’s side look to be playing a high-energy, aggressive style of football, as they did under his predecessor Gerhard Struber, and this showed in the closing stage as wave after wave of attack rained down on the Forest goal.
Barnsley’s brilliant recent form has seen them move up to 13th in the table.
It is fair to say Forest are yet to really get going under Hughton but they had won their previous two going in to this one and could have got something in Yorkshire with better finishing.
The team is noticeably playing with more confidence, and more attacking intent, than in the final weeks of Sabri Lamouchi’s reign, although defeat to Barnsley means they stay 20th in the Championship.
Middlesbrough 0-1 Norwich City
Teemu Pukki came off the bench to score the winning goal from the penalty spot as Norwich moved top of the Championship.
A tight affair on Teeside was settled when Max Aarons was clipped by Hayden Coulson in the area with only 20 minutes remaining.
Pukki stepped up to coolly send Marcus Bettinelli the wrong way.
Boro had earlier been denied a goal of their own from the spot as Marcus Tavernier was deemed to have touched the ball twice when striking his spot-kick after he had been brought down by Ben Gibson.
It was no surprise that there was little to separate the sides as it was a meeting of two of the Championship’s best defences so far this season.
Marvin Johnson tested Tim Krul in a cagey opening 45, whilst Emi Buendia had Norwich’s best opportunity when he whistled a shot inches wide of Bettinelli’s far post.
Despite finishing with only two shots on target, Norwich manager Daniel Farke will be pleased with the resilience his side have shown in recent weeks.
The Canaries are now unbeaten in their last eight and have kept three clean sheets in a row, the kind of form that would be expected of promotion favourites.
Norwich have struggled defensively though, throughout Farke’s time at the club, so the solidity at the back that has taken them to the top of the table is something of a surprise.
Neil Warnock was not too disappointed with the performance of his players, but the defeat did end a 10 game unbeaten run and sees his team drop to eighth.
Preston North End 1-0 Sheffield Wednesday
Tony Pulis was defeated in his first game as Sheffield Wednesday manager as an early red card for Josh Windass helped hand Preston their first home win of the season.
North End have made a remarkably inconsistent start to the campaign, without a win at home until Saturday despite only losing once on the road.
A straight red card for Windass for dangerously raising his boot into the face of Preston’s Joe Rafferty gave them a golden chance to get off the mark.
It took until the second half for the goal to come but it was well worth the wait, as Tom Barkhuizen struck a controlled volley into the bottom corner after an unconvincing clearance from Wednesday ‘keeper Keiren Westwood.
In truth this was a poor game and Barkhuizen’s fine goal was the only shot on target either side mustered, the winger even squandered a late chance to double the lead from a counter-attack.
Despite the result, Pulis will likely be pleased with his side’s application. They were rarely troubled by their hosts despite being down to 10 men for well over an hour and showed a level of organisation and commitment that the Welshman’s teams are notorious for.
The Owls remain 23rd despite the defeat as rock-bottom Derby also lost at Bristol City.
Alex Neil will be glad to finally have some home comforts and even though the manor of the win was far from convincing, North End have long been a side that need to find a way to grind out wins in order to maintain a play-off push.
This win sees them move up to 12th.