CHAMPIONSHIP REVIEW: THE LEAGUES TOP FIVE GAMES THIS WEEKEND
The wet and windy weather did little to dampen the excitement of another fantastic weekend of Championship football as leaders Reading won once again to extend their lead at the top of the early table.
There was also a surprise win for Stoke, a return to goal-scoring form for Blackburn and last-minute heartbreak for Wycombe, who were moments away from a first point of the season.
Here is the best of the action:
Stoke City 3-2 Brentford
Stoke survived a late Brentford comeback to hang on for an impressive win against the Bees.
Young striker Tyrese Campbell was in sensational form for the home side, setting up first half goals for Steven Fletcher and James McClean before adding one of his own in the second half.
The first came after a driving run from McClean set up Campbell to cross from the edge of the box and he found Fletcher waiting at the back post, unmarked, to nod the Potters in front.
The second was a result of some uncharacteristically sloppy defending from Brentford. The usually imperious Ethan Pinnock gave the ball away, allowing Campbell to tee up McClean for a shot that went in thanks to a deflection off Charlie Goode, who was deputising for the injured Pontus Jansson.
Thomas Frank made a double substitution at half-time but Brentford could do little to stop Campbell in the form he is in. The son of former Arsenal and Everton striker Kevin Campbell, made sure Michael O’Neill’s side would collect their first home league win of the season when he drove in from the left before firing beyond David Raya with his weaker right foot.
That achievement was only slightly more impressive than the Potters’ ability to keep Ivan Toney quiet. The former Peterborough striker had seven goals in his last four ahead of this one, but failed to register a shot on target at the Bet365 Stadium on Saturday.
He did though set up his understudy, young Finnish forward Marcus Forss, for what looked like a consolation goal with a lovely reverse pass that split the Stoke defence wide open.
Forss bagged himself a second in injury-time, latching on to a similarly enticing ball, but this time a wayward back-pass from Stoke defender Josh Tymon, to round the keeper and score.
The late goal did little more than make the game appear more of a contest, as in truth Stoke had merited a more comfortable margin of victory in what was undoubtedly their best performance of the season so far. They are now up to eighth and sit just outside the play-offs on goal difference.
Brentford continue to frustrate, as two convincing wins in the week were undermined by a calamitous first half up North that sees them slip to 11th in the Championship.
Reading 3-0 Rotherham United
A brace from Yakou Meite helped Reading to a fairly straightforward victory over Rotherham that sees them extend their lead at the top of the Championship to five points.
A tepid first-half was brought to life when Meite was set-up brilliantly by Ovie Ejaria before slotting the ball through the legs of Rotherham keeper Jamal Blackman.
Reading have conceded only once so far this season, and the closest Rotherham came to doubling that tally was when a George Hirst shot was cleared off the line by Reading skipper Liam Moore in the second half.
Meite doubled the home side’s lead with a magnificent goal as he controlled a corner on his chest before acrobatically volleying into the top corner from the edge of the box.
The introduction of the Royals’ top scorer Lucas Joao in the second half was when they really asserted their dominance, and it was the Portuguese striker who rolled home a third for the Royals from the spot after being brought down by Michael Ihiekwe in injury-time.
Meite may have been slightly perturbed that he was denied the chance to complete his hat-trick, but his manager Veljko Paunovic will be delighted that his side maintained their unexpectedly wonderful start to the season.
Many have suggested Reading are in false position, with their points tally papering over the cracks of average performances, but whilst it is fair to say they’ve had a somewhat favourable early season fixture list, they are continuing to win games and that cannot be overlooked.
Rotherham are now winless since the opening day of the season, and despite manager Paul Warne being back in the dugout after having to self-isolate, the Millers rarely threatened to halt the Royals unbeaten start to the season and now find themselves in 18th place in the table.
Norwich City 2-1 Wycombe Wanderers
A Mario Vrancic free-kick in second-half injury-time denied Wycombe their first-ever Championship point.
The Bosnian midfielder curled a beautiful left-footed shot over the wall and into the top right corner, leaving Wycombe goalkeeper Ryan Allsop rooted to the spot and his manager Gareth Ainsworth heartbroken after his side had once again defended resolutely throughout.
Despite taking a third-minute lead after Emi Buendia set up Teemu Pukki to score the type of goal that saw him take home the Championship Golden Boot in 2018/19, Norwich failed to make the most of the 76% of possession they had, rarely testing Allsop in the Wycombe goal.
Wanderers were committed and organised, as they so often are, and managed to limit the hosts to only six shots on target.
They were back level less than ten minutes after conceding the opener, as Scott Kashket capitalised on indecision at the back for Norwich to nip in front of Tim Krul and poke Gareth Ainsworth’s side level.
There was very little goalmouth action until Vrancic’s late goal, and whilst it clearly shows that Wycombe are getting to grips with life in the second tier, their players looked visibly distraught after the free-kick went in.
Norwich’s young striker Adam Idah conceded a clumsy penalty at Rotherham last weekend and he was in trouble with the officials again on Saturday, receiving a straight red card after striking Wycombe captain Joe Jacobson in the face in the dying seconds at Carrow Road.
Despite the late ill-discipline from Idah, Norwich held on for their third win of the week, moving them up to fifth in the table in the process.
Wycombe remain on zero points and are already four points adrift of safety.
Coventry City 0-4 Blackburn Rovers
An early red card for Coventry defender Michael Rose contributed to a comfortable afternoon at St. Andrews for Blackburn.
The sending off came only 15 minutes into the game, as Rose was penalised for dragging down Rovers forward Ben Brereton in the penalty area. Rose was the last man, and made no attempt to play the ball, so referee Darren England’s decision was justified.
Adam Armstrong, without a goal since Blackburn’s win at Derby before the international break and denied from the spot at Watford in midweek, stepped up to send Marko Marosi the wrong way and give his side the lead.
Coventry had made a bright start, Matt Godden thumped a shot against the upright in the opening exchanges, but the red card massively hindered their hopes of a first win since their second game of the season.
Armstrong was once on loan at Coventry during his time as a Newcastle player, but he showed his former employers no mercy early in the second half as he hammered a shot past Marosi that cannoned in off the woodwork.
It had been Brereton that laid the ball on for Armstrong on that occasion and he did the same for Harvey Elliott to secure the three points for Tony Mowbray’s side.
The goal was 17-year old Elliott’s first in senior football, and he then set up Sam Gallagher to complete the scoring and get Rovers back to winning ways after three without victory.
The result saw Blackburn move back into the top half of the table, whilst the reality of life in the second tier begins to hit for the Sky Blues. Five without a win sees them only a point above the drop zone.
Huddersfield Town 1-2 Preston North End
Huddersfield were denied a third win in a week by a second-half brace from Preston’s Alan Browne.
Two lovely finishes from the Republic of Ireland midfielder, that were only three minutes apart, helped swing the game in favour of Alex Neil’s side, and North End held on to remain unbeaten on the road in all competitions this term.
Huddersfield recorded impressive wins over Swansea City and Derby County in the last seven days and an eighth-minute strike from Fraizer Campbell looked to be setting Carlos Corberan’s side up for another impressive scalp.
Alex Neil had changed his formation in an attempt to stifle Huddersfield’s dangerous wing-backs Pipa and Harry Toffolo, resulting in midfielder Brown being deployed at right wing-back.
Despite this, he popped up on the left side of the box at the start of the second period to bend a shot beyond the dive of Ben Hamer.
The Huddersfield shot-stopper was then at fault for Browne’s second as he dropped a Joe Rafferty cross at the feet of the Preston captain. Despite the gift from the goalkeeper, Browne did well to lob the ball over a clutch of bodies and into an empty net.
Hopes of a Huddersfield fightback were dampened when defender Naby Sarr was shown a red card for hauling down Preston’s Danish striker Emil Riis when he was through on goal.
Preston put on another away performance that suggests they are genuine promotion contenders, if their home form can pick up, they should be in and around the play-offs. The win at the John Smith’s stadium saw them move up to 12th.
The defeat was a disappointing end to a promising week for Huddersfield, but two wins from three is the type of form that will see them well clear of relegation bother as they sit in 14th place.