CHAMPIONSHIP REVIEW: TOP 5 GAMES FROM THIS WEEKEND
Halloween provided a fright for a couple of the early front-runners in the Championship, whilst QPR played a nasty trick on Cardiff and Wycombe got a treat they’ve been waiting nine matches for; a first ever second tier win.
Reading’s remarkable unbeaten start to the season was brought to an end on Friday night against Coventry, Teemu Pukki found his shooting boots to sink Bristol City and Huddersfield picked up another impressive win against play-off chasing Millwall.
Here is the best of the action:
Coventry City 3-2 Reading
Coventry won for the first time since the second weekend of the season to end league leaders Reading’s undefeated start to the campaign.
Two second-half errors from the usually unflappable Rafael in the Reading goal saw the Sky Blues take home the points in an end-to-end affair at St Andrews.
An even first half was brought to life, when Coventry’s big money summer signing Gustavo Hamer nonchalantly placed a shot into the bottom corner of the Reading net. Hamer had only recently returned to the side after suspension, and has put in a series of erratic displays for Mark Robins’ side so far, but his goal showed he can be a real asset for his new side.
Lucas Joao has been the shining light in Reading’s impressive forward line so far this season and he was the man who drew the Royals level midway through the second-half. The Portuguese striker had missed a presentable one-on-one in the opening 45 minutes, but a brilliant turn and finish from outside of the box more than made up for it.
As Reading looked to be in the ascendency, Rafael could only parry a speculative effort from Coventry’s Fankaty Dabo and the Sky Blues’ top-scorer Matt Godden was on hand to score the rebound.
Coventry extended their lead when substitute Sam McCallum fired in another long-range shot and Rafael could only palm it into the net, leaving Reading with a mountain to climb with only five minutes left to play.
The Royals laid siege to the Coventry goal, and did pull one back when Joao laid off to George Puscas and the Romanian finished confidently.
But there was no time left for Veljko Paunovic’s side to complete a comeback as the Serbian tasted defeat for the first time in a Championship fixture.
Reading are still top despite the result, but Swansea’s win over Blackburn has seen their lead cut to four points.
Coventry have been a real mixed bag in terms of performances so far this season, but the number of high-scoring games they are involved in is proof in itself that they have been an interesting addition to the second tier.
Their victory sees them move out of the relegation zone and into 20th place.
QPR 3-2 Cardiff City
A wonder-strike from Dominic Ball in the 91st minute denied Cardiff a point after the Bluebirds had staged a heroic second-half comeback in West London.
Ball’s thunderous winner came after Cardiff had come from 2-0 down to draw level thanks to two Joe Ralls’ goals.
QPR started brightly and an acrobatic effort from Ilias Chair gave Mark Warburton’s side a deserved lead after lax defending from the Cardiff backline.
Chair’s effort was soon followed by a swerving half-volley from Todd Kane, as the R’s took a commanding lead that defied their recent poor form.
Cardiff have been desperately inconsistent so far this season, and it was no surprise to see them lacking creativity without the injured Harry Wilson.
They did manage to drag themselves back in to this game though, as two penalties looked like they would deny QPR a first win since the opening day.
The first came after Kieffer Moore was fouled in the box by Yoan Barbet. Ralls stepped up to coolly slot past Seny Dieng.
The second was less straightforward. Rangers defender Conor Masterson handled a cross aimed at Moore to give the spot-kick away. Ralls, looking to double his goal tally for the afternoon and the season, struck the penalty towards the opposite corner to his first, but was this time denied by Dieng, however the rebound fell kindly to the Cardiff man to draw his side level.
It was Ball who had the final say. The holding midfielder was brought on for Chair at 2-1 in an attempt to see the game out, but his impact came at the other end with what was surely the best goal of his career.
Neil Harris will be wondering what has happened to the defensive solidity that helped his Cardiff side into the play-offs last season, as the number of goals they have conceded this term sees them languishing in 17th place.
Warburton and QPR will be relieved to get their hands on a second win, as the departure of Ebere Eze in the summer has really harmed them.
A relegation battle may still await, but this win moves them up to 18th.
Bristol City 1-3 Norwich City
Norwich put together their best 45 minutes of the season to brush aside Bristol City in a one-sided first half at Ashton Gate.
Teemu Pukki is beginning to look back to his best and he scored two early goals in this one to give the Canaries a commanding lead. The first was a clinical finish after a defence-splitting pass from Marco Stiepermann and the second was aided by a deflection off Robins’ defender Taylor Moore that left keeper Daniel Bentley stranded.
Bristol City’s promising start to the season has deteriorated in recent weeks as defeat to Norwich made it five games without a win. They did pull a goal back in this one though, when Jack Hunt was on hand to finish after a cut-back from Jamie Paterson.
Hopes of a second-half comeback were dashed on the stroke of half-time when Emi Buendia latched on to a long ball from Ben Gibson before beating Bentley with a composed finish.
The second half lacked the goalmouth action of the opening period, but there was one incident of note as Bristol City striker Nakhi Wells lifted a Panenka penalty over the bar after Tomas Kalas had been fouled in the area.
Despite it being widely accepted that Norwich have made a slow start upon their return to the Championship, only Reading have won more league games than them so far this season and the likes of Pukki and Buendia returning to their best form will no doubt be cause for optimism among Canaries’ supporters.
They are now up to 4th in the table.
Reality now seems to be sinking in for Bristol City and rookie manager Dean Holden. Their unexpectedly bright early season form now seems something of a distant memory as they slip to 10th in the league.
Millwall 0-3 Huddersfield
Huddersfield collected perhaps the most eye-catching result of the weekend, as they convincingly beat a Millwall side that had lost only three times at home this calendar year.
Carlos Corberan’s expansive playing philosophy is starting to bear fruit for the Terriers, and it was an impressive team move involving 25 uninterrupted passes that set up Josh Koroma for their opener at the Den.
Millwall boss Gary Rowett was once again missing from the touchline after testing positive for Covid-19.
His mood would have only been made worse by a second-half clanger from goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski, as the usually reliable Pole could only palm a tame shot from Huddersfield’s Pipa into his own net.
The icing on the cake for Corberan was another flowing team move in injury-time that saw Juninho Bacuna stride towards the Millwall goal before laying the ball off to Lewis O’Brien, who stroked home a composed finish.
The Lions were unbeaten in four going into this one and a midweek win at Preston had moved them into the play-off spots. Their second half collapse will be a concern for Rowett, and it saw them drop to 7th in the table.
After a tricky start to the season that saw the Terriers struggle to adapt to the new manager’s methods, Huddersfield have now won four of their last seven games – all of which have come against sides that had their eyes on promotion at the start of the campaign. Whilst it is too soon to say Corberan has cracked management already, having his side in 12th after the run of games they have had is no mean feat.
Wycombe Wanderers 1-0 Sheffield Wednesday
David Wheeler’s header in the dying moments of the first half at Adams Park secured the Chairboys a first ever Championship win against struggling Sheffield Wednesday.
The diminutive winger, who is exceptionally good in the air, got across his man to loop Joe Jacobsen’s delivery into the far corner of the net.
A positive performance in their 1-1 draw with Watford in midweek set Wycombe up nicely to target a victory against Garry Monk’s side, who are on a desperate run of form that is doing little to help them overcome their points deduction.
The Owls travelled to Buckinghamshire having collected only five away league wins since the turn of the year, and their lack of confidence was evident as they contributed little to a game lacking in quality.
Wycombe will simply be delighted to collect their first win at this level, especially considering influential manager Gareth Ainsworth was forced to miss the game after undergoing back surgery on Thursday.
Assistant manager Richard Dobson was in temporary charge of the team and he will have been delighted with the vibrancy that Wanderers started with, and the solidity they showed to see out the win.
Despite the victory, Wycombe remain 23rd in the table but they are now only two points from safety, and perhaps significantly, eight clear of Sheffield Wednesday.